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2023-07-30 9:00
Alcohol and Mental Health
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10 Alcohol Intolerance Symptoms To Be Aware of
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Alcohol intolerance — caused primarily by a deficiency in the enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase —- can lead to skin flushing, an upset stomach, rapid heartbeat, sinus issues, headaches, low blood pressure, diarrhea, shortness of breath, hot flashes, and itchiness.

20 min read

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When it comes to alcohol, it’s important to listen to your body to know what’s best for your health — and the Reframe app is here to help! While it’s not a cure for alcohol use disorder (AUD), our program is designed to aid you in gradually reducing your alcohol intake by using scientifically supported information to inform and inspire you every step of the way. Our tried-and-tested approach has positively impacted hundreds of thousands of people worldwide, enabling them to drink less and enjoy life more. We're excited to offer you the same help!

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Moreover, we're always adding new features to enhance your in-app experience. We're thrilled to introduce Melody, our newly integrated chatbot built with the most advanced AI technology. Melody can help you in your transition to a life with less — or no — alcohol.

But that's not all! We offer engaging monthly challenges, such as Dry/Damp January, Mental Health May, and Outdoorsy June. Don't miss the opportunity to join in with other Reframers — or go at it alone if that suits you better!

With a free trial for the first 7 days, there's absolutely no risk in giving the Reframe app a shot. Are you ready to feel empowered and explore a life with less reliance on alcohol? Then download our app through the App Store or Google Play today!

Read Full Article  →

It feels like a bizarre time warp. You take a few sips of wine, a shot of tequila, or gulp down a beer, and your body responds with a full-out protest: instead of feeling mellow, you turn bright red, feel uncomfortably hot, and get that thumping, rapid heartbeat. What is this? A freakishly early hangover? No way — that’s not due for at least another few hours. You might chalk it up to a bad day or a sensitive stomach, but the real reason could be hiding in plain sight: alcohol intolerance.

We all know that drinking too much can leave us feeling less than stellar, but when that “ick” comes on after just a drink or two, it means there’s something deeper going on. Let's unpack the ten common symptoms of this condition and explore some ways we can manage it. 

What Causes Alcohol Intolerance?

Simply put, alcohol intolerance is the body’s adverse reaction to alcohol. While facial flushing, nausea, headaches, a stuffy nose, and itchiness are the most common symptoms, low blood pressure, high heart rate, diarrhea, hot flashes, and shortness of breath are typical as well. It's largely a genetic issue, caused by an inability to metabolize alcohol properly. The culprit? An enzyme called aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH), which (normally) works together with another enzyme — alcohol dehydrogenase — to metabolize alcohol in the liver.

When everything is functioning as it should, alcohol dehydrogenase breaks down alcohol into a substance called acetaldehyde — a highly reactive, toxic compound that's a main player in causing hangover symptoms and is more toxic than alcohol itself. Next, aldehyde dehydrogenase quickly steps in and converts the toxin into a harmless substance called acetic acid, a compound similar to vinegar. Once formed, acetic acid becomes a metabolic substrate: the body uses it for energy and expels the byproducts easily, without any harmful effects.

However, a problem arises when there's a deficiency or malfunction of ALDH, the enzyme involved in these conversion processes. When ALDH doesn't function properly (or when its levels are lower than normal due to genetic factors), acetaldehyde doesn't get converted into acetic acid efficiently. As a result, it accumulates in the bloodstream, leading to a range of unpleasant symptoms we identify as alcohol intolerance.

Acetaldehyde can irritate and inflame the lining of the stomach and intestines, which might exacerbate gastritis — causing nausea, vomiting, or stomach pain. In some people, an accumulation of acetaldehyde stimulates the release of histamines, causing symptoms similar to allergic reactions, such as itching, congestion, and difficulty breathing.

At elevated levels, acetaldehyde can affect the brain and nervous system, potentially causing mood changes, memory gaps, and impaired motor functions. Chronic exposure to elevated levels of acetaldehyde has even been linked to an increased risk of certain cancers, especially esophageal cancer.

A Tale of Four Booze Mishaps

Before diving deeper into alcohol intolerance, let’s discuss the differences among four alcohol-related issues that can have overlapping symptoms (many of which are linked to alcohol metabolism). They can be easy to confuse, but these issues aren’t quite identical:

  • Alcohol intolerance: the body is saying, "Sorry, I can't process this." Just as some people can't process dairy or gluten, some of us can't metabolize alcohol effectively. It's often due to a genetic enzyme deficiency.
  • Symptoms include flushing of the skin, rapid heartbeat, nasal congestion, nausea or upset stomach, and itchy eyes or skin. Avoiding or limiting alcohol is the best bet. If unsure, consult with a doctor.
  • Hangover: the body is complaining, “You had too much!” After the alcohol's euphoria wears off, what's often left is the hangover — the body's reaction to dehydration, the toxic by-products of alcohol, and alcohol’s effect on our immune system.
  • Symptoms include headache and muscle aches, fatigue, thirst and dry mouth, nausea, stomach pain, or vomiting, poor sleep, sensitivity to light and sound, and dizziness. The solution? Drink water to rehydrate, eat nutrient-rich foods, and rest. Prevention by moderating alcohol intake remains the best cure.
  • Alcohol withdrawal: the body is asking, "Hey, where's my usual drink?" If someone drinks heavily and regularly, their body becomes accustomed to having alcohol in its system. When they suddenly stop or cut down, the body can react with withdrawal symptoms, such as anxiety or depression, fatigue, shaky hands, headache, nausea or vomiting, sweating or fast pulse, insomnia, and nightmares. Alcohol withdrawal can be serious, especially if symptoms include hallucinations or seizures. It's crucial to consult a doctor or medical professional if considering cutting back after heavy, prolonged alcohol use.
  • Alcohol poisoning is the body screaming, "Help! System overload!" Alcohol poisoning happens when someone drinks a large amount of alcohol in a short time. Their blood alcohol concentration reaches toxic levels, and critical areas of the brain controlling breathing, heart rate, and temperature can slow and even shut down.
  • Symptoms include confusion or stupor, vomiting, seizures, slow or irregular breathing, hypothermia, and (yikes!) unconsciousness. Unlike intolerance, hangovers, and (in most cases) withdrawal, alcohol poisoning is a medical emergency. If you suspect someone has alcohol poisoning, call emergency services immediately. While waiting, try to keep the person awake and sitting up, and never leave them alone.

Spot the Symptoms

Now, let’s explore the ten most common symptoms of alcohol intolerance, which can affect various body systems but stem from the same trigger — the inability to process alcohol effectively.

Symptom 1: Nausea 

Wrestling with nausea after just a drink or two? You might be dealing with alcohol intolerance. The body processes alcohol in the liver using enzymes that convert it to other compounds. However, the buildup of one compound, acetaldehyde, can lead to nausea in those with alcohol intolerance. 

Moreover, alcohol causes inflammation and irritation of the stomach lining. This inflammation — known as gastritis — can result in discomfort, pain, nausea, and, in severe cases, vomiting. The higher the alcohol content in a drink, the greater the likelihood and severity of nausea.

Symptom 2: Flushing of the Skin

Notice your skin getting red after a sip of Merlot? This flushing can also be one of the first signs of alcohol intolerance. Once again, it’s the result of acetaldehyde accumulation, which dilates our blood vessels. This reaction is highly prevalent in people of East Asian descent, with approximately 36% of Japanese, Chinese, and Korean populations experiencing this flush response. However, it's important to remember that alcohol intolerance isn't exclusive to any particular ethnicity — in fact, as many as 540 million people around the world have a genetic ALDH2 deficiency that results in face flushing. That’s roughly 8% of the entire population!

Facial flushing can be an uncomfortable and embarrassing reaction to alcohol, but it's also a helpful indicator of alcohol intolerance. It's the body's way of signaling that it's struggling to process alcohol. So while the alcohol-induced blush might seem like a mere cosmetic concern, it's a window into the body's internal processes and potential health risks. 

When it comes to this particular symptom, a risk that’s most concerning is the possible link to cancer of the esophagus. A 2017 study found a correlation between the two, suggesting that face flushing might be a warning sign of being at higher risk for the disease.

Recognize alcohol intolerance with these 10 signs
Symptom 3: Rapid Heartbeat. 

Ever had a racing heartbeat that comes out of nowhere after having a few sips? It could be another sign of alcohol intolerance. Once again, the main culprit is acetaldehyde, which has been linked to blood vessel dilation due to changes in heart rate. Rising acetaldehyde levels throw off the electrical signals in the heart, leading to an increased heart rate (tachycardia). Elevated acetaldehyde can also induce palpitations — the fluttering sensation that feels like skipped beats or forceful thumping.

While acetaldehyde plays a significant role in alcohol-induced tachycardia, it's not the sole player. Alcohol itself has a direct effect on the heart and blood vessels by triggering the release of stress hormones such as adrenaline, which stimulates the heart to beat faster. Additionally, dehydration caused by alcohol can concentrate the blood, making the heart work harder to pump it and resulting in an increased heart rate.

Symptom 4: Runny or Stuffy Nose. 

Some people might find their nose blocked or running after drinking alcohol. This is because alcohol can cause the blood vessels inside the nose to swell, producing more mucus and causing symptoms similar to a cold or allergic rhinitis. This symptom of alcohol intolerance is especially common with wine.

Symptom 5: Headaches. 

Headaches are one of the most reported symptoms of alcohol intolerance. Alcohol triggers blood vessels in our brain to expand, leading to an all-too-familiar pounding pain. Dehydration caused by alcohol also contributes to these headaches.

Symptom 6: Lowered Blood Pressure. 

While many people know that long-term alcohol use can raise blood pressure, in the short term — and particularly in cases of alcohol intolerance — blood pressure can actually drop. This can lead to dizziness or even fainting.

It's essential to recognize symptoms associated with a sudden drop in blood pressure after drinking. In addition to dizziness, these might include blurred vision, nausea, fatigue, and lack of concentration caused by a decrease in blood flow to the brain.

Symptom 7: Diarrhea. 

Alcohol speeds up digestion, causing the muscles in the intestines to contract more often and leading to diarrhea. Moreover, alcohol can lead to an inflammatory response in the gut, which can exacerbate the effect.

Certain types of alcohol may be more likely to cause diarrhea than others. For instance, high-sugar drinks can pull water from the intestines, leading to loose stools. Beverages high in caffeine — such as certain liqueurs or mixers — can stimulate muscle contractions in the intestines, increasing the speed of digestion.

