What are the effects of alcohol on your mental wellbeing?
Because alcohol alters brain chemistry, having a couple of drinks can positively lift your mood. But the euphoric feeling is only temporary. In the long term, drinking has the potential to cause problems with your mental health.
Did you know that anxiety and depression is more common in heavy drinkers? Drinking too much is linked to many different types of mental health issues, from depression and memory loss to suicide.
This is because drinking heavily changes your brain chemistry. Drinking regularly lowers the levels of serotonin in your brain and this chemical is so important as it regulates our moods.
Changes in your mood and behaviour caused by drinking could lead to an increase in arguments and even violence. And subsequent feelings of shame can lead to increased isolation – among both yourself and those close to you.
It’s not just the effects when we are drinking that can affect your mental wellbeing. Hangovers can also have an impact. Waking up feeling ill, anxious and jittery can make anxiety and depression worse.
And heavy drinking may be caused by stresses and anxieties you are dealing with. But it’s a vicious circle as drinking usually makes the situation worse and creates additional practical difficulties.
Having drink free days and staying in the recommended guidelines of 14 units a week will help your health and wellbeing. But if you are worried about your drinking and your mental wellbeing, you can talk to your GP, or find out more about the help and support available in your area here.
Is drinking affecting your mood?
While enjoying a drink, we don’t tend to think about the less immediate effects that alcohol could be having on our wellbeing.
If you become worried about the effects drinking could be having on your mood, find out how you could access help and support near you.
Poor sleep after drinking
Drinking regularly can affect your sleep. Even though a couple of drinks may help you nod off, more often than not you’ll find you wake up the next day feeling tried and sluggish.
This is not just because you may need to get up in the night to go to the toilet. It’s also because alcohol is a diuretic, so it forces the body to lose extra fluid through sweat, which makes you dehydrated. Drinking too much also relaxes the muscles in your body, so the tissue in your throat, mouth and nose can stop air flowing smoothly which makes you snore loudly!
When many of us drink too much, we fall into a deep sleep quicker and for longer. But staying in this state of deep sleep is not the restful sleep your body needs. Your body needs the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) stage of sleep, so you wake up feeling rested and ready for the day.
There are simple changes you make to help make sure your drinking does not disturb your sleep. Avoid alcohol just before bedtime, stay in the recommended 14 units per week and have regular drink free days.
But if you become worried about the effects your drinking could be having on your mood, find out how you could access help and support near you.
The negative effects of a hangover
Hangovers are never good. Firstly, your body is dealing with disturbed sleep, so you wake up feeling tired and unrested. But that’s only the start.
Many of us will suffer from dehydration, nausea, headaches, mood swings and for some of us anxiety. This is because your body is trying to get rid of toxins accumulated from the previous night’s drinking.
Alcohol reduces serotonin, which will change our mood. Our blood sugar drops which can cause nausea and dizziness. And, because alcohol is a diuretic, we will be feeling dehydrated, which can cause headaches and fatigue.
If you choose to drink, you can make some simple changes to help reduce that dreaded hangover feeling! Don’t drink utill you're drunk, and think about what you’re drinking – the darker the drink the higher level of toxins. Drink water with your alcohol and two pints of water directly before bed.
But the best thing you can do, is stay within the recommended guidelines and make sure you have drink free days.
Because alcohol reduces our serotonin, after drinking our mood can become low.
Even though some of us have a drink because we are feeling low and this makes us feel better, too much alcohol actually has the opposite effect. We wake up tired and sluggish the next day, we could feel unwell and we lose focus. All these factors will change are mood and likely to make us feel bad, sad and even anxious.
If you think drinking is affecting your mood, then find out about the support available in your area here.
Experiencing anxiety after drink
Alcohol affects our mood by lowering the level of serotonin in our brain. But this is not the only reason we can feel anxious after a night of drinking. So do some of us suffer from alcohol anxiety?
As our body processes the sedative effects of alcohol, our nervous system goes on alert, which causes hyperactivity. This hyperactivity can lead to shaking, light and sound sensitivity and sleep deprivation. Our heart rate can also become elevated, causing palpitations and feelings of anxiety.
If you feel increased anxiety after drinking, the simplest way to stop this is to cut out alcohol. But if you choose to have drink, then staying within the recommended guidelines will help you minimise the after effects