Alcohol and Mental health
Is drinking alcohol linked to mental health?
Anxiety and depression are much more common if you regularly drink more units of alcohol than the NHS recommend. Drinking too much is also more common with people who already suffer from anxiety and depression.
How is alcohol linked to depression, anxiety and other mental health problems?
Alcohol works as a depressant drug on your nervous system; as well as making some people sleepy, it can lower your inhibitions and reveal or increase your underlying feelings. This is one of the reasons many people become impulsive, tearful, angry or aggressive whilst drinking. If your underlying feelings are anxious or sad alcohol can exaggerate them.
Can drinking increase your risk of mental health problems?
UK studies show that 39% of men and 8% of women who’ve attempted suicide were long-term heavy drinkers. 70% of attempted suicides by men and 40% by women followed heavy drinking.
Alcohol and sleep
Drinking can have a negative impact your sleep. Although alcohol can help some people get to sleep quickly, this effect wears off and can lead to broken sleep. It reduces your REM (rapid eye-movement) sleep, which contributes to dreaming and a good night’s sleep. This can reduce your amount of deep sleep leaving you feeling more tired, fatigued and irritable.
Alcohol and depression
Many studies suggest heavy drinkers are more vulnerable to mental health issues. If you’re on medication for depression, your doctor will often advise you either to cut out alcohol altogether or to ensure that you drink no more than what the NHS recommends.
Alcohol and memory loss
Drinking too many units of alcohol can cause some loss of memory after only a few drinks. This can become more severe with the more you drink. Complete memory “blackouts” often occur for long periods or even whole nights with very heavy drinkers. Long-term memory damage is also a big risk, particularly in heavier drinkers.
Alcohol and brain function
Long-term heavy drinkers can develop serious mental effects, like changes to emotions and their personality, as well as problems with perception, learning, and memory. These can be caused by direct damage to the brain or indirectly from generally poor health or severe liver disease.