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What Causes Anxiety (Hangxiety) and Depression After Drinking? 

It’s not uncommon to feel depressed or anxious after drinking. Alcohol is a depressant. The initial happiness turns into fatigue and emotional imbalance.

Drinking triggers a release of dopamine. This activates the reward center in your brain. However, as your BAC rises, depressive symptoms start to set in.

Heavy drinking doesn't always cause anxiety or depression the next day. This is more common in people who already suffer from these disorders.

For many, alcohol can help mask symptoms of depression or anxiety. However, once the alcohol wears off, the symptoms return. Often they are stronger than before.

People may drink again the following day to reduce the symptoms. This can create a terrible cycle. It may increase your risk of alcoholism.

Also, alcohol raises blood pressure. This can escalate anxiety and depression.

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Why Am I Depressed Days After Drinking?

Alcohol affects brain chemistry. Alcohol interferes with the body’s natural hormone and mood regulators. It can take days to reverse the effects.

Alcohol rewires the brain in short and long-term use. After binge drinking, the brain produces less serotonin and dopamine, the feel-good chemicals. Heavy drinking or daily drinking can disrupt the natural production of the feel-good chemicals. 

Alcohol also slows down the central nervous system. This causes tiredness and shortness of breath. It can take the central nervous system weeks to reboot and return to normal.

Alcohol also disrupts neurotransmitters in the brain. Neurotransmitters relay information to different parts of the brain. When neurotransmitters are impaired, it can lead to increased feelings of depression.

Continuous drinking can cause long-term damage to neurotransmitters and the brain's ability to adapt to change. 

The connection between drinking and depression is often circular. Daily drinking can cause the brain to rely on alcohol consumption to produce dopamine and serotonin. Eventually, this can lead to a severe alcohol use disorder. 

Depression may not be obvious. Here are the most common symptoms of depression caused by drinking. 

  • Tiredness
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia
  • Negative self-image 
  • Confusion 
  • Loss of time
  • Mental fogginess

How to Deal with Depression After Drinking

Always hydrate the morning after drinking. Dehydration is one of the causes of a hangover. Being properly hydrated helps your body flush out toxins.

The best way to deal with depression after drinking alcohol is to stop drinking. Feelings of depression negatively impact brain health.

If a person has depression or other mental health disorders, drinking can increase the likelihood of suffering from an anxiety attack or other negative emotions. 

If you’re on antidepressants it's best to avoid alcohol. This can intensify the hangover symptoms. Furthermore, the effects of alcohol counteract antidepressants.  

Therapy is another healthy way of coping with depressive thoughts. Therapy can be as simple as reaching out to local alcohol helplines, talking with religious leaders, or talking with friends and family.

Depression After Quitting Drinking

If you quit drinking and the depression persists, it can be a sign of alcohol addiction.

Over time, alcohol causes the brain to make less of the feel-good chemicals. Alcohol also causes insomnia, which results in decreased mental function. 

The combination of these effects can lead to long-term depression. It takes time for the brain to heal and begin to regulate hormones efficiently.

Depression after alcohol is considered a sign of alcohol withdrawal. Attempting to self-medicate depression with alcohol is a sign of alcohol dependence. 

Don't Let Addiction Control You.

You can overcome any struggle – including your substance abuse problem - if you have the right help from qualified professionals. Give yourself the freedom of recovery by turning things around today.

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When to Seek Treatment for Alcohol Abuse

If alcohol begins to negatively affect your life, it's time to reconsider your relationship with it. A sign of alcohol use disorder (AUD) is continuing to drink even though it's affecting your life negatively.

Alcohol use disorder affects more than the alcoholic. Relationships with friends and family become fractured. A healthy work/life balance becomes unsustainable. 

Here are common signs that alcohol substance abuse has developed:

  • Needs alcohol to function or feel normal 
  • Daily drinking
  • Excessively missing work and social events
  • Considers drinking a hobby
  • Needs alcohol to have fun 
  • Frequently experience black outs

Symptoms of alcohol abuse vary in intensity based on individual health factors. Seeking treatment for alcohol substance use is the first step to recovery.

Treatment for substance use disorder comes in 2 main varieties; inpatient and outpatient

Inpatient treatment involves being admitted to a facility for round-the-clock monitoring and support. Conversely, outpatient treatment involves weekly or monthly treatment sessions. Outpatient treatment often involves a long-term care plan to overcome addiction. 

Common Questions and Answers

Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is prevalent among all adult age groups. There are several commonly asked questions regarding its effects on the body: 

Does alcohol kill brain cells?