Symptom 8: Hot Flashes. 

A sudden feeling of warmth can indicate the body's inability to process alcohol. This effect can occur due to alcohol’s vasodilatory effect, making the skin feel unusually warm for a time.

This sensation might be accompanied by sweating as the body attempts to cool itself down, and it can be followed by chills as the effects of the alcohol wear off. Certain types of alcohol —such as red wine — may be more likely to cause hot flashes than others due to chemicals that affect the body's ability to regulate temperature.

Symptom 9: Shortness of Breath. 

In some cases, alcohol intolerance can cause the body to release histamines, similar to what happens in an allergic reaction. This response can lead to inflamed airways and difficulty breathing.

If you or someone you know experiences difficulty breathing after consuming alcohol, seek immediate medical attention. This symptom should always be taken seriously, as it can quickly escalate. 

Symptom 10: Itchy Skin, Eyes, Nose, or Mouth. 

Less intense than shortness of breath, these other classic signs of an allergic reaction can occur with alcohol intolerance due to histamine release in response to certain components found in alcoholic beverages. Histamine is a compound involved in immune responses, leading to the classic symptoms of allergies: itching, redness, and swelling in the eyes, nose, and mouth. Itchiness can also be accompanied by other allergic reactions — rashes or hives, swelling (especially around the eyes, lips, or the entire face), watery eyes, sneezing, or nasal congestion.

Some people are allergic to specific ingredients found in some alcoholic beverages. For instance, wines and beers often contain sulfites, preservatives that can trigger allergy-like symptoms.

Steps for Managing Alcohol Intolerance

If you think you might have alcohol intolerance, the first step is to speak with a healthcare professional. They can provide guidance and run any necessary tests to rule out other conditions.

From there, we can take a number of steps to mitigate symptoms and navigate social situations with grace and ease.

  • Reduce Alcohol Intake. The most obvious (but sometimes most challenging!) step is to reduce your alcohol intake. Every little difference counts, so cut down a bit at a time.
  • Hydrate. Alternating between alcoholic drinks and water can help mitigate symptoms and reduce the overall amount of alcohol consumed.
  • Choose Wisely. Some alcoholic beverages may trigger symptoms more than others. You might find, for example, that while beer sets off symptoms, wine does not. It's a process of trial and error to find out what works best for your body. Take note of reactions as they arise, and adjust your order accordingly.
  • Eat First. Having food in your stomach can help slow the absorption of alcohol. Let's not drink on an empty stomach! Also, if you do choose to drink, keep in mind that eating certain foods before drinking can help us absorb and metabolize alcohol. For example, foods rich in fructose, like honey or apples, can do the trick.
  • Listen to Your Body. Every body is unique, and it's vital that you listen to yours. If you notice a certain symptom flaring up, take it as a sign to slow down or call it quits for the evening.
  • Get curious. Consider attending workshops or seminars that focus on understanding and managing alcohol intolerance — knowledge is power! Engaging in community forums online can also provide support, shared experiences, and new coping techniques.
  • Find Support. If cutting back or quitting is difficult, remember that help is available. From support groups to therapy or online communities, there are many resources to lean on. We at Reframe would be happy to help!

Adventure Awaits

Being aware of alcohol intolerance and its symptoms lets us make informed decisions about our alcohol consumption. We're all striving to live our healthiest, happiest lives — and knowing what's going on in our bodies is a big part of that journey. 

But it’s not just about identifying what our bodies can’t handle — it’s a fresh perspective on understanding our unique constitutions. In many ways, this newfound knowledge is like receiving a personalized roadmap to a more vibrant, energized, and joyful life.

Understanding our body’s signals opens doors to new experiences, tastes, and adventures. Maybe it’s sipping on alcohol-free cocktails that surprise our palate, attending fun mocktail mixers, or even just relishing the clarity and energy of an alcohol-free evening out with friends.

The beauty of this awareness is that it empowers us to make choices that enhance our well-being, while still cherishing those festive, celebratory moments. Recognizing the signs of alcohol intolerance is not a limitation! It’s an invitation to a world of expanded possibilities. It’s all about celebrating life in a way that resonates with our truest selves. 

It feels like a bizarre time warp. You take a few sips of wine, a shot of tequila, or gulp down a beer, and your body responds with a full-out protest: instead of feeling mellow, you turn bright red, feel uncomfortably hot, and get that thumping, rapid heartbeat. What is this? A freakishly early hangover? No way — that’s not due for at least another few hours. You might chalk it up to a bad day or a sensitive stomach, but the real reason could be hiding in plain sight: alcohol intolerance.

We all know that drinking too much can leave us feeling less than stellar, but when that “ick” comes on after just a drink or two, it means there’s something deeper going on. Let's unpack the ten common symptoms of this condition and explore some ways we can manage it. 

What Causes Alcohol Intolerance?

Simply put, alcohol intolerance is the body’s adverse reaction to alcohol. While facial flushing, nausea, headaches, a stuffy nose, and itchiness are the most common symptoms, low blood pressure, high heart rate, diarrhea, hot flashes, and shortness of breath are typical as well. It's largely a genetic issue, caused by an inability to metabolize alcohol properly. The culprit? An enzyme called aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH), which (normally) works together with another enzyme — alcohol dehydrogenase — to metabolize alcohol in the liver.

When everything is functioning as it should, alcohol dehydrogenase breaks down alcohol into a substance called acetaldehyde — a highly reactive, toxic compound that's a main player in causing hangover symptoms and is more toxic than alcohol itself. Next, aldehyde dehydrogenase quickly steps in and converts the toxin into a harmless substance called acetic acid, a compound similar to vinegar. Once formed, acetic acid becomes a metabolic substrate: the body uses it for energy and expels the byproducts easily, without any harmful effects.

However, a problem arises when there's a deficiency or malfunction of ALDH, the enzyme involved in these conversion processes. When ALDH doesn't function properly (or when its levels are lower than normal due to genetic factors), acetaldehyde doesn't get converted into acetic acid efficiently. As a result, it accumulates in the bloodstream, leading to a range of unpleasant symptoms we identify as alcohol intolerance.

Acetaldehyde can irritate and inflame the lining of the stomach and intestines, which might exacerbate gastritis — causing nausea, vomiting, or stomach pain. In some people, an accumulation of acetaldehyde stimulates the release of histamines, causing symptoms similar to allergic reactions, such as itching, congestion, and difficulty breathing.

At elevated levels, acetaldehyde can affect the brain and nervous system, potentially causing mood changes, memory gaps, and impaired motor functions. Chronic exposure to elevated levels of acetaldehyde has even been linked to an increased risk of certain cancers, especially esophageal cancer.

A Tale of Four Booze Mishaps

Before diving deeper into alcohol intolerance, let’s discuss the differences among four alcohol-related issues that can have overlapping symptoms (many of which are linked to alcohol metabolism). They can be easy to confuse, but these issues aren’t quite identical:

  • Alcohol intolerance: the body is saying, "Sorry, I can't process this." Just as some people can't process dairy or gluten, some of us can't metabolize alcohol effectively. It's often due to a genetic enzyme deficiency.
  • Symptoms include flushing of the skin, rapid heartbeat, nasal congestion, nausea or upset stomach, and itchy eyes or skin. Avoiding or limiting alcohol is the best bet. If unsure, consult with a doctor.
  • Hangover: the body is complaining, “You had too much!” After the alcohol's euphoria wears off, what's often left is the hangover — the body's reaction to dehydration, the toxic by-products of alcohol, and alcohol’s effect on our immune system.
  • Symptoms include headache and muscle aches, fatigue, thirst and dry mouth, nausea, stomach pain, or vomiting, poor sleep, sensitivity to light and sound, and dizziness. The solution? Drink water to rehydrate, eat nutrient-rich foods, and rest. Prevention by moderating alcohol intake remains the best cure.
  • Alcohol withdrawal: the body is asking, "Hey, where's my usual drink?" If someone drinks heavily and regularly, their body becomes accustomed to having alcohol in its system. When they suddenly stop or cut down, the body can react with withdrawal symptoms, such as anxiety or depression, fatigue, shaky hands, headache, nausea or vomiting, sweating or fast pulse, insomnia, and nightmares. Alcohol withdrawal can be serious, especially if symptoms include hallucinations or seizures. It's crucial to consult a doctor or medical professional if considering cutting back after heavy, prolonged alcohol use.
  • Alcohol poisoning is the body screaming, "Help! System overload!" Alcohol poisoning happens when someone drinks a large amount of alcohol in a short time. Their blood alcohol concentration reaches toxic levels, and critical areas of the brain controlling breathing, heart rate, and temperature can slow and even shut down.
  • Symptoms include confusion or stupor, vomiting, seizures, slow or irregular breathing, hypothermia, and (yikes!) unconsciousness. Unlike intolerance, hangovers, and (in most cases) withdrawal, alcohol poisoning is a medical emergency. If you suspect someone has alcohol poisoning, call emergency services immediately. While waiting, try to keep the person awake and sitting up, and never leave them alone.

Spot the Symptoms

Now, let’s explore the ten most common symptoms of alcohol intolerance, which can affect various body systems but stem from the same trigger — the inability to process alcohol effectively.

Symptom 1: Nausea 

Wrestling with nausea after just a drink or two? You might be dealing with alcohol intolerance. The body processes alcohol in the liver using enzymes that convert it to other compounds. However, the buildup of one compound, acetaldehyde, can lead to nausea in those with alcohol intolerance. 

Moreover, alcohol causes inflammation and irritation of the stomach lining. This inflammation — known as gastritis — can result in discomfort, pain, nausea, and, in severe cases, vomiting. The higher the alcohol content in a drink, the greater the likelihood and severity of nausea.

Symptom 2: Flushing of the Skin

Notice your skin getting red after a sip of Merlot? This flushing can also be one of the first signs of alcohol intolerance. Once again, it’s the result of acetaldehyde accumulation, which dilates our blood vessels. This reaction is highly prevalent in people of East Asian descent, with approximately 36% of Japanese, Chinese, and Korean populations experiencing this flush response. However, it's important to remember that alcohol intolerance isn't exclusive to any particular ethnicity — in fact, as many as 540 million people around the world have a genetic ALDH2 deficiency that results in face flushing. That’s roughly 8% of the entire population!

