Drinking away feelings of fear: rather not
We are all familiar with feelings of fear. The idea that something serious is happening to your loved ones makes your stomach feel knotted. That car that cuts you off leaving your heart in your throat. That nagging pain that has suddenly turned into a tumor in your head. Fortunately, these forms of anxiety diminish over time. It's a different story if fear has a major influence on your functioning. A glass of alcohol might help. Or not?
Nearly 1 in 5 people in the Netherlands will suffer from some form of excessive anxiety at some point in their life, such as panic, social anxiety or a phobia. You want to get rid of a fearful feeling as quickly as possible. A good drink quickly takes the edge off. Alcohol numbs and dampens feelings of fear. For a moment you feel better and you suddenly see things less anxious or gloomy.
But make no mistake. By drinking alcohol you fight the symptoms (feelings of anxiety) and not the cause. In other words, alcohol doesn't solve anything. It provides temporary relief. As the problem persists and tolerance to the numbing effect of alcohol develops, you need more and more alcohol to avoid feeling anxiety. You end up in a vicious circle and develop an unhealthy drinking pattern.
|Did you know…
…having an alcohol disorder increases the risk of developing an anxiety disorder and vice versa? This has emerged from research by the VU and the Trimbos Institute. An alcohol disorder and an anxiety disorder often co-occur. The study shows that people with an alcohol disorder develop an anxiety disorder more often three years later than people without an alcohol disorder. Source: trimbos.nl.
Alcohol as a reinforcing factor
On top of the fact that you can become dependent on alcohol the more you need it and therefore drink more of it because of your anxiety, excessive alcohol consumption also causes your anxiety feelings to increase. Alcohol enhances emotions and therefore also fear. More anxiety means more drinking and an alcohol problem is lurking.
Tips for dealing with feelings of anxiety
It is clear that alcohol is not the solution. But how do you deal with feelings of fear?
- Name your fear. What are you afraid of. And ask yourself, "Is it a real fear?"
- Remember it's okay to be afraid of something. That doesn't make you any less of a person.
- After acknowledging your fear, try to accept the fear.
- Fear makes us fight, flee or freeze. This last instinct in particular applies to fear. You are paralyzed by fear. There is only one way to stop the fear: literally and figuratively get moving. Allow people and experiences. Learn from it and take more distance from your fear.
- Take care of yourself. Go outside, stick your nose in the wind, walk out your fearful feelings. Eat healthy, get enough sleep and relax at the right times.
- Find peace in mindfulness. This can be in the form of yoga, meditation or breathing exercises. Disconnect yourself from your emotions. You are not anxious, you experience feelings of fear.
- If you can't figure it out yourself, don't hesitate to go to your doctor. Don't let fear rule your life.