A Guide to Mental Effects Of Drinking Alcohol

Published On: June 10, 2020

mental effects alcohol

Today’s world has produced a society where using alcohol has become the norm. But the toll this can take on the mind and body can be quite significant. The mental effects of drinking alcohol can cause a wide range of cognitive changes depending upon how much is used and for how long.

Irrational behaviour and poor decision-making are just a few of the side effects that can be experienced with only slight overconsumption. Heavy use can be even more detrimental, leading to serious long-term ramifications. These can produce a negative impact on the brain’s ability to remember things or coordinate effectively.

Both heavy and moderate drinking carries dangers that can impose upon the safety and well-being of the individual. Without taking steps to correct the problems presented by alcohol, continued use can lead to professional or social fallout.

Even in the short-term, high volumes of alcohol consumption may cause unwanted incidents or bad choices that can inflict years of unforeseen and unwanted consequences.

How Alcohol Affects Your Brain Chemistry

The brain is a complex organism that relies on chemical processes and interrelated networks to serve its function. However, once alcohol is introduced into the bloodstream, it can have an effect upon these processes as the brain changes and adapts accordingly.

People become attached to the relaxed or inebriated feeling they get from alcohol, causing them to want to use more and more as a tolerance to the substance begins to grow.

The danger comes from the fact that alcohol directly alters brain chemistry that depends on neurotransmitters. These are chemical messengers your body needs to transfer signals and regulate behaviours, thought processes, and emotions.

Alcohol & the Brain

While people may feel that alcohol gives them energy or takes away their inhibitions, the truth is that the chemistry involved in creating these effects also can impair the normal functioning of the brain. [1]

This is because alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, meaning that it restricts the ability of one of the human body’s most important systems for balance and cognitive awareness. Alcohol can lead to self-harm, create memory loss, and slow down movement and speech.

It affects the brain’s dopamine reward system to urge the subject to drink more and more, even when it’s not advisable to do so. The mental effects of alcohol are varied and impact each person differently, but may include:

  • For occasional drinkers, even after only a few drinks, recklessness, memory impairment, or blackout could take place
  • Moderate drinkers, despite being told that it may be positive for their health, face many consequences that include an increased risk for breast cancer, violence, falls, drownings, and car accidents
  • Heavy drinkers face even more problems that may involve chronic brain damage, impairment at intellectual functioning, and diminished brain size

Emotional Effects of Alcohol Abuse

Far from being a substance that only affects a person’s physical well-being, alcohol can also have disastrous consequences on a person’s emotional state. Studies have shown strong links between self-harm, suicide, and depression with continual or heavy alcohol use.

In fact, someone is 120 times more likely to commit suicide if they are dependent upon alcohol than those who are not. [2] Social withdrawal, irritability, and depression are also commonly associated signs that accompany regular and sustained alcohol use or abuse.

Can Alcohol Affect my Mental Health?

For those already facing challenges in the realm of mental health, alcohol can push them past the breaking point. The mental effects of alcohol

The mental effects of alcohol can exacerbate situations and trigger emotions or thoughts that tend to underlie many common mental health conditions.

Using alcohol is not a healthy way to deal with serious mental health issues, and it can worsen symptoms by creating unstable mood swings and anxiety.

How Alcohol Affects Your Sleep

Drinking alcohol can disrupt sleep patterns, leaving you disturbed throughout the night and preventing you from getting the rest your body needs to recover.

Not only does alcohol agitate stomach acid within the digestive system to create heartburn and indigestion. But drinking also has a negative effect on the quality of sleep you get, robbing the brain and muscles of much-needed recovery time (especially after a long or demanding day).

Drinking to Relieve Anxiety and Depression

For those facing hardships or troubles in their lives, drinking may seem as if it is an oasis or a way to escape their pain. But the truth is that the mental effects of drinking alcohol will likely do more harm than good.

Sadly, turning to the bottle becomes a substitute for turning to a professional therapist or specialist to cope with thoughts and feelings. This can lead to a cyclical process in which alcohol becomes the sole source of comfort within the subject’s life.

Alcohol is not a cure for feelings such as anxiety or depression, and if relied upon, may create even deeper problems within the person’s life.

Is Alcohol is Linked to Suicide, Self-Harm, and Psychosis?

Alcohol brings about unwanted physical effects and ailments. But it also has been tied to many severe and dangerous circumstances and incidents of self-abuse.

A study from The National Library of Medicine concluded that alcohol consumption commonly precedes suicidal behaviour, and that alcohol consumption was detected in the toxicology of 44% out of 307 suicidal cases. [3]

These numbers make it clear that those with suicidal tendencies should most certainly stray away from abusing alcohol, along with the fact that 21% out of 6,145 self-harm cases also involved alcohol.

Alcohol and Memory Loss

Alcohol can work to slow down the hippocampus region of the brain, and with continual use, even damage it altogether. This is because alcohol destroys nerve cells which can significantly affect the ability to recall both facts and memories.

This can result in an underwhelming performance in work environments, or to establish a barrier when it comes to doing things the person once enjoyed.

Dual Diagnosis: Alcohol and Co-Occurring Disorders

It isn’t uncommon to see a dual diagnosis situation take place. This means mental health issues and alcohol abuse reside close to one another. Alcohol can seem like a great option for self-medicating when symptoms of depression or intense feelings of anxiety and irritability overcome the person.

Approximately one-third of all people who are fighting the battle of alcoholism also suffer from one or more forms of mental illness.

Depression ranks among the most common of mental health disorders and is frequently accompanied by heavy or regular alcohol abuse.

Alcohol-Related Brain Damage

Normally, people think about alcohol as a substance they can enjoy recreationally. However, the fact is that alcohol is much more than this – it is also a toxin, and can cause alcohol-related brain damage.

Too much drinking can lead to alcohol use disorder, which can produce permanent memory loss or dementia. Thiamine deficiency can also lead to dementia, which alcohol promotes.

Alcoholics are generally malnourished and lack key vitamins due to the demand placed upon the body. Overconsumption of alcohol can make it harder to recover from poor health while continuing to make it poorer.

Alcohol and Communication

Good communication is one of the strongest foundations of healthy relationship. Inflection and tone of voice are central to communicating in a way that makes your thoughts and feelings clearly understood.

One new study shows that the ability to do this may be hindered through the misuse of alcohol. This makes it more difficult for the victim to describe their feelings or get their point across.

Group therapy sessions, family therapy sessions, and most importantly, abstaining from alcohol, can help to restore the expressive nuances lost to this addiction.

What Happens in Recovery?

Despite all the pitfalls and challenges presented by continual alcohol abuse, hope for the future exists. This can be cultivated by entering into the right treatment program. Treatment programs can help change the mentality and habits of victims, allowing them to reassess their life in a whole new way.

Issues that were once hidden or made worse from alcohol abuse can now be brought into the light and examined. Going through this process improves the likelihood that alcohol will not remain a destructive force for the victim in the future.

If you or someone you love is dealing with the struggle of alcoholism, it isn’t too late to make a change for the better. With the right strategy, the victim can regain their sense of purpose in life and achieve new things.

Joy, fullfillment, and happiness are still very real qualities that can be attained, and a robust, forward-thinking treatment program can help to accomplish this.

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[1] afmc.org/afmc-healthspot/alcohol-worsens-depression-depression-worsens-alcohol-abuse/


[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2872355/


[3] https://econtent.hogrefe.com/doi/full/10.1027/0227-5910/a000488?mobileUi=0

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