Facial flushing can be an uncomfortable and embarrassing reaction to alcohol, but it's also a helpful indicator of alcohol intolerance. It's the body's way of signaling that it's struggling to process alcohol. So while the alcohol-induced blush might seem like a mere cosmetic concern, it's a window into the body's internal processes and potential health risks. 

When it comes to this particular symptom, a risk that’s most concerning is the possible link to cancer of the esophagus. A 2017 study found a correlation between the two, suggesting that face flushing might be a warning sign of being at higher risk for the disease.

Recognize alcohol intolerance with these 10 signs
Symptom 3: Rapid Heartbeat. 

Ever had a racing heartbeat that comes out of nowhere after having a few sips? It could be another sign of alcohol intolerance. Once again, the main culprit is acetaldehyde, which has been linked to blood vessel dilation due to changes in heart rate. Rising acetaldehyde levels throw off the electrical signals in the heart, leading to an increased heart rate (tachycardia). Elevated acetaldehyde can also induce palpitations — the fluttering sensation that feels like skipped beats or forceful thumping.

While acetaldehyde plays a significant role in alcohol-induced tachycardia, it's not the sole player. Alcohol itself has a direct effect on the heart and blood vessels by triggering the release of stress hormones such as adrenaline, which stimulates the heart to beat faster. Additionally, dehydration caused by alcohol can concentrate the blood, making the heart work harder to pump it and resulting in an increased heart rate.

Symptom 4: Runny or Stuffy Nose. 

Some people might find their nose blocked or running after drinking alcohol. This is because alcohol can cause the blood vessels inside the nose to swell, producing more mucus and causing symptoms similar to a cold or allergic rhinitis. This symptom of alcohol intolerance is especially common with wine.

Symptom 5: Headaches. 

Headaches are one of the most reported symptoms of alcohol intolerance. Alcohol triggers blood vessels in our brain to expand, leading to an all-too-familiar pounding pain. Dehydration caused by alcohol also contributes to these headaches.

Symptom 6: Lowered Blood Pressure. 

While many people know that long-term alcohol use can raise blood pressure, in the short term — and particularly in cases of alcohol intolerance — blood pressure can actually drop. This can lead to dizziness or even fainting.

It's essential to recognize symptoms associated with a sudden drop in blood pressure after drinking. In addition to dizziness, these might include blurred vision, nausea, fatigue, and lack of concentration caused by a decrease in blood flow to the brain.

Symptom 7: Diarrhea. 

Alcohol speeds up digestion, causing the muscles in the intestines to contract more often and leading to diarrhea. Moreover, alcohol can lead to an inflammatory response in the gut, which can exacerbate the effect.

Certain types of alcohol may be more likely to cause diarrhea than others. For instance, high-sugar drinks can pull water from the intestines, leading to loose stools. Beverages high in caffeine — such as certain liqueurs or mixers — can stimulate muscle contractions in the intestines, increasing the speed of digestion.

Symptom 8: Hot Flashes. 

A sudden feeling of warmth can indicate the body's inability to process alcohol. This effect can occur due to alcohol’s vasodilatory effect, making the skin feel unusually warm for a time.

This sensation might be accompanied by sweating as the body attempts to cool itself down, and it can be followed by chills as the effects of the alcohol wear off. Certain types of alcohol —such as red wine — may be more likely to cause hot flashes than others due to chemicals that affect the body's ability to regulate temperature.

Symptom 9: Shortness of Breath. 

In some cases, alcohol intolerance can cause the body to release histamines, similar to what happens in an allergic reaction. This response can lead to inflamed airways and difficulty breathing.

If you or someone you know experiences difficulty breathing after consuming alcohol, seek immediate medical attention. This symptom should always be taken seriously, as it can quickly escalate. 

Symptom 10: Itchy Skin, Eyes, Nose, or Mouth. 

Less intense than shortness of breath, these other classic signs of an allergic reaction can occur with alcohol intolerance due to histamine release in response to certain components found in alcoholic beverages. Histamine is a compound involved in immune responses, leading to the classic symptoms of allergies: itching, redness, and swelling in the eyes, nose, and mouth. Itchiness can also be accompanied by other allergic reactions — rashes or hives, swelling (especially around the eyes, lips, or the entire face), watery eyes, sneezing, or nasal congestion.

Some people are allergic to specific ingredients found in some alcoholic beverages. For instance, wines and beers often contain sulfites, preservatives that can trigger allergy-like symptoms.

Steps for Managing Alcohol Intolerance

If you think you might have alcohol intolerance, the first step is to speak with a healthcare professional. They can provide guidance and run any necessary tests to rule out other conditions.

From there, we can take a number of steps to mitigate symptoms and navigate social situations with grace and ease.

  • Reduce Alcohol Intake. The most obvious (but sometimes most challenging!) step is to reduce your alcohol intake. Every little difference counts, so cut down a bit at a time.
  • Hydrate. Alternating between alcoholic drinks and water can help mitigate symptoms and reduce the overall amount of alcohol consumed.
  • Choose Wisely. Some alcoholic beverages may trigger symptoms more than others. You might find, for example, that while beer sets off symptoms, wine does not. It's a process of trial and error to find out what works best for your body. Take note of reactions as they arise, and adjust your order accordingly.
  • Eat First. Having food in your stomach can help slow the absorption of alcohol. Let's not drink on an empty stomach! Also, if you do choose to drink, keep in mind that eating certain foods before drinking can help us absorb and metabolize alcohol. For example, foods rich in fructose, like honey or apples, can do the trick.
  • Listen to Your Body. Every body is unique, and it's vital that you listen to yours. If you notice a certain symptom flaring up, take it as a sign to slow down or call it quits for the evening.
  • Get curious. Consider attending workshops or seminars that focus on understanding and managing alcohol intolerance — knowledge is power! Engaging in community forums online can also provide support, shared experiences, and new coping techniques.
  • Find Support. If cutting back or quitting is difficult, remember that help is available. From support groups to therapy or online communities, there are many resources to lean on. We at Reframe would be happy to help!

Adventure Awaits

Being aware of alcohol intolerance and its symptoms lets us make informed decisions about our alcohol consumption. We're all striving to live our healthiest, happiest lives — and knowing what's going on in our bodies is a big part of that journey. 

But it’s not just about identifying what our bodies can’t handle — it’s a fresh perspective on understanding our unique constitutions. In many ways, this newfound knowledge is like receiving a personalized roadmap to a more vibrant, energized, and joyful life.

Understanding our body’s signals opens doors to new experiences, tastes, and adventures. Maybe it’s sipping on alcohol-free cocktails that surprise our palate, attending fun mocktail mixers, or even just relishing the clarity and energy of an alcohol-free evening out with friends.

The beauty of this awareness is that it empowers us to make choices that enhance our well-being, while still cherishing those festive, celebratory moments. Recognizing the signs of alcohol intolerance is not a limitation! It’s an invitation to a world of expanded possibilities. It’s all about celebrating life in a way that resonates with our truest selves. 

Popular
Alcohol and Mental Health
2023-07-16 9:00
Alcohol and Mental Health
Popular
8 Common Toxic Behaviors in Relationships (and How To Cope)
This is some text inside of a div block.

This blog identifies eight common toxic behaviors in relationships, detailing their effects and providing effective coping strategies. It emphasizes the importance of recognizing these patterns to foster healthier relationship dynamics.

27 min read

Drink Less, Live More With Reframe

Although it isn’t a treatment for alcohol use disorder (AUD), the Reframe app can help you cut back on drinking gradually, with the science-backed knowledge to empower you 100% of the way. Our proven program has helped millions of people around the world drink less and live more. And we want to help you get there, too!

The Reframe app equips you with the knowledge and skills you need to not only survive drinking less, but to thrive while you navigate the journey. Our daily research-backed readings teach you the neuroscience of alcohol, and our in-app Toolkit provides the resources and activities you need to navigate each challenge.

You’ll meet millions of fellow Reframers in our 24/7 Forum chat and daily Zoom check-in meetings. Receive encouragement from people worldwide who know exactly what you’re going through! You’ll also have the opportunity to connect with our licensed Reframe coaches for more personalized guidance.

Plus, we’re always introducing new features to optimize your in-app experience. We recently launched our in-app chatbot, Melody, powered by the world’s most powerful AI technology. Melody is here to help as you adjust to a life with less (or no) alcohol.

And that’s not all! Every month, we launch fun challenges, like Dry/Damp January, Mental Health May, and Outdoorsy June. You won’t want to miss out on the chance to participate alongside fellow Reframers (or solo if that’s more your thing!).

The Reframe app is free for 7 days, so you don’t have anything to lose by trying it. Are you ready to feel empowered and discover life beyond alcohol? Then download our app through the App Store or Google Play today!

Read Full Article  →

Relationships are an integral part of our lives, providing us with companionship, love, and a sense of belonging. They can be a source of joy, comfort, and personal growth. However, not all relationships are healthy — some are toxic and cause emotional distress and harm. These behaviors can range from subtle manipulations to overt forms of abuse, so recognizing this toxicity is the first step towards addressing them and seeking healthier dynamics. 

With all this in mind, here are eight common toxic behaviors in relationships and how to cope with them.

How Do Toxic Behaviors Affect Our Well-Being?

Toxic relationships are complex, dynamic entities, manifesting in different ways and constantly evolving. They can arise from a myriad of sources: romantic partners, friends, family members, or colleagues. While it's essential to recognize that no relationship is perfect, the key characteristic that distinguishes toxic relationships from healthy ones is the persistent negative impact they have on our overall health. These detrimental bonds thrive on a foundation of manipulation, deceit, and emotional abuse, creating an environment of fear, anxiety, and self-doubt that permeates every aspect of our lives.

Here are a few of the health consequences of toxic relationships.

Anxiety and Stress

One of the most immediate and tangible effects of a toxic relationship is the heightened sense of anxiety and stress it induces. Consider the story of Emily, who found herself in a romantic relationship with a partner who constantly belittled her and undermined her self-esteem. Over time, Emily's anxiety levels skyrocketed as she began to doubt her self-worth and internalize her partner's criticisms. The constant state of tension and apprehension she experienced was a direct result of the toxic nature of her relationship.

Depression

Toxic relationships can also be a significant contributor to the onset or exacerbation of depression. Take the case of Michael, who was in a friendship in which he felt pressured to conform to his friend's expectations, regardless of his own desires or beliefs. This suppression of his authentic self led to feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, and disconnection, all of which are hallmarks of depression. The unhealthy dynamic of his friendship was instrumental in driving Michael into a depressive state.

