3 Ways Alcohol Affects Your Mental Health
Alcohol abuse continues to rise across the country, making it more important than ever to understand the mental health risks involved. Is your drinking putting you at risk?
As alcohol consumption continues to rise throughout the country, cases of alcoholism and mental health disorders are following suit. Many regular drinkers may not even know they’re drinking at unsafe levels that can cause or worsen other mental illnesses like mood disorders, depression and anxiety.
With the average Thai male drinking up to 30 liters of pure alcohol each year, it’s high time we take a look at the effects alcohol can have on your mental health.
1. Alcohol Changes Your Brain Chemistry
Alcohol can change your neurochemistry. Our brains have a very delicate balance of chemicals and processes that work together to create our thoughts, feelings and actions. When you drink, you disrupt this balance, which has both short- and long-term effects on your brain.
Alcohol is a depressant. That relaxed feeling you get when you have a drink is due to the alcohol depressing the part of the brain associated with inhibition. For some people, this is one of the main reasons they drink – to help themselves overcome social anxiety or relax. But as you continue to drink, more areas of your brain become depressed. This leads to negative emotional states like anger, aggression, anxiety and depression among others. And regular alcohol consumption compounds these effects.
2. Alcohol Can Cause Depression
Regularly consuming alcohol can actually cause short and long-term depression. Have you ever felt profoundly sad the day after drinking? Have you found yourself crying or getting angry over things that didn’t seem to the bother you the day before? That’s because when you drink alcohol, it lowers your serotonin levels.
Serotonin is a naturally occurring chemical in the brain that’s largely responsible for mood regulation. If you’re drinking regularly, your serotonin may never have time to fully replenish its supply, leaving you with mild to severe depression, aggression or mood swings as a direct result.
3. Alcohol Increases Stress and Anxiety
‘Relax and have a drink.’ We’ve all heard this phrase a million times – having a cold beer, a cocktail or a glass of wine is commonly viewed as a quick way to unwind. Those who suffer from generalised anxiety disorder (GAD), social anxiety or panic disorder often see drinking as a means to self-medicate their anxiety away.
But consuming alcohol actually increases the severity of these disorders as soon as the alcohol leaves your system. Even if you’ve never experienced anxiety in the past, drinking alcohol regularly can have serious negative impacts on your nervous system, which can lead to severe anxiety and even panic attacks.
How Alcohol Affects Your Brian and Behaviour
For many people who are suffering from alcoholism, trying to identify whether the addiction or accompanying health disorder came first can be near impossible. In some cases, an underlying mental health disorder such as depression, anxiety or mood disorders can cause people to use alcohol to self-medicate their symptoms, which can quickly grow into addiction. In other cases, alcohol abuse came first, causing different mental health disorders as described above.
But in the majority of cases, it’s most likely a little of both. Mild symptoms of mental illness are exacerbated by alcohol abuse. As symptoms get worse, alcohol use increases as a coping mechanism. This vicious cycle is so common that, in fact, over half of all addicts have co-occurring disorders by the time they seek professional help.
Co-occurring Disorders: Mental Illness and Substance Abuse
Someone with a co-occurring disorder has been diagnosed with a simultaneously occurring addiction and mental health disorder – for example, alcoholism and depression. In Thailand, antisocial personality disorder was found to be common among men who abuse alcohol.
If you’re suffering from alcoholism and mental health concerns, it’s important that you seek treatment from a reliable, experienced provider. Co-occurring disorders are notoriously hard to diagnose and treat – be sure you choose a treatment facility that specialises in this type of care.
Integrated Treatment for Co-occurring Disorders in Bangkok
At The Cabin Bangkok, our counsellors are highly trained in treating co-occurring disorders and have decades of combined experience. We use a combination of our own Recovery Zones, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), group and one-on-one counselling and mindfulness to create a comprehensive treatment programme with highly effective results.
If you’re concerned about your alcohol use, contact our addiction experts today to find out how we can help you live the life you want.