Alcohol awareness week 2020 takes place from November 16 – 22. This is a week for campaigning for change and raising awareness around alcohol. This year, the theme is ‘Alcohol and Mental Health’.
Alcohol can negatively affect your mental health, especially if you are regularly drinking a large amount as this will interfere with important chemicals in the brain. Even though alcohol may make you feel relaxed initially, the long-term effects can lead to feelings of depression and anxiety. Using alcohol to cope with existing mental health conditions is a bad idea as it can make existing problems worse.
Alcohol and Depression
One of the most common mental health issues is depression, which is experienced by approximately 1 in 5 people at some point in their lives. Heavy drinking and depression have a ‘mutually reinforcing relationship’ which means that experiencing one of them increases a person’s chances of experiencing the other. Therefore, reducing your alcohol intake is a great way to reduce your risk of developing depression. Likewise, if you are already struggling with depression then reducing your alcohol intake should make managing symptoms easier.
Alcohol and Anxiety
Increased anxiety is a common symptom of alcohol withdrawal, which often makes it difficult to quit drinking. Those who suffer from social anxiety disorder may find that they feel dependent on alcohol to feel relaxed in a social situation, but this feeling of relaxation is very short-term. Once your body has processed the alcohol and withdrawal kicks in, feelings of anxiety increase which may make you feel like you need to drink again.
Healthy Coping Mechanisms
Instead of using alcohol to cope with your problems, here are some healthier coping mechanisms:
- Spending time with friends
- Creative hobbies
- Spending time outside
For more information on alcohol, see our free alcohol resources
Where to Get Help
If you are worried about your drinking, there are ways to get help:
- Speak to your GP who will be able to offer you confidential advice and refer you for extra support
- Drinkaware offer a number of support services, including ‘Drinkchat’ which is a free online chat service, and ‘Drinkline’ which is a free helpline. Both services can be used by people who are concerned by their own or someone else’s drinking.
 McManus, S., Bebbington, P., Jenkins, R. and Brugha, T. (2016). Mental health and wellbeing in England: Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey 2014. Leeds: NHS Digital.