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Emotional Effects of Alcohol Abuse

author image Lia Stannard
Lia Stannard has been writing about women’s health since 2006. She has her Bachelor of Science in neuroscience and is pursuing a doctorate in clinical health psychology.
Emotional Effects of Alcohol Abuse
Alcohol abuse can result in depression and anxiety. Photo Credit: ShotShare/iStock/Getty Images

The Mayo Clinic defines alcohol abuse as excessive drinking without a dependence on alcohol. An alcoholic, however, is physically or psychologically dependent on alcohol, and cannot function without it. Even though the alcohol abuser does not have that dependence, he can still have emotional problems as a result of his problem. The alcohol can also make existing issues worse.

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Depression is a serious problem with alcohol abuse, in which the patient has persistence sadness and feels helpless. Alcohol is a depressant, meaning it reduces activity in the central nervous system (CNS). If the patient has pre-existing depression, the alcohol abuse can make it worse. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) notes that suicide is a possible outcome of alcohol abuse, especially if the patient has severe depression.

Anxiety Disorders

Depression is not the only mental disorder that can result from alcohol abuse. Another possibility is an anxiety disorder, in which the patient has uncontrollable worry. The American Geriatrics Society states that older adults who abuse alcohol are three times more likely to have a psychological disorder. A person with an anxiety disorder may also abuse alcohol to self-medicate, as alcohol can temporarily reduce anxiety. But over time, the alcohol abuse can worsen an anxiety disorder.


The Mayo Clinic states that a person with alcohol abuse may drink alone or in secret, which can lead to social isolation. The abuser may feel that others around her do not approve of the drinking, or she does not want anyone to know that she drinks. She may also hide her alcohol in unusual places, like a clothing drawer, where other people will not be able to find it. Adding to the isolation, the abuser also loses interest in other activities and may pull back from ones that do not involve alcohol.


The alcohol abuser can become irritable when his usual drinking time approaches or if he cannot get alcohol, according to the Mayo Clinic. The abuser can also become irritable at other times. For example, the alcohol abuser can become upset when confronted about his drinking. The NIH adds that he may also be prone to violence while under the influence of alcohol.

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