Regular heavy drinking can inhibit and interfere with chemicals in the brain, contributing to the development of a mental health disorder. Most if not all mental illnesses are related to a chemical imbalance in the brain. So while one may feel relaxed after drinking, in the long run, the impact of alcohol on mental health may be much harder to manage. Today we’re diving into the relationship between alcohol consumption and mental health and why drinking contributes to disorders like depression and anxiety.
The impact of alcohol on mental health is directly linked to this drug’s effects on brain function and chemical stability. The brain relies on the balance of chemicals and their processes to function properly. As a central nervous system depressant, alcohol interrupts chemical function and throws it off balance to produce side effects like sedation and relaxation.
This is partly due to neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, and GABA, which are chemicals that help transmit messages from one neuron to another. Initially, alcohol releases serotonin, which causes feelings of happiness and calm.
When consumed in small doses, alcohol produces stimulating side effects, mainly due to the release of serotonin. But when ingested in larger quantities, alcohol eventually releases more dopamine and GABA, an inhibitory neurotransmitter that blocks signaling between neurons to produce sedation and central nervous system depression.
As you can imagine, for someone who struggles with a mental health disorder, this fluctuation in chemicals as impactful as dopamine and serotonin can exacerbate their symptoms. The more someone drinks, the more they will experience mood swings and the more likely they are to become confused and engage in risky behaviors.
Unfortunately, many people with mental health disorders come to rely on substances of abuse, like alcohol, to cope with their symptoms. In the end, they often end up with a co-occurring addiction, adding on more stress than the symptoms, which were temporarily alleviated.
Alcohol-induced psychosis can occur during alcohol intoxication or withdrawal. Psychosis is when people lose touch with reality. It’s a common symptom of psychiatric disorders like schizophrenia.
During alcohol psychosis, the person may hear or see things that aren’t there (hallucinations) and entertain false beliefs (delusions). Clinically, alcohol-related psychosis is similar to schizophrenia in that it produces side effects like hallucinations, delusions, paranoia, and fear.
Alcohol psychosis is one of the most significant psychological effects of alcohol consumption. Like other side effects of heavy drinking, psychosis caused by alcohol consumption is the result of alcohol’s effects on the levels of particular neurotransmitters, namely dopamine. Mood swings, hallucinations, increased heart rate, confusion, paranoia, and anxiety are just a few symptoms of alcohol-related psychosis.
Heavy drinking is also associated with depression. Although a direct cause hasn’t been identified, due to alcohol’s effects on mood-affecting neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin, it’s believed that heavy drinking can contribute to and exacerbate depression symptoms.
Depression, or major depressive disorder, is a mental health disorder characterized by persistent feelings of sadness and emptiness. This condition usually impairs the individual’s life and ability to complete their daily tasks.
In addition to worsened depression symptoms when drinking, depression is also a common side effect of alcohol withdrawal. People who are physically dependent on alcohol usually experience physical and psychological symptoms when they suddenly stop or reduce their consumption.
When you drink for long periods, the brain settles into a particular state of calm. When consumption is suddenly ceased or reduced, the brain may have trouble adjusting to this sudden change, producing physical and psychological symptoms like shaky hands, sweating, hallucinations, anxiety, and depression.
It’s also important to note that people who are taking any medications, especially ones for depression or other psychiatric disorders, should not mix them with alcohol. Antidepressants can not only increase the risk of relapse in people who underwent alcohol treatment but mixing these medications with alcohol can interfere with their efficacy, preventing them from alleviating psychiatric symptoms.
For some people who experience anxiety frequently or are diagnosed with anxiety disorders, drinking may provide temporary feelings of relief, but at a higher price than it’s worth. Just as depression is linked to chemical balance in the brain, so is anxiety.
Not only are the relaxing effects of alcohol short-lasting, but alcohol is addictive, and drinking it frequently and heavily can increase the body’s tolerance to its effects. This leads to heavier drinking, which increases the risk of intoxication as well as addiction.
In the end, drinking in an attempt to alleviate symptoms of mental illness makes things worse. The mental and emotional effects of alcohol also come with physical problems, such as liver disease and cancer.
Without treatment, an alcohol use disorder only grows worse. If you or someone you care about struggles with their mental health or addiction, Banyan Treatment Centers offers both addiction and mental health treatment in Pompano Beach that can help.
From PHP treatment to outpatient services, our Pompano drug rehab provides patients with the comfort and comprehensive care they’ll need to not only achieve sobriety but to thrive in their addiction-free lives. To learn more about our levels of care for substance abuse treatment, call Banyan Pompano today at 888-280-4763.