Low Self-Esteem and Confidence

The insidious nature of toxic relationships often involves a gradual erosion of self-esteem and confidence. This can be seen in Lisa, who worked under a supervisor who consistently undermined her efforts and questioned her abilities. Over time, Laura began to doubt her own capabilities and lost confidence in her skills. The sustained psychological warfare waged by her supervisor took a severe toll on her mental health, leaving her questioning her worth in both her personal and professional life.

Emotional Exhaustion

Toxic relationships can be emotionally draining, leaving us feeling depleted and empty. For instance, Sam’s sibling constantly demanded emotional support but never reciprocated. As a result, Sam was left feeling emotionally exhausted, as though he was pouring his energy into a bottomless pit. The one-sided nature of his relationship with his sibling led to a chronic state of emotional fatigue that affected his overall mental well-being.

Isolation

Another common consequence of toxic relationships is the isolation they can create. For instance, Amanda had a partner who frequently made derogatory comments about her friends and family. Over time, Amanda began to distance herself from her loved ones to avoid conflict, leaving her feeling increasingly isolated and alone. The controlling behavior exhibited by her partner resulted in the gradual dismantling of her support network, leaving her vulnerable and without support.

Illnesses

One way that toxic relationships can impact our physical health is through increased stress levels. When we’re in a toxic relationship, we may constantly feel on edge or in danger, leading to heightened levels of stress hormones like cortisol. Over time, chronic stress can weaken our immune systems, making us more susceptible to illnesses like colds and the flu.

Stress can also contribute to more serious health problems, like heart disease and diabetes. In one study, researchers found that people in stressful marriages were more likely to have high blood pressure and other risk factors for heart disease. Similarly, chronic stress has been linked to an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Inflammation

But it's not just the stress of toxic relationships that can impact our physical health. Negative emotions like anger, resentment, and sadness can also take a toll on our bodies. For example, when we experience strong negative emotions, our bodies release stress hormones that can lead to inflammation. Over time, chronic inflammation can contribute to a range of health problems, from arthritis to cancer.

Sleep Deprivation

It's also important to note that toxic relationships can impact our sleep, which in turn can impact our physical health. When we are in a toxic relationship, we may find it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep due to stress and anxiety. Over time, chronic sleep deprivation can lead to a range of health problems, including immune dysfunction, weight gain, and an increased risk of chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease.

Harmful Habits 

Furthermore, when we’re in a toxic relationship, we may engage in behaviors that are harmful to our health. For instance, we may turn to drugs, alcohol, or other vices as a way to cope with the stress and emotional pain of the relationship. These behaviors can have serious physical consequences, from liver damage to substance misuse.

1. Constant Criticism

Criticism is a prevalent and often detrimental aspect of many relationships, with the potential to gradually and profoundly affect a person's self-worth. It manifests as habitually pointing out flaws, shortcomings, or mistakes. This toxic behavior doesn't just stop at pointing out errors, but often delves into an excessive focus on the negative, overshadowing and minimizing any positive attributes or achievements. The effects aren't superficial; they deeply permeate the psyche of the person on the receiving end.

When someone is constantly exposed to criticism, the immediate response is often one of defensiveness or hurt. Over time, however, a dangerous internalization process begins. The person starts believing in these critiques, questioning their abilities, decisions, and self-worth. The once-clear distinction between constructive feedback and detrimental criticism blurs, leading them to view even well-intentioned advice through a lens of doubt and skepticism.

This incessant stream of negativity can also make people question their value in relationships, workplaces, and social circles. A natural decline in self-confidence follows, often extending to other areas of life where they might previously have felt competent or even excelled.

Coping Strategy: When dealing with constant criticism, it's crucial to communicate your feelings effectively. Use "I" statements to express how their criticism affects you without blaming or attacking them. Be honest about how your partner’s comments hurt you — it’s important to not downplay the significance of your feelings in this case (or any case!).

If your partner refuses to adjust their behavior despite your efforts, consider seeking professional help or re-evaluating the relationship.

2. Controlling Behavior

Control in relationships is a multifaceted issue that can present itself in diverse ways. It might be as overt as determining what a person wears or as subtle as influencing who they meet and interact with. The underlying reasons for such controlling behaviors often trace back to the controller's insecurities and deep-seated fears.

Understanding the root of these behaviors is vital. Insecurity in a relationship can arise from past traumas, experiences of betrayal, or a genuine fear of losing a loved one. Such insecurities can drive an individual to believe that by exercising control, they can prevent undesirable outcomes. However, these actions are counterproductive and, instead of fostering trust, they erode it.

The person on the receiving end of this control often feels stifled. The simple joys of expressing oneself through clothing become a point of contention. Social interactions, which are essential for emotional and psychological well-being, are curtailed or monitored, leading to feelings of isolation and confinement. Over time, this suppression can lead to a loss of self-identity as the controlled person starts molding their actions and choices to avoid conflict or to gain approval.

Restricting a person’s freedom in a relationship is more than just limiting their choices; it's an infringement on their individuality and personal growth. The richness of experiences, learning from diverse interactions, and the simple pleasure of autonomy are all compromised.

Coping Strategy: Establishing boundaries is key when dealing with controlling behavior. Assert your independence and make it clear what you will not tolerate. Remember: we teach others how we want to be treated. When we are clear on our boundaries and make it paramount that others follow them, we can avoid falling into patterns of control. 

Unfortunately, not all individuals are receptive to boundaries. In some cases, they may try to breach our boundaries or find ways for us to back off on them. If your partner continues to control you despite your efforts, it may be time to seek outside help.

3. Emotional Manipulation

Emotional manipulation is an insidious behavior that often lurks beneath the surface of relationships, making it challenging to identify but deeply damaging when endured. It's a covert tool used by manipulators to steer the feelings and responses of others to serve their ends. Central to this strategy are tactics like guilt, blame, and playing the victim.

When guilt is employed, the victim is often made to feel that they have wronged the manipulator in some way, even when this is far from the truth. This misplaced guilt can result in the victim taking on responsibilities or making amends for actions they didn't commit. The manipulator, wielding blame, deflects their shortcomings or mistakes onto the victim, leading them to question their own actions and beliefs. The victim card, another tactic, is played when the manipulator portrays themselves as the hurt party, eliciting sympathy or concessions from their target.

One of the most detrimental effects of emotional manipulation is the burden it places on the victim to uphold the happiness and well-being of the manipulator. They might find themselves walking on eggshells, always trying to keep the peace or prevent imagined slights, leading to an imbalanced relationship dynamic.

Coping Strategy: Learning to recognize manipulation tactics is the first step in coping with this behavior. Stand your ground and don't allow yourself to be swayed by guilt or blame. It can be challenging to break free from manipulative patterns, but doing so is the first step in reclaiming our power. 

This issue can certainly be challenging and it’s essential to remember that we don’t have to navigate it on our own. Seek support from trusted friends or a counselor if needed.

Toxic relationship behaviors' - depicts unhealthy patterns in relationships
4. Jealousy and Possessiveness

Jealousy, in moderation, can be a natural emotion experienced within relationships, often stemming from deeply ingrained instincts or past experiences. However, when it crosses the threshold from occasional insecurity to persistent and excessive doubt, it metamorphoses into a destructive force, threatening the very foundation of trust and mutual respect.

Excessive jealousy frequently breeds possessiveness. One partner, consumed by such jealousy, may feel an overwhelming need to constantly monitor the other's actions, interactions, and even thoughts. This urge to possess and oversee can be suffocating, pushing them to impose limits on who their partner can see, where they can go, and what they can do.

Coupled with possessiveness, this heightened jealousy often ushers in controlling behaviors. It may start subtly, with seemingly innocuous questions about daily activities or requests to check in frequently. Over time, these behaviors can escalate, leading to demands for access to personal messages, social media monitoring, and even tracking one's physical location.

Mistrust is the sinister shadow that accompanies excessive jealousy. No matter how transparent one tries to be, the jealous partner remains skeptical, reading hidden meanings into innocent actions or words. This perpetual state of suspicion can make the environment oppressive. The person on the receiving end might feel like they're perpetually under surveillance, causing emotional exhaustion and a constant fear of inadvertently triggering a jealous episode.

Coping Strategy: Open communication about insecurities can help alleviate these feelings. Discuss each other's insecurities openly and honestly, working together to build trust and security within the relationship. The more we are vulnerable and transparent about how we feel, the more space we open up for authentic connection and deeper understanding. 

In some instances, jealousy can be deep-seated and hard to address individually. If issues with jealousy persist despite these efforts, professional help may be necessary.

5. Lack of Respect for Boundaries

Respect for personal boundaries forms the bedrock of any healthy relationship. These boundaries, whether they're emotional, physical, or intellectual, define our comfort zones and signify our personal values, needs, and limits. Upholding them ensures mutual respect, understanding, and trust between partners. Conversely, when boundaries are consistently violated, the balance and harmony of the relationship are at risk.

A partner's continuous overstepping or ignorance of these boundaries isn't merely an oversight. It's a glaring indication of disrespect. Such actions imply that the violator's desires or impulses take precedence over the other's comfort and well-being. This lack of consideration often makes the other partner feel undervalued or even invisible.

Over time, these violations accumulate, leading to resentment. This emotion, if left unchecked, can fester and transform into deep-seated anger, mistrust, and disillusionment, jeopardizing the relationship's future.

Coping Strategy: Address this issue directly and assertively; explain why these boundaries are important to you and how it feels when they're violated. Discuss what your expectations are regarding boundaries and how you would like for them to be upheld. 

If the other person continues to disrespect your boundaries despite these discussions, it might be time to reconsider the relationship. 

6. Gaslighting

Gaslighting is one of the most sinister and covert forms of psychological manipulation, often used to wield power and control within relationships.

The techniques of gaslighting are varied but are uniformly designed to destabilize the victim. These might include flat-out denial of events that occurred, trivializing the victim's feelings, shifting blame, or even presenting false information. Over time, the consistent application of these tactics erodes the victim's trust in their own memory, perceptions, and emotions. This internal chaos often leads to feelings of confusion, anxiety, and helplessness, as the victim grapples with what they know to be true versus what they're being told.

One of the most debilitating impacts of gaslighting is the isolation it can create. Victims, unsure of their own reality and wary of external judgment, may withdraw from friends and family, further empowering the gaslighter.

