Americans drink a lot of beer, according to 2008 Beer Institute figures, with over seven billion gallons consumed by people over the legal drinking age of 21. People drink beer for a variety of reasons, from enjoying the taste to socializing with friends to relaxation. Ironically, while some anxiety sufferers self-medicate with alcoholic beverages like beer, they may actually increase their symptoms due to their behavior and alcohol's physical effects.
Alcohol has a reputation as a relaxant, so people with anxiety disorders sometimes drink beer or other beverages to relieve their symptoms. A 2009 Australian study showed that people with conditions like social anxiety disorder, which causes discomfort in social situations, and generalized anxiety disorder often self-medicate with alcohol. The study showed that people who fight their anxiety with beverages like beer raise their risk of developing a substance abuse disorder. Eventually the disorder itself can cause more anxiety.
Drinking beer in moderation initially reduces stress, according to the Healthy Place website, but it also impairs driving skills, judgment and the ability to do complex tasks. The relaxation effect often reduces a person's inhibitions, which can lead to behaviors that cause anxiety later because of embarrassment and regret. Heavy beer drinking sometimes leads to antisocial behavior and violence, which causes anxiety at the time and afterward. Drinking too much beer interferes with sleep, which can cause insomnia and anxiety at the time and irritation the next morning because you did not get a thorough rest.
Moderate beer consumption does not typically interfere with your life, but it causes anxiety if you lose control of the drinking and develop a substance abuse disorder. The beer drinking triggers anxiety because of its effects on your relationships, jobs and other activities, according to Help Guide. You may also become stressed out because you want to stop drinking beer but are unable to quit, and your alcohol consumption is keeping you from doing other things or interacting with people.
Effects on Others
Your beer drinking may cause anxiety in your family members, friends and co-workers if it becomes heavy enough to cause problems. Help Guide warns that people with substance abuse problems often dismiss concerns and blame alcohol-related issues on others. For example, you might trigger anxiety in your spouse by claiming you need to drink beer because of nagging or upset your co-workers by blaming your high beer consumption on work-related stress.
Drinking too many alcoholic beverages like beer causes health-related anxieties because you increase your risk of problems like cancer, heart disease and stroke, according to the British National Health Service. Long-term excess beer drinking can also cause liver problems.
Withdrawal from beer often causes anxiety because of its symptoms. Withdrawal often involves jumpiness, shaking, insomnia and irritability, according to Help Guide, all of which are often related to anxiety. Severe alcohol withdrawal for heavy beer drinkers sometimes includes confusion, seizures and hallucinations and may require medical care.
- CNBC: America's Biggest Beer Drinking States; Paul Toscano; March 2010
- Psychiatric Times: Self-medication for Anxiety Increases Risk for Substance Use Disorders; Arline Kaplan; May 2011
- Help Guide: Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse; November 2010
- Healthy Place; Drinking Alcohol for Relaxation; Harry Croft; February 2009
- Look At Your Drinking: You and Alcohol, Psychological Effects