We have added a great interactive feature to the Promises website: Long-Term Effects of Alcohol…
Alcohol Can Have Long-Term Effect on Mood
Close to 30 percent of Americans misuse alcohol or are alcohol dependent. That is a staggering number of our friends, neighbors, co-workers and relatives. Consciously or unconsciously, most of us realize that alcohol impedes brain function. The slurred words and stumbling steps of the inebriated are proof of impairment. Those kinds of symptoms quickly fade, but it doesn’t mean that alcohol is not doing long-term damage to the brain.
A legitimate question to ask is why people drink alcohol in the first place? A 2005 study on this subject found that people drink for one of four reasons:
- To feel better or gain a more positive mood
- For social reward
- To mute or numb negative feelings
- To escape social rejection
A lot of why people drink has to do with mood. Brain activity is chemical activity and alcohol messes with the chemistry. People drink in order to alter the brain chemistry that governs mood. After just a few drinks, the person drinking starts to feel mildly euphoric. Stresses and anxieties seem to melt away. The person feels he/she can escape their burdens even if only temporarily. Alcohol also lowers natural inhibitions, so the normally shy person may speak out uncharacteristically.
However, if the person has more than a few drinks, then less pleasant emotions and moods may emerge. The person may become suddenly weepy or let go in a fit of anger. These moods are a direct result of the chemical brain changes taking place because of alcohol. The more the person drinks, the more extreme the moodiness may become.
In fact, regular emotional outbursts can be a sign that alcohol use has crossed the Rubicon and become alcohol dependency. There is a definite link between manic depression, for example, and alcohol dependence. Manic depression is defined in part as an alternating pattern of emotional highs and lows at the extreme ends of the spectrum. People with diagnosed manic depression frequently abuse substances including alcohol.
The effect of alcohol on mood does not always fade quickly. Even after a person chooses to live sober and gives up alcohol altogether, they may find that their moodiness persists for as long as two years.
Behavioral therapy can help change attitudes toward alcohol and alter the personal choices that contribute to alcohol dependency. It can be very helpful to identify what sort of emotional needs contributed to the person’s drinking problem and learn other ways to cope. Still, some folks will need to take anti-depressants in order to get out of the emotional hole that alcohol helped to dig for them. Alcohol can make a person feel good for a short time, but it can also make them feel pretty bad for a much longer time.