Coping Strategy: Conversing with trusted friends or professionals can provide much-needed validation and clarity, helping us discern manipulation from truth. Maintaining a record, whether it's a diary or another form of documentation, can also be useful. It acts as a tangible, unalterable record of events that can counteract the gaslighter's narrative, reinforcing our understanding of reality and assuring us that our experiences and feelings are both real and valid.

If gaslighting is significantly impacting your well-being, please seek help from a professional. They can provide a safe space in which you can reconsider your relationship and take the next healthier step forward. 

7. Neglect or Indifference

Neglect and indifference, while less overt than some forms of relationship toxicity, can be just as damaging and insidious. At the heart of every meaningful relationship lies a foundation of mutual respect, understanding, and appreciation. When one partner consistently displays neglect or indifference towards the other's feelings or needs, it can erode this foundation, leading to feelings of isolation and emotional starvation.

Consistent neglect creates a void. Every time a partner dismisses or undervalues the other's feelings, it sends a message that their emotional needs and experiences are inconsequential. Over time, the one on the receiving end may internalize this treatment, leading to self-doubt, diminished self-worth, and a feeling that they are not deserving of attention or care. The result is a suffocating environment where one feels constantly sidelined, their needs perpetually on the back burner.

Such a dynamic is unsustainable and emotionally draining. It goes against the fundamental tenets of what a loving relationship should offer: a space of understanding, mutual appreciation, and shared growth.

Coping Strategy: Open communication is key. Expressing how the indifference impacts your emotional well-being might provide the neglectful partner with needed insight into their behavior. Sometimes, people may be unaware of how their actions, or lack thereof, are affecting the relationship, and shedding light on it can prompt introspection and change.

However, if neglect continues despite expressing your feelings, it might be best to distance yourself from the relationship for self-preservation.

8. Verbal or Physical Abuse

Verbal and physical abuse are grave manifestations of toxicity within relationships, representing a significant breach of trust, respect, and personal safety. Both forms of abuse are wielded as tools of power and control, seeking to diminish our sense of self-worth and autonomy.

Verbal abuse, though devoid of physical harm, can leave deep emotional scars. It encompasses actions like shouting, belittling, name-calling, or constantly criticizing, all aimed at eroding our self-esteem and confidence. Over time, consistent exposure to verbal abuse can lead to anxiety, depression, and feelings of worthlessness.

Physical abuse, on the other hand, involves acts of violence such as hitting, slapping, pushing, or any other form of intentional harm. The ramifications are immediate and can lead to both physical injuries and lasting psychological trauma.

Both forms of abuse are manipulative strategies to establish dominance within a relationship, making us feel trapped, powerless, and often fearful for our safety. It's crucial to understand that no one deserves to be treated this way, and no reason justifies such behavior. Recognizing the signs and seeking help early can be life-saving, whether it's through trusted individuals, counselors, or dedicated helplines and organizations.

Coping Strategy: If you're experiencing abuse, seek help immediately from your local authorities or organizations specializing in domestic violence, like the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). You can also text “START” to the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 88788 or chat online to get help with them here. Absolutely no one deserves to be abused — it's not your fault, and there are resources available to help you escape such situations safely.

The Key Takeaways

Recognizing toxic behaviors is the first step towards healthier relationships. By understanding these patterns, we can take action either by addressing the issues directly with our partners or seeking professional help when necessary. It’s essential to bear in mind that these unhealthy relationships can have significant and long-lasting effects on our overall well-being. Therefore, addressing issues is a necessary component of our own self-care. 

Remember: You deserve love that uplifts you, respects you, and cherishes you for who you are — never settle for less!

Relationships are an integral part of our lives, providing us with companionship, love, and a sense of belonging. They can be a source of joy, comfort, and personal growth. However, not all relationships are healthy — some are toxic and cause emotional distress and harm. These behaviors can range from subtle manipulations to overt forms of abuse, so recognizing this toxicity is the first step towards addressing them and seeking healthier dynamics. 

With all this in mind, here are eight common toxic behaviors in relationships and how to cope with them.

How Do Toxic Behaviors Affect Our Well-Being?

Toxic relationships are complex, dynamic entities, manifesting in different ways and constantly evolving. They can arise from a myriad of sources: romantic partners, friends, family members, or colleagues. While it's essential to recognize that no relationship is perfect, the key characteristic that distinguishes toxic relationships from healthy ones is the persistent negative impact they have on our overall health. These detrimental bonds thrive on a foundation of manipulation, deceit, and emotional abuse, creating an environment of fear, anxiety, and self-doubt that permeates every aspect of our lives.

Here are a few of the health consequences of toxic relationships.

Anxiety and Stress

One of the most immediate and tangible effects of a toxic relationship is the heightened sense of anxiety and stress it induces. Consider the story of Emily, who found herself in a romantic relationship with a partner who constantly belittled her and undermined her self-esteem. Over time, Emily's anxiety levels skyrocketed as she began to doubt her self-worth and internalize her partner's criticisms. The constant state of tension and apprehension she experienced was a direct result of the toxic nature of her relationship.

Depression

Toxic relationships can also be a significant contributor to the onset or exacerbation of depression. Take the case of Michael, who was in a friendship in which he felt pressured to conform to his friend's expectations, regardless of his own desires or beliefs. This suppression of his authentic self led to feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, and disconnection, all of which are hallmarks of depression. The unhealthy dynamic of his friendship was instrumental in driving Michael into a depressive state.

Low Self-Esteem and Confidence

The insidious nature of toxic relationships often involves a gradual erosion of self-esteem and confidence. This can be seen in Lisa, who worked under a supervisor who consistently undermined her efforts and questioned her abilities. Over time, Laura began to doubt her own capabilities and lost confidence in her skills. The sustained psychological warfare waged by her supervisor took a severe toll on her mental health, leaving her questioning her worth in both her personal and professional life.

Emotional Exhaustion

Toxic relationships can be emotionally draining, leaving us feeling depleted and empty. For instance, Sam’s sibling constantly demanded emotional support but never reciprocated. As a result, Sam was left feeling emotionally exhausted, as though he was pouring his energy into a bottomless pit. The one-sided nature of his relationship with his sibling led to a chronic state of emotional fatigue that affected his overall mental well-being.

Isolation

Another common consequence of toxic relationships is the isolation they can create. For instance, Amanda had a partner who frequently made derogatory comments about her friends and family. Over time, Amanda began to distance herself from her loved ones to avoid conflict, leaving her feeling increasingly isolated and alone. The controlling behavior exhibited by her partner resulted in the gradual dismantling of her support network, leaving her vulnerable and without support.

Illnesses

One way that toxic relationships can impact our physical health is through increased stress levels. When we’re in a toxic relationship, we may constantly feel on edge or in danger, leading to heightened levels of stress hormones like cortisol. Over time, chronic stress can weaken our immune systems, making us more susceptible to illnesses like colds and the flu.

Stress can also contribute to more serious health problems, like heart disease and diabetes. In one study, researchers found that people in stressful marriages were more likely to have high blood pressure and other risk factors for heart disease. Similarly, chronic stress has been linked to an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Inflammation

But it's not just the stress of toxic relationships that can impact our physical health. Negative emotions like anger, resentment, and sadness can also take a toll on our bodies. For example, when we experience strong negative emotions, our bodies release stress hormones that can lead to inflammation. Over time, chronic inflammation can contribute to a range of health problems, from arthritis to cancer.

Sleep Deprivation

It's also important to note that toxic relationships can impact our sleep, which in turn can impact our physical health. When we are in a toxic relationship, we may find it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep due to stress and anxiety. Over time, chronic sleep deprivation can lead to a range of health problems, including immune dysfunction, weight gain, and an increased risk of chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease.

Harmful Habits 

Furthermore, when we’re in a toxic relationship, we may engage in behaviors that are harmful to our health. For instance, we may turn to drugs, alcohol, or other vices as a way to cope with the stress and emotional pain of the relationship. These behaviors can have serious physical consequences, from liver damage to substance misuse.

1. Constant Criticism

Criticism is a prevalent and often detrimental aspect of many relationships, with the potential to gradually and profoundly affect a person's self-worth. It manifests as habitually pointing out flaws, shortcomings, or mistakes. This toxic behavior doesn't just stop at pointing out errors, but often delves into an excessive focus on the negative, overshadowing and minimizing any positive attributes or achievements. The effects aren't superficial; they deeply permeate the psyche of the person on the receiving end.

When someone is constantly exposed to criticism, the immediate response is often one of defensiveness or hurt. Over time, however, a dangerous internalization process begins. The person starts believing in these critiques, questioning their abilities, decisions, and self-worth. The once-clear distinction between constructive feedback and detrimental criticism blurs, leading them to view even well-intentioned advice through a lens of doubt and skepticism.

This incessant stream of negativity can also make people question their value in relationships, workplaces, and social circles. A natural decline in self-confidence follows, often extending to other areas of life where they might previously have felt competent or even excelled.

Coping Strategy: When dealing with constant criticism, it's crucial to communicate your feelings effectively. Use "I" statements to express how their criticism affects you without blaming or attacking them. Be honest about how your partner’s comments hurt you — it’s important to not downplay the significance of your feelings in this case (or any case!).

If your partner refuses to adjust their behavior despite your efforts, consider seeking professional help or re-evaluating the relationship.

2. Controlling Behavior

Control in relationships is a multifaceted issue that can present itself in diverse ways. It might be as overt as determining what a person wears or as subtle as influencing who they meet and interact with. The underlying reasons for such controlling behaviors often trace back to the controller's insecurities and deep-seated fears.

Understanding the root of these behaviors is vital. Insecurity in a relationship can arise from past traumas, experiences of betrayal, or a genuine fear of losing a loved one. Such insecurities can drive an individual to believe that by exercising control, they can prevent undesirable outcomes. However, these actions are counterproductive and, instead of fostering trust, they erode it.

The person on the receiving end of this control often feels stifled. The simple joys of expressing oneself through clothing become a point of contention. Social interactions, which are essential for emotional and psychological well-being, are curtailed or monitored, leading to feelings of isolation and confinement. Over time, this suppression can lead to a loss of self-identity as the controlled person starts molding their actions and choices to avoid conflict or to gain approval.

Restricting a person’s freedom in a relationship is more than just limiting their choices; it's an infringement on their individuality and personal growth. The richness of experiences, learning from diverse interactions, and the simple pleasure of autonomy are all compromised.

