How Does Alcohol Use Affect My Mental Health?
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Choosing to consume alcohol recreationally is a decision everyone must make for themselves. Research by the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) explains that 85% of adults eighteen years and older reported that they have consumed alcohol at least once in their lifetime. There are a wide variety of reasons that people choose to imbibe alcohol. However, there are just as many reasons to abstain from alcohol use.
Alcohol is classified as a central nervous system depressant. This means that it slows down brain activity. When you are consuming alcohol, it can affect your thoughts and feelings as well as your coordination and physical abilities. The more alcohol you consume, the more intense the mental and physical effects can be felt.
Physical Effects of Alcohol Use
Alcohol use has an effect on many of our body’s physical functions. Your body treats alcohol as a toxin that it needs to get rid of; even a small amount of alcohol has a physical effect. Three parts of the body that are most affected most by alcohol include your stomach, heart, and other important organs. More specifically, alcohol use:
#1. Inflames Your Stomach
When alcohol enters your stomach, it relaxes the muscle between your stomach and your esophagus, which prevents stomach acid from traveling up your throat. This can cause you to be more susceptible to heartburn. Alcohol also disrupts the balance of good and bad bacteria in your stomach, which can allow more toxins to enter your bloodstream. It can also cause the lining of your stomach to become inflamed and increase gas production, leading to stomach bloating.
#2. Damages Your Liver, Kidneys, and Pancreas
Consuming alcohol is hard on your organs. Your liver is affected the most as it tries to filter the alcohol out of your body. Excess alcohol that can’t be broken down is stored in the liver, which can cause many problems. It also has a significant effect on your kidneys and pancreas, excess alcohol can damage these organs.
#3. Harms Your Heart
Your cardiovascular system is also affected by alcohol consumption. Alcohol can cause your heart rate and blood pressure to go up. It can increase your chances of serious heart problems such as irregular heartbeat or even a heart attack.
Alcohol’s effects on your physical body are immediate during the time you are drinking it, but alcohol can also have long-term effects. There is a strong correlation between regular excessive alcohol use and the risk of certain cancers. You should educate yourself on the effects of alcohol on your body and be aware of the alcohol consumption recommendations that can help reduce the risks of alcohol-related harms.
Mental Effects of Excessive Alcohol Use
According to the National Insitute of Mental Health (NIMH), excessive alcohol use and mental health problems are connected in three ways:
#1. Shared Risk Factors
Susceptibility to mental health disorders and substance use disorders (SUDs), like alcohol use disorder (AUD), can be influenced by genetics and environmental factors. If you have experienced trauma in your life, it can be a risk factor for both mental health disorders and SUD. Similarly, going through periods of stress in your life can increase the chances of developing a mental health disorder, SUD, or both. If there are family history risks, trauma, or high levels of stress in your life, you may want to be very careful with alcohol use.
#2. Mental Health Disorders Contribute to SUD
Sometimes if you are already struggling with your mental health, it can be tempting to use alcohol as a way to manage your symptoms. People experiencing symptoms of anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may try to self-medicate with substances like alcohol. Using alcohol as a way to manage uncomfortable symptoms may help temporarily but often make things worse over time. It will be much more beneficial for you to learn healthier coping skills if you are struggling.
#3. SUDs Contribute to Mental Health Disorders
In some cases, excessive alcohol use can contribute to the development of mental health disorders. After using alcohol excessively, you may feel extra tired, physically sick, or irritable. This can make it much more difficult to deal with daily stressors or challenges to your mental health. Excessive and consistent alcohol use can cause changes to your brain structure and weaken your mental health resiliency.
When Is Alcohol Use a Problem That Requires Professional Help?
Being aware of how alcohol is impacting your physical health and mental health is crucial if you are considering cutting back or abstaining from alcohol use altogether. You may also want to take a close look at how alcohol use is interfering with your ability to function daily. Here are a few questions you can ask yourself:
- Am I choosing to drink alcohol, or do I feel a need to drink alcohol?
- Do I have trouble fulfilling my daily obligations because of how I feel after I drink alcohol?
- Am I feeling more depressed or anxious while I’m drinking or after I drink alcohol?
- Is there any personal guilt or shame associated with how much or how often I drink alcohol?
If you are asking yourself these questions and they bring up more concerns, it may be a good idea to talk with a professional about your drinking habits. A good mental health team can help you examine your behavior and habits more closely to decide if extra support or treatments are needed. Alter Wellness Care can help you address any mental health concerns you might have and get you on the right track to living the life you want.
Excessive alcohol use can have a significant impact on your mental and physical health. If you have concerns about alcohol use or would like more information on developing healthy coping strategies for the ups and downs of life, we at Alter Wellness Care can help. Our compassionate wellness team strives to help each of our clients achieve holistic wellness through a variety of evidence-based treatment options. We want to help you build your mental health resiliency and utilize healthy tools and coping skills. Call us today at (866) 311-3510 to find out how we can work together to address your concerns and make a plan to move forward toward achieving your goals.
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