Alcohol and anxiety: can booze trigger panic attacks?

Those with panic attacks are far more likely to notice them, and this may result in a flood of anxiety that can lead to a panic attack. While alcohol can make your panic attacks worse, alcohol itself doesn’t cause panic attacks on its own. In other words, even if you stop drinking alcohol, you are likely still going to have panic attacks – you simply won’t have alcohol triggering them. This means that cutting out alcohol can help – but often further action is required in order to take full control of your condition. While some people are able to drink responsibly and in moderation, others struggle to control their drinking and put themselves at risk of developing addiction and other physical health concerns. In other words, alcohol is not all bad – but it does have the potential to damage your psychological and/or physical health.

Many people believe that alcohol is an effective self-medication technique for coping with anxiety and panic attacks, due to the initial sedative effect and feelings of calm that this substance provides. While many people do feel some anxiety after drinking, regular alcohol-induced panic attacks are a serious matter. If someone suffers from alcohol use disorder (also known as alcoholism or alcohol dependence), quitting alcohol must be a priority. Alcohol can cause several long term health issues, in addition to some of the personal challenges that come from the disorder. Please review the linked description of alcohol use disorder, and if you need help, review this link for treatments and resources. You can also use positive affirmations, distractions, or breathwork to move through a panic attack.

Can alcohol make anxiety worse?

If you believe you or someone you love has anxiety that gets worse with alcohol use, you or your loved one can take steps to treat their anxiety and cut down or stop drinking. It’s also possible for chronic alcohol use to contribute to existing anxiety or lead you to develop an anxiety disorder. But if drinking never ends, and the alcohol use becomes chronic, you might begin to see how anxiety and alcohol misuse can feed into each other. Some studies on mice show that alcohol-related anxiety can last anywhere from 4 to 14 hours. Anxiety disorder symptoms can disrupt a person’s life, making it difficult to work, participate in social events, and maintain relationships. Society would have us believe that there’s no better way to unwind after a long day than by drinking a glass of wine, cold beer, or sipping your go-to liquor.

Severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms may require medical attention, which is available when you reach out for help to recover from your AUD. Drinking heavy amounts of alcohol regularly can also cause your body to become dependent upon the chemical reaction that occurs in your brain. When you stop drinking, the withdrawal symptoms are a result of your body continuing to crave the stimulation that alcohol once generated. While the initial withdrawal symptoms can be uncomfortable, it helps to know that they will dissipate over time Quitting alcohol opens up new opportunities for you to live a healthier lifestyle that makes it easier to achieve your goals.

Does Drinking Alcohol Make Anxiety Worse?

If you already have an anxiety or panic disorder, you may be more likely to experience these symptoms after drinking alcohol. But alcohol can also trigger anxiety even if you don’t have an existing mental health issue. The patient reported his first panic attack came after one month of an abrupt cessation of alcohol intake after abusing the substance for seven years. The decision to stop drinking alcohol was directly related to the sudden appearance of panic attacks. This served as proof that withdrawal can cause panic attacks – especially if not done properly. The study also covered a related case, this time of a 42-year-old man with a history of alcohol abuse for 16 years.

Nature or ‘green therapy’ has a proven effect on anxiety levels and calming panic attacks. If a person drinks regularly, the natural GABA and serotonin levels can get destabilised, making withdrawal symptoms and anxiety attacks worse. If you look at the biological side of things, it is well-known that alcohol causes a number of physiological symptoms such as dehydration, low blood sugar, and elevated heart rate. These may make a person feel uneasy, dizzy, and irritable, and may lead to a panic attack. Too much of some drugs such as caffeine, or even sugar can prompt a similar response. Calls to our general hotline may be answered by private treatment providers.

Alcohol interferes with your hormones

Once you’ve cut down your drinking (or stopped drinking altogether), keep going like this for a couple of weeks. Most people can expect to see an improvement in their anxiety symptoms in this time as the brain’s balance of chemicals and processes start to return to normal and you experience better quality sleep6. If you’re drinking more than the UK low risk drinking guidelines (no more than 14 units a week for both men and women) try to cut down. It’s safer to make gradual, small reductions (not sudden large changes).We have advice on how to take a break from alcohol, but if you’re worried you are dependent on alcohol talk to your GP surgery or contact an alcohol support service. In fact, if you’re experiencing anxiety, drinking alcohol could be making things worse.

  • The potential range of common factors can be difficult to estimate, but a review of the literature shows that the most consistently proposed third variables are genetic factors and personality traits such as anxiety sensitivity.
  • This is a slippery slope that can easily spiral into a devastating addiction, make your panic attacks and anxiety worse in the long term.
  • This can lead to addiction and feelings of depression in the absence of the rewarding substance.
  • Alcohol changes levels of serotonin and other neurotransmitters in the brain, which can worsen anxiety.
  • Alcohol can also make anxiety worse because it affects the levels of other mood-influencing chemicals like serotonin.

In many cases, it is unclear whether alcohol causes anxiety or if anxiety makes a person more likely to drink alcohol. If you’re still feeling anxious after a few weeks, contact your GP surgery. Talking therapies like CBT (cognitive can alcohol cause panic attacks behavioural therapy), can help you learn to spot unhelpful patterns of behaviour and help you to develop coping strategies. As the initial calm feeling fades you can feel anxiety as the effects of the alcohol wear off.


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