Coping Strategy: Establishing boundaries is key when dealing with controlling behavior. Assert your independence and make it clear what you will not tolerate. Remember: we teach others how we want to be treated. When we are clear on our boundaries and make it paramount that others follow them, we can avoid falling into patterns of control. 

Unfortunately, not all individuals are receptive to boundaries. In some cases, they may try to breach our boundaries or find ways for us to back off on them. If your partner continues to control you despite your efforts, it may be time to seek outside help.

3. Emotional Manipulation

Emotional manipulation is an insidious behavior that often lurks beneath the surface of relationships, making it challenging to identify but deeply damaging when endured. It's a covert tool used by manipulators to steer the feelings and responses of others to serve their ends. Central to this strategy are tactics like guilt, blame, and playing the victim.

When guilt is employed, the victim is often made to feel that they have wronged the manipulator in some way, even when this is far from the truth. This misplaced guilt can result in the victim taking on responsibilities or making amends for actions they didn't commit. The manipulator, wielding blame, deflects their shortcomings or mistakes onto the victim, leading them to question their own actions and beliefs. The victim card, another tactic, is played when the manipulator portrays themselves as the hurt party, eliciting sympathy or concessions from their target.

One of the most detrimental effects of emotional manipulation is the burden it places on the victim to uphold the happiness and well-being of the manipulator. They might find themselves walking on eggshells, always trying to keep the peace or prevent imagined slights, leading to an imbalanced relationship dynamic.

Coping Strategy: Learning to recognize manipulation tactics is the first step in coping with this behavior. Stand your ground and don't allow yourself to be swayed by guilt or blame. It can be challenging to break free from manipulative patterns, but doing so is the first step in reclaiming our power. 

This issue can certainly be challenging and it’s essential to remember that we don’t have to navigate it on our own. Seek support from trusted friends or a counselor if needed.

Toxic relationship behaviors' - depicts unhealthy patterns in relationships
4. Jealousy and Possessiveness

Jealousy, in moderation, can be a natural emotion experienced within relationships, often stemming from deeply ingrained instincts or past experiences. However, when it crosses the threshold from occasional insecurity to persistent and excessive doubt, it metamorphoses into a destructive force, threatening the very foundation of trust and mutual respect.

Excessive jealousy frequently breeds possessiveness. One partner, consumed by such jealousy, may feel an overwhelming need to constantly monitor the other's actions, interactions, and even thoughts. This urge to possess and oversee can be suffocating, pushing them to impose limits on who their partner can see, where they can go, and what they can do.

Coupled with possessiveness, this heightened jealousy often ushers in controlling behaviors. It may start subtly, with seemingly innocuous questions about daily activities or requests to check in frequently. Over time, these behaviors can escalate, leading to demands for access to personal messages, social media monitoring, and even tracking one's physical location.

Mistrust is the sinister shadow that accompanies excessive jealousy. No matter how transparent one tries to be, the jealous partner remains skeptical, reading hidden meanings into innocent actions or words. This perpetual state of suspicion can make the environment oppressive. The person on the receiving end might feel like they're perpetually under surveillance, causing emotional exhaustion and a constant fear of inadvertently triggering a jealous episode.

Coping Strategy: Open communication about insecurities can help alleviate these feelings. Discuss each other's insecurities openly and honestly, working together to build trust and security within the relationship. The more we are vulnerable and transparent about how we feel, the more space we open up for authentic connection and deeper understanding. 

In some instances, jealousy can be deep-seated and hard to address individually. If issues with jealousy persist despite these efforts, professional help may be necessary.

5. Lack of Respect for Boundaries

Respect for personal boundaries forms the bedrock of any healthy relationship. These boundaries, whether they're emotional, physical, or intellectual, define our comfort zones and signify our personal values, needs, and limits. Upholding them ensures mutual respect, understanding, and trust between partners. Conversely, when boundaries are consistently violated, the balance and harmony of the relationship are at risk.

A partner's continuous overstepping or ignorance of these boundaries isn't merely an oversight. It's a glaring indication of disrespect. Such actions imply that the violator's desires or impulses take precedence over the other's comfort and well-being. This lack of consideration often makes the other partner feel undervalued or even invisible.

Over time, these violations accumulate, leading to resentment. This emotion, if left unchecked, can fester and transform into deep-seated anger, mistrust, and disillusionment, jeopardizing the relationship's future.

Coping Strategy: Address this issue directly and assertively; explain why these boundaries are important to you and how it feels when they're violated. Discuss what your expectations are regarding boundaries and how you would like for them to be upheld. 

If the other person continues to disrespect your boundaries despite these discussions, it might be time to reconsider the relationship. 

6. Gaslighting

Gaslighting is one of the most sinister and covert forms of psychological manipulation, often used to wield power and control within relationships.

The techniques of gaslighting are varied but are uniformly designed to destabilize the victim. These might include flat-out denial of events that occurred, trivializing the victim's feelings, shifting blame, or even presenting false information. Over time, the consistent application of these tactics erodes the victim's trust in their own memory, perceptions, and emotions. This internal chaos often leads to feelings of confusion, anxiety, and helplessness, as the victim grapples with what they know to be true versus what they're being told.

One of the most debilitating impacts of gaslighting is the isolation it can create. Victims, unsure of their own reality and wary of external judgment, may withdraw from friends and family, further empowering the gaslighter.

Coping Strategy: Conversing with trusted friends or professionals can provide much-needed validation and clarity, helping us discern manipulation from truth. Maintaining a record, whether it's a diary or another form of documentation, can also be useful. It acts as a tangible, unalterable record of events that can counteract the gaslighter's narrative, reinforcing our understanding of reality and assuring us that our experiences and feelings are both real and valid.

If gaslighting is significantly impacting your well-being, please seek help from a professional. They can provide a safe space in which you can reconsider your relationship and take the next healthier step forward. 

7. Neglect or Indifference

Neglect and indifference, while less overt than some forms of relationship toxicity, can be just as damaging and insidious. At the heart of every meaningful relationship lies a foundation of mutual respect, understanding, and appreciation. When one partner consistently displays neglect or indifference towards the other's feelings or needs, it can erode this foundation, leading to feelings of isolation and emotional starvation.

Consistent neglect creates a void. Every time a partner dismisses or undervalues the other's feelings, it sends a message that their emotional needs and experiences are inconsequential. Over time, the one on the receiving end may internalize this treatment, leading to self-doubt, diminished self-worth, and a feeling that they are not deserving of attention or care. The result is a suffocating environment where one feels constantly sidelined, their needs perpetually on the back burner.

Such a dynamic is unsustainable and emotionally draining. It goes against the fundamental tenets of what a loving relationship should offer: a space of understanding, mutual appreciation, and shared growth.

Coping Strategy: Open communication is key. Expressing how the indifference impacts your emotional well-being might provide the neglectful partner with needed insight into their behavior. Sometimes, people may be unaware of how their actions, or lack thereof, are affecting the relationship, and shedding light on it can prompt introspection and change.

However, if neglect continues despite expressing your feelings, it might be best to distance yourself from the relationship for self-preservation.

8. Verbal or Physical Abuse

Verbal and physical abuse are grave manifestations of toxicity within relationships, representing a significant breach of trust, respect, and personal safety. Both forms of abuse are wielded as tools of power and control, seeking to diminish our sense of self-worth and autonomy.

Verbal abuse, though devoid of physical harm, can leave deep emotional scars. It encompasses actions like shouting, belittling, name-calling, or constantly criticizing, all aimed at eroding our self-esteem and confidence. Over time, consistent exposure to verbal abuse can lead to anxiety, depression, and feelings of worthlessness.

Physical abuse, on the other hand, involves acts of violence such as hitting, slapping, pushing, or any other form of intentional harm. The ramifications are immediate and can lead to both physical injuries and lasting psychological trauma.

Both forms of abuse are manipulative strategies to establish dominance within a relationship, making us feel trapped, powerless, and often fearful for our safety. It's crucial to understand that no one deserves to be treated this way, and no reason justifies such behavior. Recognizing the signs and seeking help early can be life-saving, whether it's through trusted individuals, counselors, or dedicated helplines and organizations.

Coping Strategy: If you're experiencing abuse, seek help immediately from your local authorities or organizations specializing in domestic violence, like the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). You can also text “START” to the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 88788 or chat online to get help with them here. Absolutely no one deserves to be abused — it's not your fault, and there are resources available to help you escape such situations safely.

The Key Takeaways

Recognizing toxic behaviors is the first step towards healthier relationships. By understanding these patterns, we can take action either by addressing the issues directly with our partners or seeking professional help when necessary. It’s essential to bear in mind that these unhealthy relationships can have significant and long-lasting effects on our overall well-being. Therefore, addressing issues is a necessary component of our own self-care. 

Remember: You deserve love that uplifts you, respects you, and cherishes you for who you are — never settle for less!

Alcohol and Mental Health
Popular
2023-07-16 9:00
Alcohol and Mental Health
Popular
Alcohol-Induced Psychosis: Signs and Symptoms
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Heavy drinking can lead to a severe mental health condition known as alcohol-induced psychosis, which leads to hallucinations and delusions. Our latest blog discusses the signs, symptoms, and causes of alcohol-induced psychosis.

16 min read

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The Reframe app equips you with the knowledge and skills you need to not only survive drinking less, but to thrive while you navigate the journey. Our daily research-backed readings teach you the neuroscience of alcohol, and our in-app Toolkit provides the resources and activities you need to navigate each challenge.

You’ll meet millions of fellow Reframers in our 24/7 Forum chat and daily Zoom check-in meetings. Receive encouragement from people worldwide who know exactly what you’re going through! You’ll also have the opportunity to connect with our licensed Reframe coaches for more personalized guidance.

Plus, we’re always introducing new features to optimize your in-app experience. We recently launched our in-app chatbot, Melody, powered by the world’s most powerful AI technology. Melody is here to help as you adjust to a life with less (or no) alcohol.

And that’s not all! Every month, we launch fun challenges, like Dry/Damp January, Mental Health May, and Outdoorsy June. You won’t want to miss out on the chance to participate alongside fellow Reframers (or solo if that’s more your thing!).

The Reframe app is free for 7 days, so you don’t have anything to lose by trying it. Are you ready to feel empowered and discover life beyond alcohol? Then download our app through the App Store or Google Play today!

