How Alcohol Affects Your Mental Health
As there seems to be a bit of a buzz around Dry January, we thought we would take a deeper look into how alcohol can affect your mental health…
How Alcohol Affects Your Mental Health
Different studies show that people tend to drink the most during late adolescence and throughout their twenties. Around 80 percent of college and university students say that they consume alcohol, while roughly 50 percent of them engage in binge drinking.
Whether it is a desire to experiment with your freedom and independence or a way of coping with life challenges, alcohol consumption can have serious consequences on your academic performance, relationships, and health.
Seven UK universities got together and carried out a survey on their undergraduate students and discovered high rates of dangerous drinking, the results were that 41% of those who took part were identified as ‘hazardous drinkers’, 11% ‘harmful drinkers’ and a further 10% as ‘probably alcohol dependent’.
While an occasional glass of wine or beer won’t cause significant damage, heavy drinking can put your health at risk. Here are the most common consequences associated with excessive drinking…
Heavy Drinking and the Brain
What starts as an occasional drink or two can easily turn into three, four or more drinks and lead to drinking more often. Drinking regularly will cause your body to start building a tolerance to alcohol which means that you will need more alcohol to get the same effect.
The cumulative effect of drinking can take a toll on both your physical and mental health. Long-term alcohol consumption can cause shrinking of gray matter in frontal lobes of your brain that governs functions such as problem-solving, memory, emotional expression, social behavior, and decision-making. Exposure to alcohol destroys brain cells and has long-lasting effects on neurotransmitters in the brain, decreasing their effectiveness.
One study asked 772 college students about their experiences with alcohol-caused blackouts and memory loss. Of 772 students, 51 percent reported that they had experienced blackout (a temporary loss of consciousness or memory) at some point in their lives.
Regular consumption of alcohol changes the chemistry of the brain, decreasing the levels of the brain chemical serotonin. Serotonin is a key chemical in mental health disorders such as depression. So, drinking reduces serotonin levels in your brain, causing you to feel depressed.
Can Alcohol Cause Depression?
There is a two-way relationship between excessive drinking and mental health. Mental health issues not only result from excessive drinking, but they can also cause you to drink too much.
Namely, most of us drink to boost our mood, because alcohol can temporarily alleviate feelings of anxiety and depression, ease our problems, and take away the sadness. Research shows that many people, particularly men, use alcohol as a form of self-medication in an attempt to cope with life challenges and/or mental health problems.
However, drinking may make existing mental health problems worse. Studies show that people who drink excessively are prone to a higher risk of developing mental health problems. For example, drinking can be a contributing factor to depression.
Drinking and Behaviour
Alcohol can change your usual behaviour and inhibit your mental clarity to make sound decisions. Drinking can lower your inhibition and cause you to engage in risk-taking behaviours that pose health to personal safety as well as the safety of others.
Studies show that nearly 700,000 students age 18-24 have been assaulted by someone under the influence of alcohol. Also, alcohol may confuse you and make you incoherent to fight back in case of sexual assault, which is the reason why many sexual offenders prey on victims who have been drinking. Sexual assault can have long-lasting consequences on a person’s physical and mental health.
Can Alcohol Affect Your Academic Performance?
Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to poor grades and other academic problems. Drinking may become a priority, so you may start missing classes, completing homework, and studying for exams.
Failing classes and not taking exams can take you more time and money to complete your degree program and push back your graduation or even cause you to drop out of college.
Some people who drink excessively may develop physical and emotional alcohol dependency. Alcohol withdrawal may be difficult and often requires professional help to end alcohol addiction. The most common symptoms of alcohol withdrawal include anxiety, nausea, tremors, nervousness, heavy sweating, irregular heartbeat, and high blood pressure. Also, hallucinations, seizures, and delirium may occur in severe cases of withdrawal.
How To Drink Responsibly
If you are going to drink try to drink responsibly. Don’t be pressured into drinking more than you want, be aware of your own limits and stick to these. Longer drinks generally have a lesser concentration of alcohol than shots and short drinks and try interspersing these with soft drinks. Don’t ever leave your drink unattended, if you do, don’t drink it and order a replacement.
Alcohol doesn’t solve life problems. Excessive drinking can make your life challenges even worse in the long run. Alcohol consumption may hinder your academic performance, strain your relationships, and cause severe damage to both your physical and mental health.
Thanks for reading,
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