What is Anxiety? What is the connection between drinking and stress? And how do you break the cycle?
For anyone that has experienced chronic anxiety, you know that chronic anxiety and panic attacks are serious. We talk about the connection between drinking and stress and we talk about a tool you can use right now to manage your anxiety.
Anxiety is an emotion that triggers a stress response and releases a wave of stress hormones into our bodies that results in heavy breathing, stomach/headaches, increased heart rate and sweating (just to name a few). This is a normal reaction to a stressful situation, but when you feel nervous and on-edge more often than not, it can indicate an anxiety disorder.
Anxiety disorders come in many forms: generalized anxiety disorder, frequent panic attacks, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), social anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and specific phobias. These emotional disorders are the most common mental illness among Americans—it’s estimated that about 40 million adults struggle with an anxiety disorder in the U.S. alone.
Both genetic and environmental factors contribute to the risk of developing an anxiety disorder. Some risk factors are: Temperamental traits of shyness or behavioral inhibition in childhood
Probably not surprising to learn that your whole body is affected by anxiety. In fact, our nervous, immune, respiratory, digestive, and cardiovascular systems are taxed when experiencing anxiety. What we may not realize is how interconnected our anxiety and our drinking are, and the impact it has on our bodies and well-being.
In summary, while drinking may cause a short term release, the come down from the chemical alterations in your brain increases the level of anxiety we feel. It becomes a vicious cycle of: drinking, panic, and self-medication.
Brad is in his 30’s and has quit drinking for the umpteenth time. A family man owns his own business but he recently slipped up. I call it a blip. And he calls me while in waves of panic. He probably had a panic disorder well before the drinking started. He was bullied as a child by his father and he picked a partner who is equally as narcissistic. We spent many sessions talking about how he does not have to apologize for every bad emotion his partner feels as if it’s his fault. So we practice deep breathing, we get his nervous system to down regulate and make sure he knows he is a person worthy of self compassion even though there is a blip on this day. And then we talk about RAIN.
The relationship between alcohol and anxiety can be described as a >reciprocal causal relationship, which means that anxiety disorders lead to alcohol dependence, and alcohol dependence lead to anxiety disorders.
Self medicating with alcohol to relieve anxiety only trains your brain to become dependent on the substance.
The only path to true freedom is found on the inside-it’s an inside job. There is nothing out there that can magically fix it.
Build an anxiety tool kit. You can start with the episode on self-love here. But personally, I love meditation apps. A therapist trained in treated anxiety and alcohol related disorders is also a good step. Here is a short exercise to try as well: But in short you want to identify the fear or thought that leads to the fear. Acknowledge the fear. Investigate. Why am I feeling this way? Is this true? Nurture: As you sense what is needed, what is your natural response? You might imagine someone you trust holding you with love.
Hi, I’m Dr. Adina Silvestri, the founder at Life Cycles Counseling. I am a Licensed Professional Counselor, Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist, and Certified Brainspotter in Richmond, Virginia.
As a therapist, I specialize in treating women with substance abuse and eating disorders and men with depression. I like to refer to myself as equal parts Shame Fighter and Hope Merchant!
(Disclaimer: This transcript is using AI technology. Please excuse any errors.)
Welcome to the Atheists in Recovery Podcast, where we talk about finding hope in recovery and now your host, Dr. Adina Silvestri
Adina Silvestri 0:11
Bonjour guys and welcome to Episode 52 of the atheists in recovery podcast. And today is another solo episode. In fact, this is the last solo episode of year one. So let's get started. Today we are talking about the connection between alcohol and anxiety. And if you've ever struggled with alcohol, you know that there's a bit of anxiety especially the following day, from a long night of drinking. You know those withdrawl symptoms are pretty torturous, having the heart palpitations and the sweating and not being able to catch your breath and anxiety. The word anxiety I think it's thrown around. A lot, but it's a very serious condition. And so I want to spend some time today talking about the connection between alcohol and anxiety. I want to also talk about ways you can break the cycle, we're going to talk about things that you can do right now to manage anxiety. And I'll go through a story which is going to be a combination of a bunch of different clients. And then we will finish with something called rain and it's it's a tool that I use that you can actually use right now to manage your anxiety and I love it. So, anxiety. Anxiety is an emotion that triggers a stress response. And it releases a wave of stress hormones in our bodies that result in heavy breathing, stomach aches, headaches, increased heart rate and sweating and that's just to name a few. Anxiety is a normal reaction to a stressful situation. We all have anxiety, but when you feel nervous and on edge more often Not that can indicate an anxiety disorder. And that's when you want to look for help in getting some treatment. It doesn't necessarily have to mean medication, but you will need some help in figuring out what the triggers are and how you can learn to live with it. So, anxiety disorders come in many forms. You have generalized anxiety disorder, frequent panic attacks, post traumatic stress disorder, social anxiety disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, and my absolute favorite specific phobias. And I say it's my favorite because there's just so much work you can do really interesting work that you can do with with phobias, like fear of driving over a bridge, I would just take you in my car and we would go over a bridge. Anyway, I digress. