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Alcohol May Increase Risk of Developing Anxiety Disorder

“Alcohol and Anxiety: How Drinking Alcohol Causes Anxiety”: Reflections


For some, use of alcohol may be linked to efforts to manage or cope with distress, including experiences of anxiety. However, while alcohol may provide temporary relief from specific symptoms, persistent use of alcohol may impact the body in ways that increase the risk of developing an anxiety disorder. A sports talk radio station in Atlanta, “Xtra 106.3FM” recently covered a story on the impacts of alcohol on anxiety.

They sourced their story from an article, “Alcohol and Anxiety: How Drinking Alcohol Causes Anxiety,” written by the Indiana Center for Recovery. It mentions Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) as an important component of their recovery program. They also highlight the importance of psychoeducation and prevention programs to decrease the prevalence of alcohol use problems.

As the authors describe, anxiety may stem from genetic or environmental factors and is characterized by symptoms including (but not limited to) restlessness, irritability, somatic symptoms including shakiness or sweating, and elevated fear or worry that may lead to panic. While alcohol is sometimes used in effort to help manage experiences of distress including anxiety, it may lead to adverse consequences to overall physical and emotional well-being.

The authors highlight that alcohol use can have strong impacts on mental health. For example, it has been demonstrated that alcohol use may lead to increases in hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline and decreases in neurotransmitters like gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), all of which may lead to reduced ability to regulate one’s anxiety and stress levels.

It may be challenging to reduce or stop using alcohol. It can also be dangerous to do so without medical guidance and therapeutic support.  It is important that people seek out the proper care, and it is great to see Cognitive Behavioral Therapy being promoted and discussed by the media in this way. For local addiction specialists you can use our “Get Help” feature to find providers with experience in this area.


Article written by Dominique Legros, MA

Edited by Nicholas Crimarco, PhD

What Is Cognitive Behavior Therapy?

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a type of treatment that is based firmly on research findings.  It places emphasis on changing your cognitions (thoughts) or behaviors (actions) in order to effect change in how you feel. These approaches help people in achieving specific changes or goals.

Changes or goals might involve:

A way of acting: like smoking less or being more outgoing;
A way of feeling: like helping a person to be less scared, less depressed, or less anxious;
A way of thinking: like learning to problem-solve or get rid of self-defeating thoughts;
A way of dealing with physical or medical problems: like reducing back pain or helping a person stick to a doctor’s suggestions.

Cognitive behavioral therapists usually focus more on the current situation and its solution, rather than the past. They concentrate on a person’s views and beliefs about their life. CBT is an effective treatment for individuals, parents, children, couples, and families. The goal of CBT is to help people improve and gain more control over their lives by changing behaviors that don’t work well to ones that do.

How to Get Help

If you are looking for help, either for yourself or someone else, you may be tempted to call someone who advertises in a local publication or who comes up from a search of the Internet. You may, or may not, find a competent therapist in this manner. It is wise to check on the credentials of a psychotherapist. It is expected that competent therapists hold advanced academic degrees. They should be listed as members of professional organizations, such as the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies or the American Psychological Association. Of course, they should be licensed to practice in your state. You can find competent specialists who are affiliated with local universities or mental health facilities or who are listed on the websites of professional organizations. You may, of course, visit our website ( and click on “Find a CBT Therapist”

The Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies (ABCT) is an interdisciplinary organization committed to the advancement of a scientific approach to the understanding and amelioration of problems of the human condition. These aims are achieved through the investigation and application of behavioral, cognitive, and other evidence-based principles to assessment, prevention, and treatment.

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