Alcohol and Co-Occurring Disorders

Mental health conditions not only result from drinking too much alcohol. They can even provoke individuals to drink too much.

There is some evidence linking light alcohol consumption with improved physical health in some adults. Between one and three units daily have been found to help protect against heart disease, dementia, and Alzheimer's Disease, and a little glass of red wine daily may diminish risk of stroke in women.
However there is far more evidence indicating that drinking too much alcohol brings on serious physical and emotional disorders.
Put very simply, a major reason for drinking alcohol is to change our mood - or change our mental state. Alcohol can temporarily alleviate feelings of anxiety and depression; it can also help to temporarily relieve the symptoms of more serious mental health issues.
Alcohol problems are more common among people with more severe mental health problems. This does not necessarily mean that alcohol causes severe mental disorder. Drinking to deal with difficult feelings or symptoms of mental disease is sometimes called 'self-medication' by people in the mental health field. This is often why individuals with mental health issues drink. It can make existing mental health conditions worse.
Evidence indicates that individuals who consume high amounts of alcohol are vulnerable to higher levels of mental ill health and it can be a contributory factor in some mental disorders, such as depression.
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How does drinking affect our moods and mental health?

When we have alcohol in our blood, our mood changes, and our behaviour then even changes. Alcohol depresses the central nervous system, and this can make us less inhibited in our behaviour.
Alcohol can also reveal or magnify our underlying feelings. This is one of the reasons that many people become angry or aggressive when drinking. Anger or unhappiness, then alcohol can magnify them if our underlying feelings are of anxiety.
What about the after-effects?

One of the main conditions associated with using alcohol to deal with anxiety and depression is that people may feel much worse when the effects have worn off. Alcohol is thought to use up and reduce the amount of neurotransmitters in the brain, but the brain needs a certain level of neurotransmitters needs to ward off anxiety and depression. NEED TO CLEAR UP A TROUBLING QUESTION: . . .
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This can lead some people to drink more, to ward off these difficult feelings, and a dangerous cycle of dependence can develop.


Alcohol conditions are more common among people with more severe mental health issues. If our underlying feelings are of anger, unhappiness or anxiety, then alcohol can magnify them.
One of the main conditions linked with using alcohol to deal with anxiety and depression is that individuals may feel much worse when the effects have worn off. Alcohol is thought to use up and reduce the amount of neurotransmitters in the brain, but the brain needs a certain level of neurotransmitters needs to ward off anxiety and depression.

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