Drinking to Cope With Stress

Alcohol use features prominently in the very fiber of our society. Whether celebrating events, winding down after a hard day at work, or using it as a social lubricant, alcohol is present. Alcohol is also a go-to coping tool for managing stress. Read on to learn why drinking to cope with stress carries significant risk.

Why People Use Alcohol to Cope with Stress

Stress is actually a normal feature of daily life. The sources of stress in our lives are many, such as stress related to work, parenting, finances, and relationships. However, when stress levels outstrip our ability to cope with them, we may misuse alcohol as a means to cope.

Alcohol is a popular coping tool for stress, as it is cheap, legal, and readily available. Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, which means it slows down nerve activity. This leads to a sense of relaxation, mild euphoria, and has a numbing effect on our worries.

Dangers of Using Alcohol as a Coping Tool

After a highly stressful day at work, a glass of wine or a beer to take the edge off might seem harmless. It’s true that alcohol may indeed provide an immediate panacea when you feel stressed out. However, the risks of alcohol abuse far outweigh the short-term benefit.

Risks of drinking to cope with stress:

  1. Accidents or injuries. As a depressant, alcohol has a profound affect on reaction time and coordination. This greatly increases the risks of falls or auto accidents.
  1. Alcohol addiction. As tolerance increases, you find yourself drinking more and more. This can eventually lead to dependence on alcohol or addiction.
  1. Adverse health effects. Alcohol is toxic to the body. Ongoing alcohol misuse can result in major health problems or a mental health disorder.
  1. Money problems. Drinking to cope with stress may be fairly harmless for a short-term issue. However, prolonged drinking can result in a job loss or DUI arrest.
drinking to cope

Drinking to Cope: The Red Flags

Alcohol use disorder occurs on a continuum from mild to severe, which means that ongoing alcohol abuse usually progresses. This progression toward more advanced disease isn’t obvious, but tends to ramp up slowly and stealthily.

Using alcohol to cope with stress or mental health issues, a daily habit takes hold and leads to compulsive drinking. This shift from drinking by choice to compulsive alcohol use occurs in the brain’s reward system. By knowing what the signs and symptoms of alcohol use disorder look like, you can take notice and seek treatment.

Symptoms of alcohol use disorder include:

  • Increased tolerance that leads to more alcohol consumption.
  • Being unable to control drinking.
  • Lying about drinking, hiding alcohol.
  • Obsess about drinking, obtaining it, then recovering from it.
  • Decreased job performance.
  • Neglect work and family obligations.
  • Relationships suffer.
  • Withdraw from friends and family.
  • Try to cut back or stop drinking but cannot, despite consequences.
  • Experience withdrawal symptoms when alcohol wears off.

Learning New Healthy Ways to Cope with Stress

As humans, we often look for instant relief for our troubles. While alcohol may provide some short-term relief for stress and worry, drinking to cope with stress is an unhealthy coping mechanism.

Here are some healthy ways to reduce stress:

  • Therapy. Enlisting the help of a therapist can help you confront the sources of stress in your life and find long-term solutions. A therapist can also refer you to support groups that deal with your specific issue as another source of help.
  • Exercise. Starting a new fitness routine can truly help for reducing stress. Exercise increases levels of serotonin, which helps you relax. Getting regular exercise also helps you get better sleep, which helps you deal with stress during the day.
  • Yoga. Yoga is a blend of exercise, mindfulness, and breath work that is very helpful for lowering your stress levels. There is an array of yoga practices to select from to find the perfect style of yoga for you.
  • Diet. Believe it or not, our eating habits can worsen stress levels. Limit caffeine intake, reduce sugars and processed foods, and aim for a healthy Mediterranean type diet to reduce stress.
  • Meditation. The regular practice of meditation is known to provide many mental health benefits, including stress relief. Find a quiet space to focus on an object or mental image that lets you calm your mind.

When You Need Treatment for Alcohol Use Disorder

If you have come to realize you have a drinking problem, you are best advised to seek professional help from an addiction recovery program. There are two basic settings for receiving this treatment, outpatient or residential.

Outpatient treatment is a good option for a mild or emergent alcohol use disorder. These programs provide two levels of care, based on your recovery needs. You will receive treatment during the day while residing at home outside of treatment hours.

Residential treatment offers a much more intensive approach to the treatment of alcohol use disorder. For this reason, this level of care is best for moderate to severe disease. Residential programs provide round-the-clock support and monitoring, and a structured and supportive setting.

Treatment for alcohol use disorder includes:

  • Detox. When you decide to stop drinking, detox is the first step of the recovery process. Alcohol detox and withdrawal lasts 5-7 days on average. Although there is no way to completely avoid the discomfort of withdrawal, the detox team will provide relief measures as symptoms emerge.
  • Therapy. You will engage in several types of therapy modalities, both one-on-one sessions and group sessions. Therapy guides you toward learning some new ways of managing stress and other triggers, helping you remain sober long term.
  • 12-Step Program. The 12-Step program is often included in treatment programs.
  • Education. You will gain a better understanding of how alcohol affects the brain and leads to addiction. You will learn new coping skills and form a relapse prevention plan to help sustain sobriety.
  • Holistic methods. Activities that further enhance the effects of therapy include mindfulness, yoga, art therapy, acupuncture, massage, and journaling.

Dealing with stress is just part of the human condition. Learning better ways to manage it is the key to overcoming alcohol use disorder.

Pacific Bay Recovery Provides Comprehensive Treatment for Alcohol Use Disorder

Pacific Bay Recovery offers alcohol detox and rehab services within a beautiful and serene setting that is perfect for launching your recovery. If you are using alcohol to cope with stress or mental health challenges, our caring team is ready to help. For more details, please contact our Admissions Team today.

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