Most alcohol drinkers know what they’re in for. Alcohol not only causes a wide range of health problems, it is also to blame for the millions of vehicular accidents each year. It kills 1.8 million people every year worldwide.
So why is it that many people still drink? Is the fun and enjoyment they get from drinking worth all the risk?
It’s important to recognize that alcoholism is a disease not only of the body but also of the mind. Alcohol is a substance that causes dependence and addiction, that it can be a struggle for those hooked into this habit to get rid of it for good. Apart from looking at its negative impact on the physical body, it’s also imperative to probe closely how it affects the brain.
A better understanding of alcoholism as a mental disease is a step closer to permanently withdrawing from this unhealthy pastime.
Some people drink to forget about their problems. Some people drink to loosen up and feel more confident. And others drink simply to feel happier. While alcohol seems to provide all these perks, it does so but only temporarily.
Fact is: alcohol is a depressant that disrupts the “delicate balance of brain chemicals and processes”. It will give you a sense of pleasure at the first few sips but one drink too many, and you’ll notice that negative emotional responses will get the better of you, making you feel aggressive, anxious, depressed and angry.
Heavy drinking has been linked to the onset of depression, a serious mental disorder that has been a leading cause of suicide around the world. When you consume alcohol regularly, it decreases the serotonin levels in your brain. Serotonin is the brain chemical in charge of regulating the mood.
For some people, depression is what triggered them to start drinking. For some, it’s the other way around. But whichever of the two your situation is, the fact remains that alcohol will get you into a vicious cycle of dependence and depression that can be very difficult to get out of.
Here are some warning signs that alcohol is taking a toll on your mood:
- Difficulty sleeping
- Feeling tired all the time
- Experiencing anxiety in ordinary situations
- Unexplained low mood
Alcohol has also been known to have a negative effect on one’s memory. Here’s what happens: right after you consume alcohol, it works to slow down the brain processes, thus affecting your short-term memory.
But it doesn’t stop there. After you’ve consumed heavy amounts of alcohol, the brain stops recording memories into the long-term memory storage. It’s for this reason that you wake up the next day not remembering anything.
Overtime, alcohol damages the brain cells that even when you’re not drinking, you’ll find it tough to remember where you’ve put your keys, what you did yesterday, or what you were going to do for that day.
Stress and Anxiety
Contrary to popular belief, drinking alcohol is not a way to “de-stress”. Instead of reducing stress, as what most people think, alcohol actually increases it. Yes, it’s true that a glass of wine can help you relax, but what it does in the long run is to shoot up your stress and anxiety levels. It does so by throwing the brain chemicals out of whack. It even contributes to depression, as mentioned early on.
Tips to Cope
It’s very important that you stay in control of your mental health. Don’t let alcohol take charge of your brain. Here are some ways that can help:
- Exercise to boost your mood
- Relax the healthy way (get a massage, watch a movie or read a book)
- Get moral support from family and friends
- Practice breathing techniques whenever you feel stressed or anxious
- Always remember that drinking won’t solve any problem
As you can see, alcohol affects your mental health in more ways than one. Do something about your drinking before it gets the better of you.