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness among Americans and it is estimated that about 40 million adults struggle with an anxiety disorder in the US alone and I'll put the link to some of these figures that have both genetic and environmental factors contribute to the risk of developing an anxiety disorder. On some factors are temperamental traits of shyness or behavioral inhibition and childhood exposure to stressful and negative life or environmental events in early childhood or adulthood. A History of anxiety other mental illnesses in biological relatives, some physical health conditions such as thyroid problems or health or arrhythmias, caffeine that was a big one for me. I know that once I cut out caffeine Well, number one, I actually was tired in the evening which was great for sleep. And I just noticed that I just felt more calm throughout the day, or other substances and medications and those can be aggravate anxiety symptoms. physical health examination is also helpful. All right, perhaps not surprising to learn but your whole body is affected by anxiety, your nervous immune, respiratory, digestive And cardiovascular symptoms are taxed when you're experiencing anxiety. So you may not realize just how connected the anxiety and the drinking are, maybe, maybe you do and this is just a refresher. Or maybe you're hoping to share this with somebody that you know is struggling with anxiety and drinking, but it impacts our bodies and our well being and so drinking definitely is a short term release. The comedown is horrible. It's it's chemical alteration in your brain and increases the level of anxiety that we feel and then it becomes a vicious cycle of drinking panic attack self medication by drinking some more. So it's definitely something that you want to recognize and hopefully treat it early rather than later. Let's talk about a story. We'll call him Brad. Brad is in his 30s and he's quit drinking for the umpteenth time. He's a family man. He owns his business, but he recently slipped up and this is completely normal in my book. I just can't little blip or sometimes they don't call it anything at all. And he calls me and he's just suffering with these waves of panic. And to be honest guys, he's probably had a panic disorder. Well, before the drinking started when he grew up, he was bullied by his father. And then he picked a partner who was equally as harsh, probably narcissistic. And we spent many times talking about how he doesn't have to take the brunt of the criticisms that are thrown at him. He's not responsible for his partner's feelings on any given day. Yeah. And so that took a lot of work to the point where you know, if he gets a text message from said partner, it just sends him in a flurry of anxiety. And so, like I said, He's probably had this undiagnosed anxiety disorder, all his life and we practiced Breathing to get his nervous system to down regulate. And I think the bigger, even bigger issue of him feeling so much anxiety after his misstep is the shame. Yeah, I talk a little bit about that in Episode 50 when I talk about vulnerability and so I'll link to in the show notes. But that was big that was something that we had to address head on so that he could move through that and so eventually he definitely calmed down and we went through an exercise called rain and this is not mine. This is Tara Brack's and I'll link to it in the show notes. But I'm going to go through it with you at the end of this episode, so stay tuned. Okay, back to anxiety. So the relationship between alcohol anxiety can be described as a reciprocal causal relationship, which just basically means that anxiety disorders lead to alcohol dependence and alcohol dependence lead to anxiety disorders. How do you change your relationship with alcohol? Well, self medicating with alcohol to relieve anxiety only trains your brain to become dependent on the substance. And the only way to true freedom is found on the inside guys, this is an inside job. There's no easy fixes, and there's no cure out there that will magically fix the inside managing anxiety right now. So I would say first, if you haven't done this already, you need to build an anxiety toolkit. You can start with our episode on self love. And I'll link to it in the show notes. Personally, I love meditation apps, you can get started there and if you've never meditated before, I would start with an app. It's the easiest way to sort of dip your toes in the water so to speak. You may also want to look for a therapist that's trained in treating alcohol use disorder and anxiety. And there's also a short exercise to try. And it's again, it's called rain. And it stands for recognize, acknowledge, investigate and nurture. So, in short, you want to identify the fear or the thought that leads to the fear. Maybe you want to acknowledge said fear, you definitely want to acknowledge the fear now acknowledge what you're feeling. When you felt stuck, investigate, why am I feeling this way? Is this true? That's another huge one. And under the investigate column, Is this true? Is this true that I'm not good enough? Is this true that my partner thinks I'm a horrible person is, you know, is this true? Is it really true nurture. After you sense what you're needing? What's your natural response? Maybe you put your hand on your heart. You know, you imagine someone that you trust holding you in love What are they whispering to you? What are they telling you right now. And then after this exercise, after the rain, so this is this is another practice that you can incorporate besides the meditation. Maybe you start by at the end of the evening, you journal and you look for times in which you felt like you were I call it in trance, you were just in reaction mode, you know, you were judging yourself, you were judging others, you're doing things that weren't really helpful. And so, you know, you would sort of take some time to connect with the place that you felt the most stuck and vulnerable. And then maybe you share your difficulty with your future self and I know this is going to be woowoo. But that's why you're listening to this podcast. You appreciate that we will, right? So imagine that your future self is offering some healing attention and care to your current self. You might feel like you're receiving some type of kindness Energetic embrace, maybe you're you're receiving a message of guidance. This is also something that I use in my hypnotherapy sessions, when we're working on on behavioral addictions, or alcohol or drug addiction, and we talk about, name your future self, to talk about this resource. This is huge because you're detaching from your ego. And you want to do that right, because the ego is sometimes gets in trouble. And when we can't see our own dysfunction, and so that's why that's why we're looking for our future self. So you're looking for a message of guidance of reassurance, some new learning that you can take with you. I feel this feature self holding you and filling you with loving presence sense what ever is most difficult right now, even the deepest fears and grief that can be included in this nurturing presence. So you're relaxing into your future self embrace, until you sense that you're fully merging with or at one with your future self. So you just sort of Taking some deep breaths, taking some time to sense how the love and wisdom of your most evolved being lives with you now. And always and this could actually help you really track what you need to be doing on that day, you know, are you living in congruence with your future self. So you're gonna trust with this practice that you're going to accept this more awakened compassion, heart space. And if I haven't lost you by now, we are in good shape. So those are just some tools again to help you manage your anxiety right now and I love rain. I love sort of looking at your day and seeing where you were in trance seeing where you were felt panicky seeing where you were just reacting to anger or sadness, and you didn't really know why. And then you could walk yourself through this rain process. Alright guys, well, that is it for Episode 52. And I just like to remind Right now to take a moment and go over to our atheists in recovery page, iTunes and if you wouldn't mind leaving us a review and rating us and the more people that do you say the more this podcast can be found by people that are struggling with substance use, and I'd really appreciate it. Okay. Thanks so much for listening. Have a good one.
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