How Does Alcohol Affect Your Emotions?
The emotional toll of alcohol is not only felt during consumption and intoxication, however. Alcohol alters our brain chemistry and stress responses in the short term, but it also influences these processes in the long term by changing our body’s natural production of chemicals like dopamine (pleasure) and cortisol (stress hormone). In fact, prolonged alcohol use can actually worsen anxiety and depression even when you are not consuming it. In many ways, using alcohol is like pouring gasoline on your emotions.
To compound these physical processes, we may also experience many complicated emotions about our use or abuse of alcohol. If you feel concerned about your alcohol use, you may experience anxiety, sadness, feelings of hopelessness, and more. Alcohol use can also produce feelings of shame, lack of control, and frustration. All of these emotions can impact your self-esteem - the confidence you feel in your worth and abilities. This easily becomes a vicious cycle of alcohol use, chemical changes in our bodies that impact feelings, negative emotions about our use, and then repeated alcohol use to try to improve our mood.
When we consume alcohol, we consume a substance that has the ability to alter our emotions in both the short term and long term. Alcohol impacts many physical processes in our body that control our emotions, and can deeply impact our self-worth during and after use. When we understand why it makes us feel this way, we gain the power to change.
Abernathy, K., Chandler, L. J., Woodward, J. J. (2010). Alcohol and the Prefrontal Cortex. Int Rev Neurobiol. 91: 289–320. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3593065/
American Addiction Centers. (n.d.) How Are Emotional Effects of Alcohol Explained? Alcohol.org. https://www.alcohol.org/guides/alcohol-fueled-emotions/
Ashton K., Bellis M. A., Davies A. R. , et al. (2017). Do emotions related to alcohol consumption differ by alcohol type? An international cross-sectional survey of emotions associated with alcohol consumption and influence on drink choice in different settings. BMJ Open. 7:e016089