The Relationship Between Alcohol and Mental Health

There is a direct correlation between alcoholism and a decrease in mental health. This is something we know and have heard many times before. However, many do not know what that exactly means and how alcoholism specifically affects the brain. With over three million cases of alcoholism in the United States alone, it’s important to understand the effects that alcohol can have. Alcohol has a direct effect on the brain’s chemistry, and that chemistry changes every time a person consumes alcohol. It can also halt the production and growth of new brain cells. This blog will dive deeper into the specific conditions that can occur as a result of alcoholism. We know that alcohol is bad for the brain, now let’s find out why.

Short Term Effects of Alcohol
These effects are the immediate psychological effects that can be seen within a person who has or is suffering from acute alcoholism.

Insomnia
Minimal or not, the consumption of alcohol has been shown to disrupt the normal sleeping patterns of any person. While many people find that drinking alcohol helps them fall asleep, the after effects of alcohol do not allow that person to stay asleep. The normal R.E.M. cycles are disrupted and that deep slumber feeling disappears into a very low quality of sleep. Many people report being easily awoken by noises or things that would not normally wake them. People were also found to wake up earlier after a night of drinking, and not being able to sleep in.

Loss of Control
Once alcohol hits the bloodstream, a person’s ability to coordinate their mind and body gets lost. Especially with excessive drinking, a person may be seen stumbling or saying things that they would not usually say. This is where the saying “blame it on the alcohol” has come from. Alcohol has a way to virtually hijack the brain, leaving the person not in control of their own actions.

Impaired Judgement
Impaired judgement and loss of control go hand in hand within their effects of alcohol. Specifically, the parts of the brain that deal with impulsive behavior can often be delayed or completely overridden. The line within decision-making becomes blurry and many people act impulsive, especially if the person has been binge drinking.

Confusion/Disorientation
This can be both a short-term and long-term effect of alcohol. The loss of inhibition is a psychological effect of alcohol that some people will even seek out and be the ultimate reason that they decide to consume it. This will often lead to delusions, confusion, and disorientation.

Mood Swings
Alcohol has a direct effect on the endocrine system. The endocrine system ensures proper communication between various organs in the body that help maintain the constant environment. It also plays an essential role in the response of the body’s ability to cope with changes in its internal and external environment. This can include stress and injury. Chronic consumption of alcohol disrupts the communication between the nervous, endocrine, and immune system which can cause hormonal imbalances, that can lead to serious consequences at a physiological and behavioral level.

Long Term Effects of Alcohol
These effects of alcohol can be seen if a person continues to abuse the substance. Many times, the physical and mental effects are similar to the short-term effects but are magnified to a greater level because of the continued use.

Depression
Unfortunately, many people will use alcohol as an escape from reality. However, once a person becomes sober, depression will commonly develop, which can then cycle into a person wanting to escape that feeling. The circle continues and becomes a constant cycle of drinking. Alcohol has been classified as a central nervous system depressant, which means it slows down the brain’s functioning and neural activity. Alcohol is also known to have both stimulant and sedative effects. While some people are more prone to the sedative effects that are commonly associated with depression, depression due to alcohol can happen to anyone. Research has shown that children suffering from depression have a higher chance of developing alcoholism. Suicide by alcohol consumption is extremley common and is mostly driven from immense depression.

Personality Changes
Drinking alcohol can unleash many negative emotions for a lot of people. It can affect a person’s moral and ethical standards due to the effects on the body’s serotonin levels. Serotonin is a chemical in the brain that transports mood signals to the brain. This is one of the main ways that alcohol can have a direct affect on family and friend relationships.

Alcohol Use Disorder
Alcohol Use Disorder or AUD, is the incessant feeling a person gets for the need to drink. This will lead to people drinking anywhere they can, and many times in places that they shouldn’t be drinking.

Psychological/Psychiatric Diseases and Disorders Commonly Associated with the High Consumption of Alcohol
While not all of these psychological and psychiatric diseases/disorders are directly correlated to alcoholism, many of them are associated with the consumption of alcohol. The presence of any type of disorder or disease has been seen to increase a person’s ability to abuse alcoholic substances. Many people will try to “self medicate” with alcoholic substances to gain some type of relief of their symptoms associated with the illness. Alcohol can also have a reduction in the effects that are commonly associated with taking medication for these illnesses.

Anxiety
For many, alcohol consumption can be associated with relaxation. However, the effects of alcohol and hangovers can actually induce anxiety and increase stress levels. Due to prolonged drinking, the brain activity will decrease and cause symptoms like stress, discontent, restlessness, and nightmares — which can also be symptoms of anxiety. Alcohol also has an ability to cause people to experience feelings of hopelessness and incapability, which can then induce anxiety.

Bipolar Disorder
This can also be related to or a trigger of Alcohol Use Disorder. While the link to Bipolar Disorder is still unclear, there are very similar traits that have been observed as part of both of these mental illnesses. This can also be due to aggressive mood swings induced by alcohol.

Alcoholism is a serious physical and mental disease that can affect all aspects of a person’s life. If you, or someone you know is struggling and is looking for a scientific-based treatment approach, contact us. We understand that it can be hard to stop drinking and that treatment can be a big step. Go Sober is an outpatient alcohol rehabilitation center that allows you to continue your life and get treatment at the same time. Schedule a free consultation with one of our addiction specialists today. We are here for you.

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