How Alcohol Affects the Brain and Behavior

Quite a lot of people enjoy having a drink without experiencing any problems, however, heavy drinking over long periods of time has serious repercussions. Abuse of alcohol harms the individual and it can also ruin relationships. Moreover, it brings about a number of psychological disorders. The mental effects of alcohol vary from one person to the next, plus the period of time an individual has been indulging.

What effects can alcohol have on a person’s mental health?

Excessive consumption of alcohol is often associated with mental health. People mostly drink alcohol to better their moods and or mental state. And more often than not, alcohol is used to benumb depression and feelings of anxiety. Binge drinking to deal with symptoms of mental illness can be referred to as self-medication, but what most people don’t know is that excessive drinking can worsen the mental problems.

Alcohol problems are also associated with individuals who have mental problems. Evidence indicates that those who consume alcohol in large amounts have a higher risk of developing mental health problems. Some of the most common mental health problems associated with excessive consumption of alcohol include:

Compulsive behavior- those who consume large amounts of alcohol are more prone to develop compulsive behavior- which is very critical. Individuals that consume alcohol tend to change their behavior towards the negative side. Often, they make decisions that impact their lives and those close to them negatively. Also, the activities that they engage in tend to be very risky.

Depression- some people consume alcohol trying to escape from their sorrows. Sadly, alcohol only serves as a temporary escape and if an individual continues to indulge in heavy drinking, he is more likely to develop depression. These feelings of depression may occur when the individual is both drunk and sober.

Dysthymia- dysthymia is a mood disorder characterized by chronic mildly depressed or irritable mood often accompanied by other symptoms such as fatigue, difficulty in concentrating, and low self-esteem. Alcohol abuse is a major cause of this condition.

Personality changes- when an individual is intoxicated, he tends to change his personality as compared to when he is sober. Those who abuse alcohol exhibit a lot of aggression and anger. When one is intoxicated the serotonin levels are affected causing the brain synapses to slow down. Serotonin is the chemical responsible for transmitting signals of mood to the brain.

Anxiety- individuals that indulge in binge drinking may experience a lot of anxiety. Why? Alcohol is depressant that affects the nervous system, and when combined with the feelings of stress caused by alcohol, anxiety may develop. Anxiety may be noticed when an individual is restless or experiences nightmares.

Dual Diagnosis

Dual diagnosis is when an individual experiences a mental health illness and substance use disorder at the same time. It is also referred to as co-occurring disorders. Those people who have dual diagnosis need an integrated treatment plan to deal with both disorders as mutually joined mental health problems. When an individual with dual diagnosis seeks the appropriate treatment, he has better chances of leading a healthy life free from alcoholism.

The common symptoms of dual diagnosis include:

  • Using substances under dangerous conditions
  • Withdrawal from family and friends
  • Taking part in risky behaviors
  • Sudden behavioral change
  • Feeling that an individual cannot function unless under the influence
  • High tolerance to alcohol and withdrawal symptoms
  • Loss of control over use of drugs and substances

Dual diagnosis can be treated in a number of ways, but so far, the best treatment is integrated intervention. An individual with co-occurring disorders has to receive treatment for both substance abuse and the diagnosed mental health issue. It is imperative to receive treatment in the most effective way. The treatment plan follows some common methods such as:

  • Inpatient rehabilitation
  • Detoxification
  • Psychotherapy
  • Supportive housing
  • Self-help and support groups
  • Medication for treating mental health issues.


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