Alcohol and mental health
Alcohol has also been found to be responsible for negative impacts on the way we think and act in relation to events and situations taking place around us. Although a drink at the end of a difficult day might help you relax, in the long term it can lead to depression and anxiety and actually make stress more difficult to cope with. When we drink our perception changes and we may respond to a situation in a more negative way than otherwise. This is why it is strongly recommended that you do not drink and drive, and should always avoid alcohol in situations where you may be vulnerable.
Alcohol alters your brain chemistry and frequent or heavy drinking can effect the neurotransmitters in the brain that we need to maintain good mental health. In 2006 a study was carried out involving 3,004 self-harming patients. It was discovered that 62% of males and 50% of females consumed alcohol before or while self-harming. It has also been noted that alcohol is associated with about 65% of suicides in the UK.
In Britain, those people that have had experience of depression or anxiety have been found to be twice as likely to be excessive drinkers or to have problems with their alcohol use. This is a chicken and egg situation because for some people the mental health problem came first and they are using alcohol to make it seem better. For other people their drinking came first and may well be part of the cause of the problems they are experiencing.
People who drink regularly and or heavily can also suffer with mood disorders. Warning signs that alcohol is affecting your mood include:
• a disturbed sleep pattern
• frequent feelings of lethargy and fatigue
• experiencing low mood
• experiencing feelings of anxiety in situations you usually find comfortable
Very high or extreme levels of drinking, described as over 30 units a day for a period of weeks, can lead to ‘psychosis’. Psychosis is a mental illness where the person may experience hallucinations and even delusions of being persecuted. These symptoms may also occur when a heavy drinker suddenly decides to stop drinking; they can develop a condition called ‘delirium tremens’ – the symptoms include body tremors and confusion.
Its important to remember that young people’s organs, including their brains, are not fully developed until late teenager or early twenties. This means that they are more susceptible to the effects of alcohol and will have an increased risk of effects to their mental health.