My Story: Anxiety Fueled By Alcoholism
Anxiety. The anxiety was like an overcast sky, following every step I took and raining on me any chance it got. It was like a floating hand that followed behind me and took me by the throat and squeezed at its choosing.
As the rain cloud followed me around, day in and day out, it would rain negative ideas upon me, which would leak into my brain and cause me to fear everything. Sometimes, my heart would race, my body would sweat, and my blood pressure would skyrocket. My body was shaky, and I felt like I could never relax. It overtook me, and I was drowning again.
Anxiety is like when you can’t tell the future, but you try to anyway. There are so many thoughts racing through your head — you worry so much about every possible scenario and situation that you get overwhelmed by the stress, and you sink.
Your inner being sinks within yourself to a place so very small that you feel trapped. You try to push on the barriers of the box you’re in, but it’s no use. The water starts rushing in, and you slowly suffocate.
This was my reality, for as long as I could remember. It was hard, and it happened every chance it got. I had a great job, but my anxiety got so bad that I became sick — constantly nauseous with stomach problems. I was no longer able to perform to the standard my job required, thanks to my anxiety.
It became too much for me to handle, so I decided to take a sip of whiskey at the bar that cold December afternoon. From there, one sip became another, and eventually, everything spiraled out of control.
Drinking was my escape at first. It made me feel relaxed, and I had a good time. Unfortunately, I went overboard. I knew I was drinking too much, and that just added fuel to the fire of my anxiety. I had started drinking to ease the severity of my anxiety, but my drinking habits just ended up making it worse.
I struggled to come to terms with the fact that I had an alcohol use disorder. I would sit and think, overwhelmed by anxiety. “Alcoholism,” I thought — there was no way. Unfortunately, it was true. I had a problem, and I knew I needed help.
My Experience With Treatment
I was scared. I had never been to a treatment center before, and I had no idea what to expect. When I went to the facility, I was greeted by a sweet woman who tried her best to ease my worries. During the intake process, I was asked about my history with substances and also my mental health. This was a bit uncomfortable for me as I’d never really spoken about it out loud before.
They saw my uneasiness and reassured me this was only to better understand how to help me. They told me every person is different, and so it was important to know these things to better prepare a course of treatment for me. I had never really thought of it that way, and it did help me feel a bit better.
I learned a lot throughout the course of my inpatient alcohol treatment. I learned more about myself than I thought I ever could. What was even better was that I was able to take what I learned and use it to live my life without having to depend on alcohol. I felt like I was able to take control of my life again. It helped me so much that I want to share some of those things I learned with you.
I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder. If you don’t know what that is, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is a display of excessive anxiety or worry most days for at least six months. The things that people like me worry about could include anything from their personal health, their work, and social interactions to even just everyday things or situations.
There are several types of anxiety disorders, according to the Mayo Clinic. Some of them include:
- Social anxiety disorder: This is when a person experiences high levels of anxiety, fear, and avoidance of certain social situations. They may feel embarrassed, self-conscious, or like everyone is judging them when they have social interactions.
- Generalized anxiety disorder: This is what I have, and it includes excessive anxiety and worry about a variety of activities or events. The worries are hard to control and can have a direct effect on how you feel physically.
- Agoraphobia: This is a type of anxiety in which you try to avoid places or situations that might cause you to panic, feel trapped, or embarrassed.
- Separation anxiety disorder: This is typically seen in children. It is caused by anxiety that is excessive for the age of the child and typically occurs when the child is separated from parents or people in parental roles.
- Phobias: Phobias are typically related to one specific object or situation. The person will experience intense anxiety that is triggered when they’re exposed to the specific thing they fear. Phobias can trigger panic attacks for certain people.
- Substance-induced anxiety disorder: This is when a person experiences anxiety that is caused by misusing drugs (including alcohol), taking medications, or withdrawing from drugs.
- Other specific anxiety disorders and unspecified anxiety disorders: These are anxieties or phobias that don’t meet the criteria for other anxiety disorders but still cause distressing symptoms.
Before I had developed my drinking problems, I experienced the symptoms of anxiety daily, some of which were pretty terrifying, at least to me. Some of the symptoms I had included:
- Rapid breathing
- Increased heart rate
- Increased blood pressure
- Feelings of nervousness and body tenseness
- Inability to control worry
- Gastrointestinal (stomach and gut) problems
These were really hard to manage, and at times I thought I was experiencing health problems that were much worse, like a heart attack, even though I really wasn’t
There are some things that can put you at a higher risk of developing an anxiety disorder. If you have: experienced trauma, meaning a very difficult or bad experience; built-up stress; relatives with an anxiety disorder; stress due to health conditions; or even a certain personality type, you may be more likely to develop an anxiety disorder.
