Is Alcohol Negatively Impacting Your Life?

Have you ever wondered if your drinking “too much”?

Alcohol use in the US is on the rise. According to recent research this is especially true for women, minorities and older adults. While enjoying a few drinks in moderation is safe, there is a growing body of research that suggests Americans are increasingly engaging in risky drinking behaviors such as binge drinking. Binge drinking is characterized as the consumption of an excessive amount of alcohol in a short period of time. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) defines heavy alcohol use as binge drinking on 5 or more days in the past month.

The Impact of Alcohol Use on Emotions, Brain and Body
 
Brain: Believe it or not, alcohol can have a fairly major impact on the brain. Alcohol interferes with our communication pathways, and can affect the way our brain looks and works. These disruptions can have an impact on our mood and behavior, and make it harder for us to think clearly and move with coordination. Alcohol also impacts part of the brain called the hippocampus, which is responsible for our memory. Alcohol use can lead to memory loss and what many refer to as brown-outs (partial memory loss) and black-outs (full memory loss). Long term and excessive alcohol use can end up causing permanent damage to the hippocampus and even shrink the brain.
 
Emotions: Alcohol can also have a major impact on our emotions and how we express our feelings. It reduces inhibitions in people, which initially may make people feel relaxed and more social; however, as alcohol intake increases, our mood can become unstable or volatile. This is because alcohol use alters our brain chemistry through our neurotransmitters such as GABA and Dopamine. Neurotransmitters are the chemical messengers in our brain that pass information from one cell to another. Basically, they dictate how we think and feel.
 
Alcohol throws off our chemical baselines, which leads to anxiety and a sense of unease. If you want to learn a bit more about this, here is a great article about the link between alcohol and anxiety: Alcohol Anxiety
 
Body: According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, alcohol use is a risk factor for many chronic diseases and conditions. Drinking too much – on a single occasion or over time – can damage the heart, liver, pancreas and immune system. Certain chronic diseases such as alcoholic cardiomyopathy and alcoholic cirrhosis are 100 percent attributable to alcohol consumption. In addition alcohol abuse is associated with, and a component cause in over 200 diseases and conditions such as epilepsy, heart disease, diabetes and a number of cancers.

Warning Signs That Alcohol is Having a Significant Impact on Your Life
 
You are drinking excessive amounts of alcohol, which is also known as binge drinking

  • For women this typically occurs after 4 drinks in about 2 hours
  • For men this typically occurs after 5 drinks in about 2 hours
  •  
    You drink at times when other people don’t and at inappropriate times

  • You drink in the morning
  • You drink at school
  • You drink before or during work
  •  
    You feel as if you need alcohol in order to enjoy yourself

  • You organize your social calendar around drinking
  • You feel anxious in situations where alcohol is not present
  • You don’t attend events or parties unless alcohol is present
  •  
    You lose control when you are drinking putting yourself and others at risk

  • You experience injuries
  • You get into fights
  • You drive under the influence
  •  
    You often don’t remember part of the night

  • You experience Brown Outs
  • You experience Black Outs
  •  
    Your relationships have begun to suffer due to alcohol use

  • You prioritize alcohol over loved ones
  • You lie to those you care about regarding your alcohol use
  • You have increased levels of conflict with loved ones when drinking
  •  
    You use alcohol despite consequences and awareness of the problem

  • You are fired from your job
  • You have legal issues as a result of alcohol use such as a DUI
  • You lose a significant relationship
  •  
    You have an increased tolerance to alcohol

  • You need to drink more alcohol in order to get the same effect
  •  
    You experience withdrawal symptoms

  • You experience anxiety, insomnia, nausea and stomach pain
  • You experience high blood pressure, increased body temperature, unusual heart rate and confusion
  • You experience hallucinations, fever, seizures and agitation
  •  
    If you are worried that alcohol is having a negative impact on your life, you don’t have to go through it alone. There are many different options for treatment and ongoing support!
     
    Lincoln Park Therapy Group does not treat alcoholism or addictions directly, but we do offer ongoing therapy services for people dealing with alcohol struggles for either themselves or someone they love. If you would like to learn more about our services, please contact us for more information.
     
    Written by: Millie Huckabee, LPC Therapist at Lincoln Park Therapy Group

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