April is Alcohol Awareness Month. One important fact of alcohol use is the dependence that can result from excessive drinking. Alcohol causes changes in the brain that make you crave more and that can turn alcohol use into addiction. Those changes can also cause a number of symptoms affecting your mental and physical health when you decide to quit drinking. Anxiety during alcohol withdrawal is very common, a good reason for detox to be monitored by a healthcare professional.
The Alcohol-Anxiety Connection
You may have started drinking in an attempt to alleviate your stress and anxiety. Alcohol is a depressantand a sedative that affects the central nervous system. However, the more you drink the more your body builds up a tolerance to the destressing effects of alcohol.
You will probably find that drinking can actually make your stress and anxiety even more difficult to cope with, as the alcohol itself starts producing symptoms such as blackouts and loss of memory. Alcohol affects your brain function by changing the levels of serotonin and other neurotransmitters, which in turn can worsen your anxiety.
Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome
Your body becomes used to the alcohol you’ve consumed in heavy amounts or over a long period of time. Your brain’s function can be seriously affected by alcohol use and then even more so by your withdrawal. The symptoms of withdrawal can appear just a few hours after you take your last drink and can range from mild to severe. The most common symptoms are headache, insomnia, nausea and vomiting, increased heart rate, agitation, nightmares, excessive sweating, and anxiety.
More severe withdrawal symptoms are referred to as delirium tremens (DTs). DTs can be life-threatening and include seizures, hallucinations, elevated blood pressure, severe tremors, extreme disorientation, and increased body temperature.
Nervous System Hyperactivity
Alcohol use over the long term affects brain receptors. When you drink excessively or over an extended period, your brain receptors undergo adaptive changes as they attempt to maintain their normal function. These changes involve a decrease in a neurotransmitter known as GABA and the activation of glutamate systems. When you stop drinking, these changes lead to nervous system hyperactivity when your brain is no longer processing the alcohol.
GABA and the neurotransmitter dopamine are affected with chronic alcohol use. These changes affect your level of excitement as well as your sense of reward. The production of these neurotransmitters is affected when you stop or significantly reduce your alcohol intake, which causes the brain to readjust, which leads to withdrawal symptoms. The excitation, in particular, can lead to tachycardia, tremors, and anxiety.
Symptoms of Anxiety
When you experienceanxiety, you can have symptoms that range from a feeling of butterflies in the stomach to symptoms so severe that you can no longer function. The body reacts in a very specific way when you are anxious, going on high alert, looking for potential danger, and activating your “fight or flight” response. Common symptoms of anxiety include feelings of danger, dread, or panic; a rapid heart rate; weakness and lethargy; difficulty focusing or inability to think clearly about anything other than the focus of your worry; insomnia; restlessness, nervousness, or feeling tense; digestive issues; and rapid breathing or hyperventilation.
Deciding to give up alcohol is a great first step toward your recovery from your dependence or addiction. Knowing that there can be serious symptoms of withdrawal, including the anxiety associated with alcohol use and withdrawal, it is wise to engage a healthcare professional when deciding that you need to quit drinking.
As your body rids itself of all the alcohol in your system, you could experience issues with your mental health as well as your physical health that will need to be carefully monitored so you can heal properly. However, after you complete the detox phase successfully, under the supervision of a professional, you will be ready to move forward with treatment and recovery.
Help for Your Addiction
At Hope by the Sea, a southern California addiction treatment center, we focus on helping you begin your journey of recovery from substance use and mental health issues. We specialize in treating you as a whole individual, so you can embrace your recovery with as much support and momentum as possible.
Our team continues to follow federal, state, and local public health guidelines regarding COVID-19 to ensure our clients’ safety. Please contact us today to learn more about our programs and services. Hope Starts Here!