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), alcohol does not kill brain cells. However, it does disrupt the brain’s ability to communicate with itself

Alcohol also leads to depression. Depression can cause an overabundance of amyloid proteins in the brain. An excess of amyloid proteins further disrupts the neural pathways in the brain. This process also creates grey matter, which can lead to dementia, fogginess, and other brain diseases. 

In short, while alcohol may not directly kill brain cells, it does impair existing brain cells and prohibits the growth of new neural connections.

How long do depression symptoms last after drinking? 

The exact time frame depends heavily on the amount of alcohol consumed, age, gender, weight, level of hydration, and other individual factors. The time can vary but on average, alcohol depression lasts for 1-2 days. 

If the depression lasts longer than that or up to 2 weeks, then it’s time to seek professional help.

How long does it take for brain chemistry to return to normal after alcohol?

This varies based on individualized health factors. However, in heavy drinkers, it can take between 1-6 months to fully recover from alcohol's effects.

Certain parts of the brain will heal within 2 weeks. However, the frontal lobe, the development of new neural pathways, and the amount of white/grey matter in the brain may take much longer to return to normal. 

In rare cases involving severe alcoholism, the brain can take years to heal fully.

Diet and exercise can improve the rate of recovery and lessen the symptoms of withdrawal. The process will still take time. Being patient with yourself and mindful of your wellness are good practices during this stage of recovery.

How can I improve my mood after drinking?

Depression after drinking is very common. Certain habits, such as diet, exercise, and positive mental health habits, may help in the short-term. 

The best way to improve your mood after drinking is to seek mental health services. Therapy is a great way to uncover the cause of alcoholism, identify drinking triggers, and build healthy coping mechanisms. 

If you or a loved one experiences prolonged periods of alcoholic depression, use alcohol to self-medicate, or feel alcohol cravings, then professional help is needed. Often alcoholism is allowed to develop due to denial. Not all alcoholics go through financial ruin, have run-ins with the law, or have entirely fractured relationships.

Identifying alcoholism comes down to recognizing certain habits and the frequency with which those habits occur. Frequent alcoholic depression is a serious sign of alcohol use disorder (AUD). Reach out to your health practitioner for more information.

Treatment Options for Alcohol Abuse & Addiction

  • Inpatient Programs — Inpatient treatment is the most intensive and effective option for alcohol addiction treatment. These prograInpatient treatment is the most intensive and effective option for alcohol addiction treatment. These programs usually last 30, 60, or 90 days. However, they may be longer in some instances. Throughout an inpatient program, you will live on-site in a safe, substance-free environment. You will go through medically supervised detoxification first, then behavioral therapy and other services will be added to your regimen. Many of these treatment programs will assist you with an aftercare program afterward.
  • Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHPs) PHPs are the second most intensive alcohol addiction programs. They are sometimes referred to as intensive outpatient programs (IOPs). Partial hospitalization programs provide comparable services to inpatient programs. These may include detoxification, medical services, behavioral therapy, support groups, and other holistic or custom treatments. The main difference between PHPs and inpatient programs is that you return home and sleep at your house during a partial hospitalization program. Some PHPs provide food and transportation. However, this varies by program. PHPs are ideal for new patients, as well as patients who have completed an inpatient program and still require intensive treatment.
  • Outpatient Programs Outpatient programs are less intensive than inpatient programs and PHPs. They are best for people who are highly motivated to achieve sobriety and have responsibilities at work, home, or school. Outpatient treatment programs customize your treatment sessions around your schedule. Outpatient programs can help new patients achieve success. They may also be a part of aftercare programs once a patient completes an inpatient program or PHP.
  • Medication-Assisted Therapy (MAT) Certain patients qualify for medication-assisted therapy. Some medications can assist you throughout detoxification and withdrawal. Others can reduce cravings and normalize your bodily functions. Disulfiram (Antabuse), acamprosate (Campral), and naltrexone (Revia and Vivitrol) are the most common medications used to treat AUD. MAT can help prevent relapse and increase your chance of recovery if combined with other therapies.
  • Support Groups Support groups are peer-led organizations made of people dedicated to helping each other stay sober. They can be the first step towards sobriety or a component of an aftercare plan. Many of these programs follow the 12-step approach.

Address Your Addiction

Don't let addiction control you. Give yourself the power to get help for your addiction today.

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Resources

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Kuria, Mary W, et al. The Association between Alcohol Dependence and Depression before and after Treatment for Alcohol Dependence. 26 Jan. 2012, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3658562/

McHugh, R Kathryn, and Roger D Weiss. “Alcohol Use Disorder and Depressive Disorders.” Alcohol Research : Current Reviews, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 1 Jan. 2019, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6799954/

Seo, Dongju, and Rajita Sinha. “Neuroplasticity and Predictors of Alcohol Recovery.” Alcohol Research : Current Reviews, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 2015, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4476600/

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