ALCOHOL ABUSE AND MENTAL DISORDERSmental health conditions not only result from drinking too much alcohol. They can even provoke people to drink too much.
There is some evidence linking light alcohol consumption with improved health in some adults. Between one and three drinks daily have been found to help defend against heart disease, dementia, and Alzheimer's Disease, and a small glass of red wine daily may diminish risk of stroke in women. There is far more evidence showing that drinking excessive alcohol results in grievous bodily and mental illnesses. Stated very simply, a major reason for drinking alcohol is to change our mood - or change our mental state. Alcohol can temporarily alleviate feelings of anxiety and depression; it can also help to temporarily relieve the symptoms of more serious mental health problems. Alcohol problems are more common among people with more severe mental health conditions. This does not necessarily mean that alcohol compels severe mental illness. Drinking to deal with difficult feelings or symptoms of mental disorder is sometimes called 'self-medication' by people in the mental health field. This is often why people with mental health problems drink. But it can make existing mental health conditions worse. Evidence shows that people who consume high amounts of alcohol are vulnerable to higher levels of mental ill health and it can be a contributory factor in some mental disorders, such as depression.
How does drinking affect our moods and mental health?
When we have alcohol in our blood, our mood changes, and our behaviour then also changes. How these change depends on how much we drink and how quickly we drink it. Alcohol depresses the central nervous system, and this can make us less inhibited in our behaviour. It can also help 'numb' our emotions, so we can avoid difficult issues in our lives. Alcohol can even reveal or magnify our underlying feelings. When drinking, this is one of the reasons that many individuals become angry or aggressive. If our underlying feelings are of anger, unhappiness or anxiety, then alcohol can magnify them. What about the after-effects?
One of the main issues linked with using alcohol to deal with anxiety and depression is that individuals may feel much worse when the effects have worn off. Alcohol is thought to use up and reduce the amount of neurotransmitters in the brain, but the brain needs a certain level of neurotransmitters needs to ward off anxiety and depression. This can lead some people to drink more, to ward off these difficult feelings, and a dangerous cycle of dependence can develop.
Alcohol problems are more common among individuals with more severe mental health problems. If our underlying feelings are of unhappiness, anxiety or anger, then alcohol can magnify them. One of the main issues connected with using alcohol to deal with anxiety and depression is that individuals may feel much worse when the effects have worn off. Alcohol is thought to use up and reduce the amount of neurotransmitters in the brain, but the brain needs a certain level of neurotransmitters needs to ward off anxiety and depression.
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