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Anxiety and Stress Disorders

Alcohol Induced Anxiety

11/29/2004

Question:

After a few months of personal observation I have found that drinking any amount of alcohol (even a small glass of wine with a meal) disrupts my sleep and produces feelings of anxiety. Although I only consume alcohol a few times per month, this situation is very frustrating; I enjoy drinking wine and beer, especially with meals. I have tried different strategies to deal with this problem including drinking less frequently, limiting my alcohol intake when I do drink, eating while drinking, drinking plenty of water, etc., all to no avail. Besides avoiding alcohol completely, are there any strategies that I could employ to minimize the negative effects of alcohol? I am almost at my wits end. The last straw was last weekend: The morning after our family friends treated us to a wonderful gourmet meal in the city, where I drank three glasses of wine over a four hour period, I (literally) woke up crying. I did not experience a headache, nausea or any of the other discomfort associated with a "hangover." Rather, I awoke tearful, anxious, and argumentative. However, by lunchtime I felt wonderful. FYI: I do see a psychologist regularly. We use talk therapy only; I do not take any sort of medication. I appreciate your response. Thank you.

Answer:

You are to be congratulated for paying such close attention to your own triggers and reactions.  Two thoughts come to my mind when I read your story:

1)  Alcohol is not a required substance to maintain life.  As such, you may desire to abstain entirely from alcohol.  Many people do this, some, including most recovering alcoholics find they must totally abstain in order to maintain their recovery from alcoholism.  Others choose not to drink for religious or moral reasons.  And some people do not like the way they feel when they drink alcohol.  While your reaction is unusual, other, more common reactions, including extreme flushing, redness and warmth, convince many people not to drink at all.

2)  You may have an anxiety disorder that is not being fully treated.  When you drink alcohol, it "tips you over the edge" and allows many symptoms of anxiety to occur. 

I would recommend you talk to your counselor and consider seeing your primary care doctor or a psychiatrist to discuss this further.

Good luck

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Response by:

Nancy   Elder, MD Nancy Elder, MD
Associate Professor
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati