We all know people who drink alcohol to change their moods. We might have done this ourselves. People might drink because they’re depressed and feel that alcohol can boost their spirits (no pun intended), or they might be anxious and think that drinking can help calm their nerves.
But, alcohol is not a solution to improve people’s moods or solve their problems. In fact, it can create the opposite effect. It can create short-term physical and mental problems. Excessive drinking can create negative consequences. And excessive drinking over a long period of time can create long-term consequences.
How Does Alcohol Affect Moods in the Short Term?
Many people have witnessed what alcohol can do to people in the short term. Drinking too much can cause short-term physical problems, such as:
- Blurred speech
- Coordination problems
Unfortunately, drinking can also contribute to mental and mood problems as well. People who are drunk might become angry or violent. They might want to attack people, especially people who comment on their drinking.
These alcoholic mood swings might take other forms. People under the influence of alcohol might:
- Be extremely affectionate. They might hug, kiss, or touch people or tell them how much they like or love them.
- Feel close to people they barely know.
- Engage in impulsive behavior, such as unprotected sex or driving while intoxicated.
This impulsive behavior could lead to long-term consequences, such as unplanned pregnancies or car accidents that affect many more people than just the people drinking.
How Does Alcohol Affect Moods in the Long Term?
If people drink a great deal of alcohol over a prolonged period of time, some of the side effects they might develop include:
- Liver problems, such as cirrhosis
- High blood pressure
- Different types of cancer
- Weakened immune systems
- Brain disorders such as Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome (WKS)
This last side effect, Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome (WKS), illustrates how alcohol can affect the brain just as it affects other parts of the body.
Alcoholism depletes the amount of the vitamin thiamine (B1) in the body. Without adequate thiamine, lesions on the brain can form. These lesions contribute to Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome (WKS). WKS creates problems with memory and confusion. This confusion can cause people to become angry or violent. They might unleash this anger on themselves or others.
How Do Alcoholic Mood Swings Affect Others?
Alcoholic mood swings don’t exist in a vacuum. They obviously affect the person consuming the alcohol. But, they often have profound effects on others. After all, these friends, family members, and coworkers are witnesses to these mood swings. They’re targets as well, since people who use alcohol might be very affectionate or very violent toward others during these episodes.
Is Alcohol Abuse Related to Other Mood Disorders?
In a word, yes. Alcohol abuse often shares a complex relationship with other mental and physical disorders, such as:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Bipolar disorder
- Eating disorders
How complicated is this relationship? According to an article published on the National Institutes of Health (NIH) website, “Heavy drinking associated with alcoholism can coexist with, contribute to, or result from several different psychiatric syndromes. As a result, alcoholism can complicate or mimic practically any psychiatric syndrome seen in the mental health setting, at times making it difficult to accurately diagnose the nature of the psychiatric complaints.”
The authors of this study claim that the complicated relationship between alcohol abuse and mental disorders (known as a comorbidity, co-occurring disorder, or dual diagnosis) could make it difficult to determine if alcohol causes mood swings and other psychiatric issues. It could make it difficult to determine if people have independent psychiatric conditions that existed before they started drinking and if they’re using alcohol as a way to cope with these conditions.
Regardless of whether alcohol causes psychiatric issues or is a coping mechanism, the combination of drinking and psychiatric disorders can make both conditions difficult to treat. If professionals only treat their patients’ depression, the patients might continue to drink, which could contribute to future depression. If patients just seek help for their substance abuse, they might still be depressed and repeatedly turn to alcohol as a way to cope.
Experienced professionals have the tools to examine and treat both disorders as well as other addiction-related issues. As difficult as both conditions are, assistance is available and can change lives.
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