It’s Mental Health Awareness Week this week, and if you follow us on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter, then you’ll have seen that we’ve been sharing a different fact each day about how alcohol can affect mental health. Not seen them? Go follow us! Or join our closed Facebook group if you’d like support, advice, and tools for success – both from us and from a community of over 6,000 like-minded people.
I’ve suffered with on and off bouts of anxiety over the last twelve years or so and it’s something that, when I was drinking to excess, was certainly aggravated by alcohol. Symptoms were also sometimes created that probably wouldn’t have been there otherwise, such as the overwhelming anxiety that came with a Sunday night, after a weekend of heavy partying. That feeling was astronomical – and also extremely common in other people, even in those who wouldn’t ordinarily describe themselves as anxious.
Exposure to emotions
Cutting down your drinking or stopping completely may lessen feelings of anxiety, depression, and stress eventually and for some people, they may even disappear completely over time. It’s worth noting though that if your symptoms are more severe or consistent, then they will be more noticeable or perhaps worse at the beginning. This is usually whilst the fog is lifting and you’re exposed to raw, unchecked, clarity-induced emotions, which can tempt you back to numbing your feelings with alcohol. Use other methods instead to help you cope whilst you adjust, such as counselling, psychotherapy, meditation, yoga, exercise and relaxation tools.
I thought I’d share some anonymous words of wisdom from various existing threads about mental health throughout our closed Facebook group page for Mental Health Awareness Week. These range from advice or facts which people gave others, to quotes about how they feel now that they’ve changed their relationship with booze:
The only way out is through
“Over 70 % of the population with addiction disorders have a coexisting mental health problem.”
“We can drink to self-medicate which in turn exacerbates the problem. Alcohol is such a depressant and anxiety-provoking drug, even small amounts can have a very negative effect on already fragile brain chemicals. If you can remain abstinent you can really assess what is going on with your mental state.”
“After 18 mths AF I still need to take antidepressants and will do for life because alcohol abuse was the secondary problem. However, I feel so much better by not drinking, it just counteracts your treatment.”
“One of the reasons I quit drinking was that I could see it was having a very negative effect on my mental health. It was not until I had been a year alcohol-free that I sought professional help with anxiety and depression. Being free of the alcohol roller coaster meant I could take a long hard look at my mental health.”
“Taking yourself further and further from the world of other people, love, and connection. It’s horrible, horrible having to face real life, especially with mental health problems, but it’s a step towards recovery and freedom. The only way out is through.”
“Getting to know the real-self takes time and patience, if you have someone close to you, make sure you communicate your worries, fears, get support where you can until the emotions don’t feel so raw anymore. It took a lot of time and effort working on myself to get where I am today and I don’t regret any tear, any bad/low day, any angry words that got me here because that, my lovely, is recovery!”
“It might be an idea to get some extra support with your emotions to help you adjust to the full glory of emotional life AF. They say the good news about going AF is that you get your feelings back. And the bad news? You get your feelings back. Try some counselling support. The main thing I found is that taking away the drink without replacing it with anything else to give me what it gave me (the ability to cope with life, my busy and critical head and my feelings) things totally got worse. It’s super important to find healthy ways of getting what alcohol gave you, rather than white-knuckling it.”
“It takes time to start adjusting to feelings that were masked by alcohol. Personally, I’ve had therapy to look at long-term reasons for anxious feelings. Exercise normally helps me regulate my anxiety. Give yourself plenty of time, it is hard but you are going in the right direction.”
“Now I don’t drink, my medication is working. I used booze to self-medicate. And not drinking has made a huge difference to my emotions.”
“Partying was my way of avoiding my unhappiness, which was triggered by my health issues. It is only now through the holistic health journey I have been on that I understand the link between nutrition, mental health, and addiction. When I started nourishing my body and reconnecting with myself I no longer needed to avoid anything.”
Support to suit you this Mental Health Awareness Week
If you are suffering in silence, concerned about your mental health and don’t know what to do – remember that you are not alone, 1 in 4 people will suffer from a mental illness at some point in their life. There are varying forms of support out there to enable you to find something to suit you. As much as we can provide health information and tips, we are not health professionals, so please seek the advice of your GP, speak to someone you trust or try one of the following options:
For practical advice about types of mental health problems, information about medication and alternative treatments, or services available, you can text Mind on 86463.
For emotional support: Call Samaritans free of charge, 24/7, on any day of the year on 116 123 (UK). If the thought of calling is overwhelming, you can text them on 07725 909090 when your symptoms are especially bad and a crisis counsellor will text with you. Or you can email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.