Divorce is stressful and people going through it sometimes look for ways to soothe themselves. It is not uncommon for people to unknowingly start to self medicate during this time to cope with the emotional stress.
Who hasn’t said “I need a drink” after a particularly stressful day? Most of us have. But did you know that drinking regularly as a means to lessen anxiety and depression can ironically increase it? Initially, alcohol seems to decrease uncomfortable and negative feelings. It elevates the mood and has an overall effect of relaxation. That’s ok right? That depends on how often and how much you drink.
It’s a known fact that people who drink regularly will eventually need more and more alcohol to experience that elevated mood or relaxed feeling. By the same token, not having it can lead to physical feelings which feel like anxiety but may actually be withdrawal from alcohol.
When we drink we may fixate and ruminate on certain negative things and interpret them as more threatening. Things may seem worse than they actually are when you drink and this can make you anxious and depressed in the moment and for days following.
When you drink regularly, chemicals that regulate mood in your brain are lowered which will increase feelings of depression and anxiety. For people going through separation and divorce, the depressed and anxious feelings may already be there. Add regular or heavy drinking to the mix and those feelings will be exacerbated.
Some of the warning signs that alcohol has started to affect your mood are disturbed sleep, feeling tired all of the time and low mood or anxiety in situations that you would not normally experience anxiety.
The take away here is that if you are drinking to improve your mood, you may be on a slippery slope. Be aware of your drinking. Talk to someone that you find supportive. This may be a friend, a family member or a therapist. Most of all, don’t assume that alcohol will make bad feelings go away. It can actually do the opposite.
Cori is a Registered Social Worker with a Master’s Degree in Social Work. She has over 20 years of experience working in the areas of mental health, addiction and crisis intervention.