More than 40 million adults in America are living with anxiety disorders based on reports from the mental health sector. An estimated 30 million suffer from alcohol use disorder. In many cases, these two conditions go hand in hand. Quite a few people with anxiety turn to alcohol to help them deal with its symptoms.

Is this really an effective solution, though? Does alcohol help with anxiety, or does it make things worse and increase the likelihood of needing addiction treatment? Read on to learn more about the connection between alcohol and anxiety from both the immediate and the long-term perspective.

Anxiety and Alcohol in the Short-Term Sense

First of all, take a closer look at anxiety and alcohol’s effects on the condition in the short-term sense. Anxiety comes in numerous forms. Overall, though, it’s defined as intense, irrational, and persistent fear or worry about certain everyday situations. With anxiety disorders, it’s difficult, if not impossible, to control those constant feelings of dread and the thoughts that cause basic stress to spiral into something much bigger and harder to ignore.

While you’re drinking, alcohol calms the nerves. It may not eliminate the factors that trigger your anxiety, but it makes them seem less significant. In short, you just don’t care about them at the moment. Alcohol interferes with your thought processes. All those thoughts and fears that anxiety relentlessly recirculates through your mind start to slow down. In a sense, alcohol gives you a break from the constant worry. It’s an escape and, quite frankly, a major relief even though it only lasts for a short time. It’s not real, but it feels real enough.

From the Long-Term Perspective

Now that we’ve covered the short-term effects of alcohol on anxiety, let’s delve into the long-term perspective. Once the alcohol wears off, all the fear, worry, nervousness, shortness of breath, and other anxiety symptoms return, often with a vengeance. That makes you want more alcohol to feel that fleeting sense of relief again. It can easily become a vicious cycle. 

Beyond that, your body comes to rely on the effects of alcohol, and the more you drink, the worse it gets. The way your mind and body work while you’re drinking become the new norm, and the way they work when you’re not drinking just doesn’t feel right. That’s where addiction starts to set in. Instead of wanting alcohol to ward off the effects of anxiety, you begin to need it just to function normally. 

To make matters even worse, many people experience intense feelings of shame and guilt over turning to alcohol to alleviate their anxiety. That, in turn, exacerbates the symptoms of the condition. It adds those feelings to the ongoing fears you were already living with.

On top of all that, there are the things you might’ve said or done under the influence of alcohol that you wouldn’t have otherwise. That’s especially true if you reached the blackout point. You’ll undoubtedly worry about what happened that you can’t remember. That can cause intense anxiety in its own right. You’re likely to feel as though people you might’ve interacted with while you were intoxicated are treating you differently even if they’re actually not. 

Does Alcohol Make Anxiety Worse

In a nutshell, alcohol may make anxiety seem less severe in the short-term sense. While you’re under the influence, the symptoms of anxiety seem far less overwhelming. After the fact, though, it’s a completely different story. Between a growing dependence on alcohol and the guilt you might feel over drinking to ease your symptoms, it actually makes things much worse. When you factor in all the worry about your words and actions while you were drinking, it takes anxiety to entirely new levels.