Read Full Article  →

You’ve been drinking heavily for a while. Every day, it’s the same routine: you get home from work, fix dinner, and plop down on the couch with a bottle of wine to enjoy while you watch your favorite show. Pretty soon, you’re uncorking a second bottle of your favorite red. As you sit back down on the couch, something strange happens: you hear someone talking — or, at least, you think you do. What’s going on?

Let’s explore the rare, disturbing condition known as alcohol-induced psychosis — what it is, what causes it, and what you can do about it.

What Is Alcohol-Induced Psychosis?

Alcohol-induced psychosis is a serious mental health condition that causes us to experience hallucinations, delusions, or both due to excessive drinking. It’s relatively rare among the general population, but alcohol-induced psychosis occurs at higher rates in those struggling with alcohol dependence.

Someone experiencing alcohol-induced psychosis might see, hear, or feel things that aren’t there either while drinking or after drinking. Typically, people who have psychosis lose touch with reality and have difficulty telling the difference between real and imagined experiences. They also become paranoid, frightened, easily confused, and sometimes aggressive.

What are Alcohol-induced Psychosis Symptoms?

People can experience a range of alcohol-induced psychosis symptoms. Here are some of the more common: 

  • Visual hallucinations: Seeing objects or people that aren’t there. For instance, you might see someone outside lurking in the shadows.
  • Auditory hallucinations: Hearing voices or other sounds that do not exist. You might hear someone talking to you, even though no one is there. 
  • Olfactory hallucinations: Smelling scents that no one else can, like smelling something burning when there’s no fire.
  • Tactile hallucinations: Feeling like you’re being touched when no one or nothing is touching you. Some people might start scratching themselves, as they hallucinate the feeling of bugs crawling on them.
  • Delusions: Rigidly adhering to beliefs that have no basis in reality, such as being convinced that other people are “out to get you” even though there’s no evidence
  • Paranoia: Extreme anxiety and fear. For instance, you might fear you’re being watched or followed. 

These are some other alcohol psychosis symptoms:

  • Speaking incoherently or being otherwise unable to express thoughts clearly
  • Agitation or outbursts of violence or aggression
  • Crying, laughing, or having other inappropriate emotional reactions for the situation
  • Suicidal thoughts or actions
  • Acting strangely or inappropriately
  • Inability to hold a conversation
  • Jumbled thoughts
  • Rapid, constant speech
  • Feeling disconnected from body 

Keep in mind that alcohol-induced psychosis symptoms can vary in severity and intensity. For instance, some people might see or hear things that aren’t there for a brief moment, while others will see or hear things continuously, frightening them. 

To an outsider, it can sometimes be difficult to determine if a person is simply intoxicated or if they have developed alcohol-induced psychosis. However, diagnoses can be made based on how long the symptoms last. 

What Causes Alcohol-Induced Psychosis? 

Alcohol-induced psychosis can be triggered in three different ways:

  • Acute alcohol intoxication. While rare, acute alcohol psychosis can occur when we consume a large amount of alcohol in one sitting, such as in a night of binge drinking. Otherwise known as pathological intoxication, it usually occurs when people drink the same amounts of alcohol that can lead to alcohol poisoning. However, while most people will become unconscious (from the alcohol poisoning) before any psychotic symptoms appear, those who remain conscious may show signs of acute alcohol psychosis.
  • Alcohol withdrawal psychosis. This form of alcohol-induced psychosis can occur when long-term heavy drinkers stop drinking. It happens temporarily during intense alcohol withdrawal, and it can be part of what is commonly known as delirium tremens (DTs). This manifests as hallucinations, delusions, or a complete detachment from reality. Sometimes, people will even feel like bugs are crawling on their skin. 
  • Alcoholic hallucinosis. This form of alcohol-induced psychosis can occur in people who use alcohol heavily for long periods of time, such as those with chronic alcohol use disorder. It usually causes auditory, visual, or tactile hallucinations during or after drinking. Some people might also experience erratic mood shifts or delusions. 

    This type of alcohol-induced psychosis may occur sporadically for hours or days. Over time, alcoholic hallucinosis can begin mimicking symptoms of schizophrenia and last indefinitely. In some cases, it can indicate brain damage, including Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome.
A range of mental disorders caused by alcohol consumption

How Long Does Alcohol-Induced Psychosis Last?

The symptoms of psychosis will last much longer than typical alcohol intoxication. In fact, for someone to be diagnosed with alcohol-induced psychosis, their symptoms typically persist for at least 48 hours. Symptoms will also be much more severe than the disorientation and reduced inhibitions usually associated with being drunk. 

While the symptoms of alcohol-induced psychosis tend to occur in the aftermath of heavy drinking, they might not become evident for up to two weeks. They can last for a couple days or longer. In some cases, episodes of alcohol-induced psychosis have lasted for up to six months. 

In rare cases, alcohol-induced psychosis can become permanent due to a condition called Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome (WK). This is a serious complication of heavy alcohol use caused by low levels of thiamine (vitamin B1). Low thiamine levels can cause brain inflammation that creates dangerous neurological symptoms. If untreated, inflammation can lead to permanent brain damage that leads to psychosis and hallucinations. 

Who Is at Risk for Developing Alcohol-Induced Psychosis?

Anyone who drinks excessively or has alcohol use disorder is at risk for alcohol-induced psychosis. According to a 2018 review, about 4% of people who develop alcohol use disorder will experience alcohol-induced psychosis. If we’ve experienced an episode previously, we’re at an even greater risk of having another one. 

These are some other populations who are at greater risk for developing alcohol-induced psychosis:

  • Heavy drinkers over age 40
  • People with schizophrenia
  • People with mental health disorders
  • People going through alcohol withdrawal who have delirium tremens (DTs)
  • People with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) high enough to cause alcohol poisoning
  • People with thiamine (B1) deficiency (often caused by alcohol use)
  • People who are abusing other substances that come with risks of psychosis, such as methamphetamine

Research also indicates that alcohol-induced psychosis is highest among working-age men, people who became addicted to alcohol at a young age, those of low socioeconomic status, and individuals who live alone or have little social support. 

Similarly, researchers have associated alcohol-induced psychosis with higher rates of anxiety, depression, and suicide. Furthermore, about 37% of people diagnosed with alcohol-induced psychosis have a co-occuring mental health disorder.

Can Alcohol Cause Schizophrenia? 

Alcohol cannot cause schizophrenia. However, the symptoms of alcohol psychosis can be similar to those of schizophrenia. For instance, many people with schizophrenia experience delusions or hallucinations that cause them to see or hear things that aren’t there.

In the case of alcohol-induced psychosis, these symptoms are brought on by heavy alcohol use, whereas a person with schizophrenia will experience them in the absence of alcohol or other influential substances. Consuming alcohol can make symptoms of schizophrenia worse or more intense.

While they are two separate conditions, alcohol-induced psychosis and schizophrenia can co-occur in the same person.

What Dangers Are Associated With Alcohol-Induced Psychosis?

Alcohol-induced psychosis can be dangerous if left untreated. For instance, people with untreated alcohol-induced psychosis could be subject to these risks: 

  • Physical injuries due to confusion, disorientation, or aggressive behaviors
  • Abuse or other victimization
  • Arrest and incarceration due to reckless or dangerous behaviors
  • Job loss
  • Conflicts with friends and family members
  • Worsening of co-occurring mental illness, such as schizophrenia 
  • Social isolation
  • Suicide

What Is the Treatment for Alcohol-Induced Psychosis?

If you or someone you know is experiencing alcohol-induced psychosis, it’s important to get medical help immediately. Treatment usually involves eliminating alcohol and getting through withdrawal symptoms. 

In chronic cases of alcoholic hallucinosis, neuroleptic medications (like haloperidol) or atypical antipsychotics (such as olanzapine or ziprasidone) may be necessary to control symptoms. Medical professionals might also administer benzodiazepines like lorazepam if there is a risk of seizures and alcohol withdrawal.

Because heavy drinking is often to blame for alcohol-induced psychosis, treatment also involves a long-term recovery plan for living an alcohol-free life. 

How Can We Prevent Alcohol-Induced Psychosis?

Abstinence from alcohol — not drinking at all — is the best way to prevent this condition. Anyone who drinks heavily or has an alcohol use disorder is at risk for alcohol-induced psychosis. And people who’ve already experienced one episode are at greater risk of having another one.

Getting the Help We Need

we or one of our loved ones is struggling with alcohol use, it’s important to get help right away before it causes more severe complications such as alcohol-induced psychosis. The best thing we can do is contact a medical professional and be upfront and honest about our alcohol consumption. They can help direct us develop a treatment plan or direct us to resources that can help, such as an in-patient or out-patient rehabilitation center. It’s never too late to get the help we need.

If you’re drinking more than you’d like and want to cut down on your alcohol consumption, consider trying Reframe. We can help you change your drinking habits and offer tools and tips for enhancing your health and well-being. 

You’ve been drinking heavily for a while. Every day, it’s the same routine: you get home from work, fix dinner, and plop down on the couch with a bottle of wine to enjoy while you watch your favorite show. Pretty soon, you’re uncorking a second bottle of your favorite red. As you sit back down on the couch, something strange happens: you hear someone talking — or, at least, you think you do. What’s going on?

Let’s explore the rare, disturbing condition known as alcohol-induced psychosis — what it is, what causes it, and what you can do about it.

What Is Alcohol-Induced Psychosis?

Alcohol-induced psychosis is a serious mental health condition that causes us to experience hallucinations, delusions, or both due to excessive drinking. It’s relatively rare among the general population, but alcohol-induced psychosis occurs at higher rates in those struggling with alcohol dependence.

Someone experiencing alcohol-induced psychosis might see, hear, or feel things that aren’t there either while drinking or after drinking. Typically, people who have psychosis lose touch with reality and have difficulty telling the difference between real and imagined experiences. They also become paranoid, frightened, easily confused, and sometimes aggressive.

What are Alcohol-induced Psychosis Symptoms?

People can experience a range of alcohol-induced psychosis symptoms. Here are some of the more common: 

  • Visual hallucinations: Seeing objects or people that aren’t there. For instance, you might see someone outside lurking in the shadows.
  • Auditory hallucinations: Hearing voices or other sounds that do not exist. You might hear someone talking to you, even though no one is there. 
  • Olfactory hallucinations: Smelling scents that no one else can, like smelling something burning when there’s no fire.
  • Tactile hallucinations: Feeling like you’re being touched when no one or nothing is touching you. Some people might start scratching themselves, as they hallucinate the feeling of bugs crawling on them.
  • Delusions: Rigidly adhering to beliefs that have no basis in reality, such as being convinced that other people are “out to get you” even though there’s no evidence
  • Paranoia: Extreme anxiety and fear. For instance, you might fear you’re being watched or followed. 

