Beating Alcohol Dependence

Get a free consultation

Health Assured team

31 May 2024

Alcohol has played a significant role in many cultures around the world, dating back to the Neolithic times, used as a way to celebrate, commemorate, mourn and relax.

The UK has a close relationship with alcohol and often known for a culture of binge and social drinking, popularized to the public by the pub. As a Brit, it can sometimes feel as if sobriety will turn you into a social pariah. Despite this, it is entirely possible to overcome alcohol dependence within this country and still be social.

According to Alcohol Health Alliance, one-in-five UK adults regularly drink more than the recommended measurement of alcohol weekly, significantly risking physical and mental health.

What is alcohol dependence?

Alcohol dependence is when a person feels the uncontrollable urge to drink regularly. This could be for reasons, such as a coping mechanism for mental health struggles or a relaxation method for dealing with stress.

The dependence stems from changes within the brain’s reward and stress systems, encouraging the person to drink and making it hard to reduce alcohol intake or stop completely.

What are alcohol dependence symptoms?

Alcohol dependence isn’t always easy to spot, especially in others. Although drinking plays a large part of British society, having alcohol dependence is often associated with stigma and shame, preventing more conversations about the struggles and negative mental health affects. It can be hard for people who are coping with alcohol dependence to speak up and get the support they need.

Having alcohol dependence may increase feelings of anxiety, stress or depression much of the time. Someone who is dependent on alcohol may feel as if they aren’t able to survive without having a drink and obsessively think about where their next drink will come from. As a result, they may neglecting other areas of life, such as spending time with family or friends and leading to further mental wellbeing issues.

If you feel as though you are worried about you or someone else who might be alcohol dependent, ask these questions:

  • Do you feel the need to drink daily?
  • Have other people mentioned your drinking?
  • Is alcohol important to you?
  • Do you choose to drink rather than spend time with others?
  • Has my drinking gotten me into trouble?
  • Do you spend time thinking about your next drink?

If you, or the person you are worried about answered yes to any of these questions, it might be time to seek support in beating alcohol dependence.

Impacts on mental health

Alcohol may provide feelings of relief, pleasure and a good way to forget their struggles for a short period of time. Like many drugs, alcohol releases a short burst of dopamine or the ‘happy hormone’ to the brain.

However, this relief is short lived as long-term alcohol use reduces inhibitions in the brain, slowing down the brains ability to process emotions and lowering serotonin- the brain’s natural barrier against anxiety and depression.

The negative link between mental health and alcohol dependence is undeniable but complex. With many impacts on mental health, including heightened risk of suicide, low mood, anxiety and depression, it can be hard to come out of the cycle of drinking to cope and aggravated mental wellbeing challenges.

People who experience mental health challenges, such as depression and anxiety, may use alcohol in order to feel better or to deal with their symptoms. This is known to lead to aggravate symptoms in the long run and an increased risk of alcohol dependence or addiction.

If you think you are experiencing alcohol dependence it is important that you get the support you need. The first step is through your GP where you will need to be open and honest about your alcohol intake so they can appropriately support you.

According to GOV.UK, it is estimated that a quarter of people in England who have alcohol dependence receive mental health support. People who are suffering with alcohol dependence should never feel afraid to get the help they need; in fact, it’s brave to take that first step.

Signs alcohol is affecting your mental health

Your relationships are strained

Alcohol affects behaviour and inhibitions, increasing risk for arguments with those close to you. It’s important to keep calm while drinking and if you feel too angry, put the glass down. Drinking alcohol can also result in neglecting relationships closest to you, pushing important people and connections away.

You get stress easily

Although there are theories to suggest that light to moderate alcohol intake helps with stress due to its ability to ignite confidence in-the-moment, this should not be your go to coping mechanism for stress. Drinking excessively and regularly will lead to emotional irregularity due to the chemical imbalance associated with alcohol, for example the decrease in serotonin production after regular drinking.

In the long run, drinking alcohol will makes stress harder to deal with, so it’s always best to watch your drinking habits if you feel stressed often.

You are restless while sleeping

Alcohol consumption interferes with sleep and may cause restless sleep or insomnia. After regular drinking you may find it difficult to fall asleep, get good quality sleep or wake up in the middle of the night, ultimately disrupting your sleeping pattern. Sleep is essential for good mental health and without sleep our brains are less likely to recharge and rest.

Increased anxiety

Most people are familiar with the uncomfortable feeling the next day after a night drinking alcohol which is sometimes referred to as ‘hangxiety.’  The feelings of embarrassment, regret and sadness resonates through the body, increasing the effects of anxiety and depression.

Increased depression

As mentioned above, alcohol disrupts the balance of necessary chemicals in your brain, such as dopamine and serotonin. Alcohol is a depressant and regular alcohol intake changes the way we control our emotions and feelings, making it harder to mitigate symptoms of depression. This can exacerbate and prolong feelings of depression and low mood.  

Weakened immune system

Being unwell much of the time can be debilitating and greatly affect mental health. Regular alcohol consumption suppresses the body’s ability to fight off infections and viruses, making it harder to feel better after being sick.

Ways to reduce drinking

Have days off from drinking

Having designated days away from drinking is a great way to limit the amount of alcohol you consume. Choose specific days where you are less likely to be tempted to drink, for example if you have work the next day, rather than a Friday where you may be tempted to attend after work drinks.

Understand and manage triggers

Understanding triggers that make you reach for alcohol is essential when trying to cut down or quit alcohol consumption. In knowing your triggers, it is easier to avoid the temptation and risk having a drink. Try keeping a trigger diary and look over past social gatherings where you did drink, identify and keep track of things that temped you to drink.

Be kind to yourself

It’s normal to slip up when we are trying to reach a goal, its human nature. However, many of us look at this as failures and send us into a negative headspace which may lead to giving up entirely.

If you have a drink when you were planning not to, don’t dwell on it. Understand that it can be an arduous journey, ‘slip ups’ are okay and realise that taking the actions to reduce alcohol intake is a brave first step that you have already taken. Be kind to yourself.

Make your enquiry

Please complete the form below and we'll be in touch to answer your enquiry

Book a place on this workshop

Get a free consultation

Please complete the form and we'll be in touch to schedule your free consultation

An error occurred

We appologise but an error has occurred submitting your form. Please try again.

Mindful Employer
Stonewall Diversity Champion
Disability Confident Employer
bacp Accredited Service
International EAP Association
National Suicide Prevention Alliance
The Workplace Wellbeing Charter
Mental Health at Work
Cyber Essentials Plus
Investors in People Silver 2022
Employers Initiative on Domestic Abuse
The Prince's Responsible Business Network
SEQOHS Accredited
helplines partnership