I have depression. So understanding the impact alcohol has on my mental health helps me make good conscious decisions about my drinking habits. In order to understand why alcohol has a negative impact on my mental health when drinking, I first had to educate myself about what happens to my brain when I drink.
Alcohol causes depression
Alcohol is a depressant. This means it messes with your body’s natural “happy chemicals” like serotonin and dopamine. If you’re anything like me and have to take medication to help make up for the lack of serotonin in your brain, you’ll know you’re not really willing to part with any more happy chemicals. . (Editor’s note, many commentators disagree that lack of serotonin is the case of depression. See more details here
At first I get a good buzz
I was once that person who would get a good buzz at the start of my drinking. Then I would start to feel sad, angry, anxious, depressed and sometimes even aggressive. Some people, like me who suffer with anxiety and depression will use alcohol as a coping mechanism. However, in the long run this can create more anxiety and stress.
Anxiety and depression can make us drink too much
As the alcohol leaves the body, stress and anxiety can actually intensify due to the impact of alcohol on the brain. People who drink heavily are also more likely to experience symptoms of depression and alcohol can also intensify negative emotions. I find suffering with a mental health issue, means it is imperative I learn to cope and manage my stress and anxiety without alcohol. It is a very easy road to go down and become dependent.
It’s difficult in Ireland to say no
In our Irish culture most events and social life revolve around alcohol. People don’t realise alcohol is a psychoactive drug. So it can be really hard to say no when I’m feeling overwhelmed.
We’ve all been there;
“I’ve had such a bad day, I’d love a few drinks!”
But if we are using alcohol as a solution to our problems, whether that’s stress, anxiety, boredom, or anything else, we risk becoming psychologically dependent on alcohol.
Simple things help
A few ways I found to help manage the struggles in my brain is living a healthy lifestyle. Simple things like nutritious food and a good exercise regime to help encourage those natural endorphins. Meeting a friend for coffee and getting some worries off my chest. Learning some breathing and stress management techniques to help me calm down when feeling overwhelmed or even seeking professional help from the GP. There is no shame in admitting we need a little help managing to get through this crazy journey we call life.
If you would like more tips on controlling your drinking, click here.
If you are not sure what help you need you can call the HSE Alcohol Helpline 1800 459 459 during office hours