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Alcohol and Mental Health

Mental health issues not only result from consuming too much alcohol. They can also cause people to drink too much.

There is some evidence linking light drinking with better health in some adults. Between 1 and 3 drinks on a daily basis have been found to help defend us from heart disease, dementia, and Alzheimer's Disease, and a little glass of red wine everyday may decrease risk of stroke in women.

There is a lot more evidence showing that drinking excessive alcohol results in grievous bodily and mental illnesses.

Put very simply, a major reason for drinking alcohol is to change our mood - or change our mental state. Alcohol can temporarily alleviate feelings of anxiety and depression; it can even help to temporarily relieve the symptoms of more serious mental health issues.

Alcohol problems are more common among people with more severe mental health issues. This does not necessarily mean that alcohol compels severe mental illness. Drinking to deal with difficult feelings or symptoms of mental disorder is sometimes called 'self-medication' by people in the mental health field. This is often why individuals with mental health problems drink. But it can make existing mental health problems worse.

Evidence indicates that individuals who consume high amounts of alcohol are vulnerable to higher levels of mental ill health and it can be a contributory factor in some mental diseases, such as depression.

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How does drinking affect our moods and mental health?

When we have alcohol in our blood, our mood changes, and our behaviour then also changes. Alcohol depresses the central nervous system, and this can make us less inhibited in our behaviour.

Alcohol can also reveal or magnify our underlying feelings. This is one of the reasons that many people become aggressive or angry when drinking. If our underlying feelings are of anger, unhappiness or anxiety, then alcohol can magnify them.

What about the after-effects?

When the effects have worn off, one of the main conditions connected with using alcohol to deal with anxiety and depression is that individuals may feel much worse. Alcohol is thought to use up and reduce the amount of neurotransmitters in the brain, but the brain needs a certain level of neurotransmitters needs to ward off anxiety and depression. This can lead some individuals to drink more, to ward off these difficult feelings, and a dangerous cycle of dependence can develop.

Alcohol conditions are more common among individuals with more severe mental health issues. If our underlying feelings are of anxiety, unhappiness or anger, then alcohol can magnify them.

One of the main issues linked with using alcohol to deal with anxiety and depression is that people may feel much worse when the effects have worn off. Alcohol is thought to use up and reduce the amount of neurotransmitters in the brain, but the brain needs a certain level of neurotransmitters needs to ward off anxiety and depression.