The Links Between Alcoholism and Stress

 Isaac Glassman
  May 08, 2018

Stress is exceptionally prevalent in today’s modern world. We all live lives that have a lot of pressure, and whatever age we are, we can find the expectations placed on us, both by ourselves and by those around us, can end up causing ongoing anxiety and stress.

Young people often experience stress because of their family situations or because of their educational environment. Teenagers are under more pressure than ever before to do well in life and to succeed in school and college. Families are often so busy and disconnected that they often do not realize how stressed the young people in their lives are until they have already started to head down a self-destructive path.

One way in which many young people (and, indeed, older people) try to deal with the stress that they experience is by using alcohol to escape from their problems. However, while, in the short-term, drinking leads to relaxation and happy feelings, over the long term, problems arise as people become addicted. Rather than having a calming effect, heavy drinking over an extended period leads to many psychological and medical problems and increases the chance of developing alcohol dependency.

Stress In its Many Forms

There are four main categories of stress: catastrophic events, racial stress, general stress, and childhood stress. These four factors vary in duration, type, and severity and can be influenced by the sufferer’s existing mental health problems.

  • General stress – Some of the cause of general stress include divorce, marriage, beginning work with a new employer, moving home, starting a new school, a family member dying, problems at school, work or home, and illness.
  • Catastrophic events – If the sufferer has been the victim of a catastrophic event, such as a natural disaster, accident or terrorist attack, stress is a common occurrence.
  • Childhood stress – Anyone who was maltreated in childhood in the form of physical, sexual or emotional abuse can suffer from long-lasting consequences.
  • Ethnic Minority and Racial stress – If someone is the victim of discrimination or prejudice, stress is often the result. Whether the stress is physical or emotional, the chances of turning to substance abuse to cope are high.

Research has been carried out into how stress and alcohol abuse interact, and the results have shown that people of both sexes who have high-stress levels in their life drink more alcohol, although males are more likely to turn to alcohol than females.

Stress in Alcoholic Recovery

Even if someone stops drinking alcohol, the stress in his or her life does not stop. This means that people who have just come out of rehab often relapse very quickly because they have not learned to cope with the difficulties they experience once they are back in their former lives. In fact, there is likely to be even more stress in their lives than before they went through recovery since there is the added problem of steering clear of substances to add to the list of stress factors.

Heavy drinking on a long-term basis alters the chemistry of the human brain and resets what the individual thinks of as “normal.” Higher levels of cortisol are released during alcohol abuse, and once the balance of this hormone has shifted, there is an impact on the way that the body responds to stress. This means that even relatively nonstressful situations appear to be much worse than they are.

Not only that, but cortisol interacts with the pleasure and reward systems inside the brain that strongly motivate drinkers to return to alcohol to get the same effect. Since cortisol also plays a role in memory, learning, and cognition, it promotes learning from habit, thus fostering habitual drinking and increases the chance of a relapse. And, because it is linked to the development of depression, another condition that encourages users to return to alcohol, the problem is only compounded.

Treating Stress in Conjunction with Alcohol Abuse

When treating someone with alcohol addiction, it is important to tackle the root cause of the abuse. In many cases, stress is that underlying cause and if the sufferer does not receive treatment to address it, permanent recovery is very unlikely. Using alcohol for an extended period has a physiological and psychological effect on the user’s body, which compounds the effect of stress and leads to a worsening of addiction problems in the long run.

The best treatment for substance abuse pinpoints the reason behind the addiction and teaches the user to recognize the cues that trigger him or her to drink. Once he or she can identify those cues, he or she can then learn new and more positive ways of managing the stress that results from them. By treating both addiction and stress together, there is a much higher chance of staying alcohol-free in the long term.

While it has been known for a long time that there is a strong link between alcohol use and stress, it is only in recent years that doctors and therapists have begun to recognize the benefits of using a multipronged approach to treat the problem. SOBA College Recovery Addiction Treatment Center uses this innovative approach, treating the underlying causes, as well as the addiction itself within a long-term alcohol rehab program. Qualified and experienced therapists and doctors treat psychological disorders that are at the heart of the alcohol abuse problem and create a bespoke program of rehabilitation for every individual so that one-to-one and group therapies can be used in the best possible ratio to accommodate the individual’s needs.

By supplying all the vital tools through which the individual can manage his or her life more effectively, SOBA’s team will help to significantly increase his or her chances of staying alcohol-free for life. If you or a young person in your life is self-medicating with alcohol to escape from the stress of everyday life or specific situations, SOBA can help to address the roots of the problem. Through a customized program, it is possible to get on the path to a sober lifestyle and a productive, healthy and happy future.

The Links Between Alcoholism and Stress

Isaac Glassman

Isaac Glassman is a founding partner of Soba College Recovery, United Billing Group, Sunlight Labs and The New Jersey Center For Depression & Anxiety. He is a founding board member of The IDEA School, an inspiring re-imagining of the high school curriculum, designed to engage students in project-based learning.

Isaac has been helping people to recover from drugs and alcohol for over 20 years.

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