Does Giving Up Alcohol Improve Mental Health?
You may frequently hear about the effects on the body from drinking alcohol daily or excessively, the physical effects, but its impact on mental health should be getting your attention as well. That’s because there’s a link between the two and ending your alcohol consumption can be beneficial to how you think, feel, and even behave. Today, let’s take a look at ways your mental health can improve once you’ve quit drinking altogether.
Research, through a mental health scoring system, points to an improvement in mental health for men and women who quit drinking alcohol. Surprisingly, women in one study scored higher in a follow-up than their lifelong abstainer peers, suggesting a switch from moderate drinking to no drinking later in life can be effective. It’s recommended for anyone with co-occurring substance use and mental health disorders to seek dual diagnosis treatment at a reputable facility.
How much do you drink every week?
You hear this question during a doctor’s appointment, but not everybody answers candidly, right? Even moderate drinkers may respond with a number that suggests their drinking is light. For men and women, the daily numbers differ for moderate drinking, with four standard-size drinks for men and three for women.
When do you typically drink?
The instances of drinking can vary in a week for you. They may occur while attending a social gathering or while alone or a combination of the two. For most people, there tends to be an identifiable pattern of drinking, including times when it’s most routine for you.
What drinking behavior would get changed?
A shift to giving up alcohol would differ for people who are consuming alcohol daily than for ones whose “moderate” consumption comes in one or two instances per week. Skipping a routine social gathering where someone consumes six drinks might be the behavior change necessary to begin a life of abstinence, while not buying alcoholic beverages to bring home might be the change for someone who’s accustomed to drinking at home. Recognizing your own drinking patterns is a helpful first step.
How does quitting drinking affect mental health?
Like anything related to substance use, we look to research to give us some perspective on alcohol and its connection to mental health. We see evidence in medical journals telling us how lifelong non-drinkers become a baseline for optimum mental health in studies. That means men and women who have never drank scoring higher on a mental health scale than their peers who drink regularly. The results also suggest adults who quit drinking can “rebound” in their scores and actually outscore people who have abstained from alcohol use for life.
Can quitting alcohol end a mental health disorder?
While the research we mentioned above indicates improved mental health after quitting alcohol, it does not address the existence of a mental health disorder, such as PTSD, anxiety, or depression. No longer drinking alcohol can be a step towards better health and well-being, but a diagnosed or undiagnosed mental health disorder requires the help of a trained professional to manage. You can talk to your physician about your mental health, as a first step, and ask for a referral to someone in your area.
What should I do if I feel unable to quit drinking and I have a mental health disorder?
If you have been struggling to quit drinking and see how it’s worsening an existing mental health issue, it’s recommended to talk to your physician or an addiction specialist who can refer you to a treatment program where individual and group therapies can help you begin your journey to recovery. Dual diagnosis programs integrate support for a substance use disorder with treatment for mental health disorders.