The Connection: Anxiety and Alcohol
I learned during my time in treatment that many people who struggle with anxiety tend to turn to alcohol to ease the anxiety. Around 20% of people who have an anxiety disorder also have some sort of alcohol dependence or alcohol use disorder. Not many know this, and neither did I up until treatment, but drinking alcohol can actually worsen anxiety.
Alcohol use disorder can have a lot of negative effects on a person’s life and their health. As someone with anxiety, I used to worry about all the problems I had because of my drinking, and also I worried about my health constantly. I struggled when it came to withdrawal symptoms and at times would have panic attacks because my withdrawal symptoms would make my anxiety flare badly.
Alcohol withdrawal can be a very dangerous experience, and knowing that can cause more anxiety for people who already struggle with anxiety.
To better understand how someone may experience anxiety from alcohol consumption or withdrawal, let’s talk about the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal and alcohol use disorder. Some symptoms related to alcohol use disorder include:
- Tremors (shaking)
- Nausea and vomiting
- Strong cravings for alcohol
- Anxiety and depression
- Drinking more alcohol to get the same effect
- Showing less interest in activities that were once enjoyed
- Financial and social problems
Alcohol withdrawal symptoms could include:
- Shakiness or tremors
- Feeling agitated or on edge
- Sleep disturbances
- Changes in vital signs (temperature, pulse, breathing, or blood pressure)
- Nausea or vomiting
- Emotional distress
As you can likely imagine, all of these symptoms could cause anxiety for almost anyone experiencing them. To make things worse, there are some symptoms of severe alcohol withdrawal that could be fatal.
For those of us who already struggle with anxiety, it can throw us over the edge into a place that seems hard to escape from. This is why many people with anxiety can get stuck in a cycle of drinking alcohol to try to ease the symptoms. If they stop, however, it all starts over again, and the cycle continues.
Anxiety related to alcohol use can prove to be extreme and can even cause panic attacks or anxiety attacks. Many people use these terms interchangeably, but I learned during treatment that they actually are not the same thing.
If you don’t know what a panic attack is, it is very similar to an anxiety attack, but it can cause you to feel a sudden and intense fear. Panic attacks do not always have a trigger and can also have physical symptoms.
Panic attacks tend to be much more intense than anxiety attacks, and many times the people having them experience fear of dying or losing control, which are not typical symptoms of anxiety attacks.
Anxiety can feel like a force to be reckoned with, and sometimes it can feel less like a reaction and more like how you function as a person. But there is hope, and you can take steps to manage it. The best course of action would be to seek out treatment for your anxiety, whether it be from a therapist, a counselor, or even asking your primary care doctor for options that are available.
Some ways you can try to manage your anxiety could include getting enough sleep, eating well-balanced meals, limiting or not drinking alcohol or caffeine as they can make anxiety worse, and exercise. These could be great ways of helping to relieve anxiety before it builds up inside of you and turns into a situation where you may feel like you can’t control it.
Personally, I exercise, try to sleep well, and stay far away from alcohol. I’ve noticed some major differences in the levels of my anxiety, and I learned some great ways of coping while in my treatment program.
There Is Hope, And I Am Proof
Sometimes, anxiety and alcohol use disorder can make you feel like you are all alone and nobody understands. I thought this same way, and it wasn’t until I got treatment that I was able to better understand how my actions and reactions to situations are much more common than I thought.
I strongly encourage you to seek treatment if you are struggling. Without being able to understand why you are doing something, it can be really hard to fix it.
To get more information or to change your life for the better, you can call them today at (615) 208-2941.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can drinking alcohol cause anxiety?
Drinking alcohol can cause anxiety. There are disorders that are related directly to the consumption of alcohol, and alcohol-induced anxiety disorder is one of them.
Can alcohol cause anxiety and panic attacks?
Yes, alcohol can cause anxiety and panic attacks. Many times, people drink alcohol to lessen the anxiety they feel. Although drinking may ease the anxiety temporarily, the anxiety will come back again once the person is no longer under the influence. This influx of anxiety can cause a person to have panic and anxiety attacks.
What is alcohol-induced anxiety disorder?
Alcohol-induced anxiety disorder is when a person experiences anxiety that is caused by drinking alcohol. Alcohol-induced anxiety disorder is marked by anxiety that is caused when a person misuses alcohol, is around it, or begins to have withdrawal symptoms from it.
What does alcohol anxiety feel like?
Alcohol anxiety feels like an intense fear that is caused by alcohol consumption. When drinking, your body can relax a bit, but once your blood alcohol content starts to return to normal, your body can begin to crave alcohol, which can cause anxiety. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can also cause extreme anxiety because the physical effects can be extremely uncomfortable or cause pain.