Did You Turn to Drinking as a Coping Mechanism in the Weirdest Year Ever?
If 2020 left you feeling stressed and worried for the future, you are not alone. Nearly 8 in 10 American adults admit the COVID-19 pandemic was a direct source of stress in their lives. Psychologists are now seeing that type of stress, and in many cases, the loss can take a mental toll. Potential stressors that affect people to this magnitude can cause significant progression with drinking as a coping mechanism.
Traumatic events prove to serve as a source of escalated drinking for some. For those who consumed moderate to large amounts of alcohol in social settings before the pandemic hit, the risk of becoming alcohol dependent in isolation is much higher. Research indicates up to one-third of Americans began drinking more heavily during the pandemic. Using alcohol as a stress-relieving crutch in troublesome times is problematic for three primary reasons. First, it reduces your ability to handle stress post-pandemic. Secondly, your risk of turning a harmful habit into an addiction increases. Lastly, your physical health takes a nosedive.
Drinking as a Coping Mechanism for Stress
The initial relaxation effects of drinking alcohol - releasing endorphins and boosting serotonin levels – are why most people drink when they’re stressed. What isn’t considered is how the immediate payoff is hurting your ability to cope with stressful situations in the future. Eventually, the alcohol wears off, and the sober reality sets in that the stressor still exists. People will turn back to alcohol rather than dealing with the situation in a productive manner. Over time, a vicious cycle of using alcohol to numb the anxiety develops. Mental health experts say drinking as a coping mechanism creates negative long-term effects, such as:
- The inability to handle stress without alcohol in the future.
- Ruminate on challenging situations, keeping your stress at a heightened level.
- Overlook healthy stress-relieving options, like physical activity, talking with a counselor, or negotiating the challenge with other involved parties.
The inability to cope with stress without alcohol can quickly turn a relaxing mechanism into an unhealthy dependency.
Habits turn to Alcohol Abuse
Although we all longed for the challenges of 2020 to lessen throughout the year, the relief never came. For those who were numbing stress using alcohol as a coping mechanism, they’ve found the anxiety just kept coming. What may have started as an evening habit to relax away from anxiety-ridden thoughts had the opportunity to evolve into alcohol abuse quickly. How do you know if a habitual behavior has turned into an addiction? Drug experts define addiction or alcohol abuse with these behavioral milestones:
- The person is spending more time in isolation, not answering phone calls or invites.
- An individual is giving up hobbies or once-loved activities to have more time to drink.
- A person is continuing to drink despite declining health.
Spring Gardens Recovery offers more information, including questions to ask yourself, to determine if you need support with alcohol detox. The experienced staff at Spring Gardens Recovery recognizes that social distancing, stay-at-home orders, and quarantine measures have a drastic effect on your mental health and can trigger increased alcohol consumption. With personalized support, you can take a step toward handling stress without alcohol.
Deteriorating Health Caused by Drinking
Not only does drinking as a coping mechanism create mental health challenges, but it also puts a major strain on your physical wellbeing. Increased alcohol consumption is directly linked to unhealthy food choices and less physical activity. As people continued to deal with stressful situations throughout 2020, an increase in drinking played a role in several health-related problems, including:
While alcohol may help you fall asleep faster, doctors say you don’t hit the most restorative sleep level for the recommended amount of time for your body to be prepared to operate at full capacity.
Studies show that drinking alcohol lowers your inhibition to choose nutritious food options. Besides, alcohol is filled with empty calories, so drinking alone can begin to affect your weight and self-image.
Lowered immune system
Moderate to heavy alcohol intake, partnered with unhealthy food choices, has the ability to weaken your immune system. In normal times, a sub-par immune system may lead to infections or a cold, but the risk is much higher during a global health crisis.
Recognizing your dependency on alcohol during stressful situations allows you to take action to create a healthier future.
Best Addiction Treatment in Florida
Spring Gardens Recovery is your resource for reliable, experienced treatment experts. Our team of doctors, counselors, and therapists will create a personalized treatment plan for your needs. Allow us to help you shift away from drinking as a coping mechanism and create a life of happiness and sobriety, even in the face of stressful situations.
Samantha Nettleton, CCTP, CMHIMP is the Chief Operating Officer and Clinical Director for Spring Gardens Recovery. After completing and receiving her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Human Services (Concentrations in Mental Health & Addiction Counseling), she became licensed for the State of Florida as a Mental Health Counselor. She has also been a recovery coach since 2012. Samantha specializes in Trauma, Personality Disorders, Substance Abuse, Process Addictions, and Other Mental Health Disorders.