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Alcohol and our mental health

Megan explores how exactly alcohol effects our mental health

Written by Megan Stonecipher and posted in opinion

This is an opinion of a young person and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of It is one person's experience and may be different for you. If you'd like to write something for please contact

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With the topic of mental health comes the topic of alcohol.  Alcohol can be both beneficial and detrimental when it comes to mental health.  Some research suggests that alcohol in moderation can help prevent both physical and mental health issues, such as heart disease, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease.  But the majority of research suggests that alcohol is more harmful rather than helpful to our mental health.  Alcohol is most often used to help boost our mood and relieve feelings of anxiety, depression, and other symptoms of mental health conditions. This is why we often see people who have mental health conditions self-medicating with alcohol.  Although self-medicating with alcohol seems to lessen the amount and intensity of unwanted feelings and symptoms of mental health conditions in the short-term, it actually makes things worse in the long-term.  Research has shown that mental health conditions can become more apparent through excessive drinking, and that one’s mental health can worsen due to drinking.  Below you can find some general information about alcohol and how it affects our mental health.

The effects of alcohol

  • Like stated earlier mental health problems not only arise from drinking, but can also get worse with continuous drinking.  
  • Although there has been some research stating that alcohol in moderation can be beneficial to our health, the majority of research shows that drinking can lead to serious mental and physical health conditions.  
  • Those who drink significant amounts of alcohol are at an increased risk for developing or worsening mental health conditions.  
  • Drinking in order to improve your mood or unwanted feelings of anxiety or depression can cause you to fall into a dangerous cycle of dependence on alcohol.

The cycle of dependence

  • The cycle often starts with the person drinking in order to relieve symptoms they are feeling, which leads to the effects of alcohol eventually wearing off and the symptoms coming back, which then leads to drinking more in order to relieve the symptoms once again.  
  • The problem with this is that drinking alcohol will only suppress your feelings of anxiety or depression for a very short period of time, so it will take more alcohol after it wears off to get rid of the unwanted feelings once again.
  • In addition to people consuming more alcohol, another problem is that once the effects of the alcohol consumed wears off people often feel much worse than they did before they originally drank.

How does alcohol affects our mood and mental health?

  • Alcohol is known to depress our central nervous system which can make our moods easily fluctuate.
  • Alcohol can also make certain emotions that we are feeling much more intense, which can increase our levels of anxiety and depression.  
  • Increased levels of depression due to drinking alcohol can also lead to increased levels of self-harm and thoughts of suicide. 

Overall remember that it is best not to rely on alcohol in order to treat symptoms of mental health conditions, as it may make the situtation worse.  For more information on alcohol and mental health don't hesitate to check out these resources: Ask About Alcohol, Drugs and Alcohol Helpline, and Crosscare

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Published June 20th, 2017
Last updated October 23rd, 2017
Tags alcohol wellbeing mental health
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