Why Alcohol Causes Anxiety

There are basically 6 reasons why alcohol consumption and hangovers make many people anxious and I’m going tell you what they are. I want to share this with you so that you can be more informed and avoid becoming alcohol’s punching bag.

Ever since I became sick with nervous illness I’ve heard a lot of people say that anxiety sufferers should not drink alcohol because it makes you more nervous than you already are.

I’ve always found this to be ironic because there are so many anxiety sufferers that drink alcohol to cope with their anxiety, but true it is.

Now, the fact that alcohol can cause anxiety is just that, a fact. It is a scientifically based understanding, so this is not simple conjecture on my part.

Will alcohol affect all people this way? Probably not, but as an anxiety sufferer you should be aware of the possible pitfalls of alcohol consumption, so pay close attention.

Scientists believe that alcohol causes or at least increases anxiety in  6 basic ways and here they are.

1. Mood

Alcohol can affect our mood because it can affect the level of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is a feel good brain chemical that when in short supply can cause feelings of anxiety and depression.

2. Drop in blood sugar

A drop in blood sugar can cause dizziness, confusion, weakness, nervousness, shaking and numbness. These symptoms can most certainly trigger a bout of anxiety.

3. Dehydration

This has been known to cause nausea, dizziness, fatigue, light-headedness and muscle weakness. These symptoms wouldn’t cause anxiety per say but they add to a sense of illness which fosters anxiety.

4. Nervous System

The nervous system is affected because in order for the body to fight off the sedative effects of alcohol it puts the body into a state of hyperactivity in order to counteract this effect. This hyperactivity can lead to shaking, light/sound sensitivity and sleep deprivation.

5. Heart Rate

Your heart rate can become elevated as a result of consuming alcohol which can cause a palpitation false alarm and put you into a state of anxious anticipation. Is it a heart attack or isn’t it you might ask. This “what if” questioning can increase your general state of anxiety.

6. Concentration

A hard night of drinking can also make you hazy, bring on headaches and create a sense of disorientation.

So if you’re going to have a glass of wine with dinner I don’t think you should be concerned. On the other hand, if you’re a heavy drinker, or binge drinker, then this might cause a real problem for you.

According to The Times Online, scientists don’t know exactly why all this happens but they do suggest that you eat before drinking, drink water in between drinks, and stay in bed if you are hung over to avoid all the problems I outlined above.

Some would say that maybe you shouldn’t drink at all if you have an anxiety disorder – that’s debatable. Do you think that alcohol should be avoided at all cost when someone has an anxiety disorder?

I don’t think that alcohol should be avoided if drinking is part of your social repertoire, however, I also know that moderation and good sense should be your guide.

In addition, although alcohol does have a sedative effect it should not be used as a coping tool. This type of behavior can lead to alcoholism and worse yet, more anxiety.

So if you know that you’re a light weight, or if you already know that alcohol makes you anxious, don’t bother. Maybe I don’t need to say it, but really some people just don’t know when to say no.

Note: I want to hear your opinions. Let me know what you think about this issue – comment below.


After waiting forever I finally completed a podcast for this article. Press play to listen now.

anxiety symptoms


  1. Tyler says

    Hey I’m 21, I’ve binged drank since I was 14. I just started having really bad anxiety attacks about a month ago. I got blood, urine, and EKG and chest x Ray. They all came back clean, I was having bad heart palpitations, dizzyness, nuause, sick, puking, heart pounding, strong heart beats, felt like throat was closing in on me, can’t sleep or eat. I always feel fine a couple days later,and my hangover lasts roughy 3 days at some times. I just wanna die at times and cry, the only thing that helps me is when my gf is beside me helping me deal with it. I’m really stupid and can’t refuse alcohol. I really need to stop drinking :(

  2. says

    Just thought I would offer something.
    I developed an anxiety problem at age 20 after an extended illness, having
    been totally healthy up until then.
    I did not drink at all.
    Over time and because the anxiety issue and symptoms became set in, I started
    to use alcohol to treat the symptoms.
    I realized of course very quickly that drinking only helped in the very short term but
    helped the anxiety continue.
    So..I battled along for 20 years, drinking..not drinking..doctors , psychologists, meds
    What stopped me from being completely in the gutter so to speak was the meds I could take for the anxiety which did help and made every one else happy cause …no drinking and therefore I was fine..which was far from the truth..it was a very isolated, lonely and difficult existence with no real way out.
    The meds were just the same as the alcohol in that they kept feeding the anxiety.
    After 20 years I had resigned that this was to be the rest of my life…the Dr agreed.
    One day at the age of 40 I had an ephiphony.
    I received a phone call from the police, one of my children had been killed in an auto accident.
    Just as I was rushing out the door a police car pulled into my driveway and the officer said he was so glad to have caught me before i left cause there had been a terrible mistake.
    It was NOT my daughter…or anyone else I knew.
    I stood stunned while he explained….and apologised for the earlier call.
    Well he left and I went back inside and sat down.
    After a while I became aware that my body was slowing down from the initial feeling of panic and sickness.
    Eventually I was back to normal.
    I thought about the poor family who the call was really intended for.
    I realised something about my body….the terrible feelings I had experienced in those first moments were NOT caused by me..consiously..and neither was the feeling of ‘relief and recovery. if you will.
    It was in that moment that I realized what I had been long told about anxiety in the simplest ways was true and that the body has its own remedies.
    Can you imagine your life, if you had feelings like that every day ..all day…without any real cause that you could see.
    So I set about revising my approach to my anxiety issue, and any and all self medicating.
    The first thing was to realise that it wasn’t in my head.
    The second was to plan a regimen of meds whose dosage could be reduced over time
    in such a way as not to produce anxiety symptoms (which can be done if done methodically) and the third thing was to decide that alcohol was ok for some people but not for me, at least while my body reacted the way it did.
    Anyway without going on too much more, I managed to come up with a plan ..including meds and after 2 months of following it I finished the meds.
    That was 18 years ago, I have not had a med, or a drink since then.
    I have also not experienced the anxiety again either.
    So the bottom line for me re alcohol and anxiety….
    I used alcohol and meds in the same way..that is..to relieve symptoms and I got nowhere long term.
    Because both alcohol and the meds wearing off would put the system on alert again
    and prevent the body from desensitising itself to a normal state.
    Once I used meds as treatment and got rid of alcohol then recovery.
    That lesson took me an insanely long time to learn, but there you have it.
    I’m also happy to say that I was able to successfully help a good friend of mine with a very similar issue and that its often simpler than you may want to believe.

  3. zane says

    @tyler…im experiencing exactly what you are too.the worst part is waking up too early and not being able to fall asleep.it is horrendous.one of the worst things in my life right now.i also take about 2 to 3 days to recover.please someone help.


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