These are some other alcohol psychosis symptoms:

  • Speaking incoherently or being otherwise unable to express thoughts clearly
  • Agitation or outbursts of violence or aggression
  • Crying, laughing, or having other inappropriate emotional reactions for the situation
  • Suicidal thoughts or actions
  • Acting strangely or inappropriately
  • Inability to hold a conversation
  • Jumbled thoughts
  • Rapid, constant speech
  • Feeling disconnected from body 

Keep in mind that alcohol-induced psychosis symptoms can vary in severity and intensity. For instance, some people might see or hear things that aren’t there for a brief moment, while others will see or hear things continuously, frightening them. 

To an outsider, it can sometimes be difficult to determine if a person is simply intoxicated or if they have developed alcohol-induced psychosis. However, diagnoses can be made based on how long the symptoms last. 

What Causes Alcohol-Induced Psychosis? 

Alcohol-induced psychosis can be triggered in three different ways:

  • Acute alcohol intoxication. While rare, acute alcohol psychosis can occur when we consume a large amount of alcohol in one sitting, such as in a night of binge drinking. Otherwise known as pathological intoxication, it usually occurs when people drink the same amounts of alcohol that can lead to alcohol poisoning. However, while most people will become unconscious (from the alcohol poisoning) before any psychotic symptoms appear, those who remain conscious may show signs of acute alcohol psychosis.
  • Alcohol withdrawal psychosis. This form of alcohol-induced psychosis can occur when long-term heavy drinkers stop drinking. It happens temporarily during intense alcohol withdrawal, and it can be part of what is commonly known as delirium tremens (DTs). This manifests as hallucinations, delusions, or a complete detachment from reality. Sometimes, people will even feel like bugs are crawling on their skin. 
  • Alcoholic hallucinosis. This form of alcohol-induced psychosis can occur in people who use alcohol heavily for long periods of time, such as those with chronic alcohol use disorder. It usually causes auditory, visual, or tactile hallucinations during or after drinking. Some people might also experience erratic mood shifts or delusions. 

    This type of alcohol-induced psychosis may occur sporadically for hours or days. Over time, alcoholic hallucinosis can begin mimicking symptoms of schizophrenia and last indefinitely. In some cases, it can indicate brain damage, including Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome.
A range of mental disorders caused by alcohol consumption

How Long Does Alcohol-Induced Psychosis Last?

The symptoms of psychosis will last much longer than typical alcohol intoxication. In fact, for someone to be diagnosed with alcohol-induced psychosis, their symptoms typically persist for at least 48 hours. Symptoms will also be much more severe than the disorientation and reduced inhibitions usually associated with being drunk. 

While the symptoms of alcohol-induced psychosis tend to occur in the aftermath of heavy drinking, they might not become evident for up to two weeks. They can last for a couple days or longer. In some cases, episodes of alcohol-induced psychosis have lasted for up to six months. 

In rare cases, alcohol-induced psychosis can become permanent due to a condition called Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome (WK). This is a serious complication of heavy alcohol use caused by low levels of thiamine (vitamin B1). Low thiamine levels can cause brain inflammation that creates dangerous neurological symptoms. If untreated, inflammation can lead to permanent brain damage that leads to psychosis and hallucinations. 

Who Is at Risk for Developing Alcohol-Induced Psychosis?

Anyone who drinks excessively or has alcohol use disorder is at risk for alcohol-induced psychosis. According to a 2018 review, about 4% of people who develop alcohol use disorder will experience alcohol-induced psychosis. If we’ve experienced an episode previously, we’re at an even greater risk of having another one. 

These are some other populations who are at greater risk for developing alcohol-induced psychosis:

  • Heavy drinkers over age 40
  • People with schizophrenia
  • People with mental health disorders
  • People going through alcohol withdrawal who have delirium tremens (DTs)
  • People with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) high enough to cause alcohol poisoning
  • People with thiamine (B1) deficiency (often caused by alcohol use)
  • People who are abusing other substances that come with risks of psychosis, such as methamphetamine

Research also indicates that alcohol-induced psychosis is highest among working-age men, people who became addicted to alcohol at a young age, those of low socioeconomic status, and individuals who live alone or have little social support. 

Similarly, researchers have associated alcohol-induced psychosis with higher rates of anxiety, depression, and suicide. Furthermore, about 37% of people diagnosed with alcohol-induced psychosis have a co-occuring mental health disorder.

Can Alcohol Cause Schizophrenia? 

Alcohol cannot cause schizophrenia. However, the symptoms of alcohol psychosis can be similar to those of schizophrenia. For instance, many people with schizophrenia experience delusions or hallucinations that cause them to see or hear things that aren’t there.

In the case of alcohol-induced psychosis, these symptoms are brought on by heavy alcohol use, whereas a person with schizophrenia will experience them in the absence of alcohol or other influential substances. Consuming alcohol can make symptoms of schizophrenia worse or more intense.

While they are two separate conditions, alcohol-induced psychosis and schizophrenia can co-occur in the same person.

What Dangers Are Associated With Alcohol-Induced Psychosis?

Alcohol-induced psychosis can be dangerous if left untreated. For instance, people with untreated alcohol-induced psychosis could be subject to these risks: 

  • Physical injuries due to confusion, disorientation, or aggressive behaviors
  • Abuse or other victimization
  • Arrest and incarceration due to reckless or dangerous behaviors
  • Job loss
  • Conflicts with friends and family members
  • Worsening of co-occurring mental illness, such as schizophrenia 
  • Social isolation
  • Suicide

What Is the Treatment for Alcohol-Induced Psychosis?

If you or someone you know is experiencing alcohol-induced psychosis, it’s important to get medical help immediately. Treatment usually involves eliminating alcohol and getting through withdrawal symptoms. 

In chronic cases of alcoholic hallucinosis, neuroleptic medications (like haloperidol) or atypical antipsychotics (such as olanzapine or ziprasidone) may be necessary to control symptoms. Medical professionals might also administer benzodiazepines like lorazepam if there is a risk of seizures and alcohol withdrawal.

Because heavy drinking is often to blame for alcohol-induced psychosis, treatment also involves a long-term recovery plan for living an alcohol-free life. 

How Can We Prevent Alcohol-Induced Psychosis?

Abstinence from alcohol — not drinking at all — is the best way to prevent this condition. Anyone who drinks heavily or has an alcohol use disorder is at risk for alcohol-induced psychosis. And people who’ve already experienced one episode are at greater risk of having another one.

Getting the Help We Need

we or one of our loved ones is struggling with alcohol use, it’s important to get help right away before it causes more severe complications such as alcohol-induced psychosis. The best thing we can do is contact a medical professional and be upfront and honest about our alcohol consumption. They can help direct us develop a treatment plan or direct us to resources that can help, such as an in-patient or out-patient rehabilitation center. It’s never too late to get the help we need.

If you’re drinking more than you’d like and want to cut down on your alcohol consumption, consider trying Reframe. We can help you change your drinking habits and offer tools and tips for enhancing your health and well-being. 

Alcohol and Mental Health
Popular
2024-06-14 9:00
Alcohol and Mental Health
Alcoholic Rage Syndrome: What It Is and How To Overcome It
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Wondering what alcoholic rage syndrome is all about? Science says it’s a mixture of brain chemistry, psychological factors, and social surroundings. Learn why alcohol can leave one person raging more than the next — and what to do about it — in our latest blog.

17 min read

Tame Your Rage and Drink Less With Reframe!

Although it isn’t a treatment for alcohol use disorder (AUD), the Reframe app can help you cut back on drinking gradually with the science-backed knowledge to empower you 100% of the way. Our proven program has helped millions of people around the world drink less and live more. And we want to help you get there, too!

The Reframe app equips you with the knowledge and skills you need to not only survive drinking less, but to thrive while you navigate the journey. Our daily research-backed readings teach you the neuroscience of alcohol, and our in-app Toolkit provides the resources and activities you need to navigate each challenge.

You’ll meet millions of fellow Reframers in our 24/7 Forum chat and daily Zoom check-in meetings. Receive encouragement from people worldwide who know exactly what you’re going through! You’ll also have the opportunity to connect with our licensed Reframe coaches for more personalized guidance.

Plus, we’re always introducing new features to optimize your in-app experience. We recently launched our in-app chatbot, Melody, powered by the world’s most powerful AI technology. Melody is here to help as you adjust to a life with less (or no) alcohol. 

And that’s not all! Every month, we launch fun challenges, like Dry/Damp January, Mental Health May, and Outdoorsy June. You won’t want to miss out on the chance to participate alongside fellow Reframers (or solo if that’s more your thing!).

The Reframe app is free for 7 days, so you don’t have anything to lose by trying it. Are you ready to feel empowered and discover life beyond alcohol? Then download our app through the App Store or Google Play today!

Read Full Article  →

Imagine this: everyone is sitting around the table, having a pleasant conversation, passing around platters of nachos and sipping on salt-rimmed margaritas. Everyone is acting presentable, and the atmosphere is, as they say “classy.” Then, a few margaritas in, the conversation gets a bit louder. You look over and see your friend’s face getting red, and, before you know it, voices are raised and you’re wondering if you’ll have to duck when that plate of nachos goes flying across the table. Yikes!

We’ve heard of the “raging alcoholic” or “angry drunk” stereotype, but is there any truth to the idea? Is alcohol really the culprit? Let’s explore what alcoholic rage syndrome is all about.

What Is Alcoholic Rage Syndrome?

A man in distress holds his head while sitting in front of a beer bottle

If you follow true crime, you’ve heard about the notorious Murdaugh trials in South Carolina, with the latest being the trial of Alec Murdaugh convicted for killing his son and wife. And although nothing justifies murder, the son Paul Murdaugh was quite a character (and not in a good way). And much of it came down to his drinking. Those close to him would talk about his personality under the influence — a character prominent enough to be seen as his alter-ego, “Timmy.” What was Timmy like? Well, let’s just say you wouldn’t want to get in Timmy’s way. Timmy would get angry. Timmy would get abusive. Ultimately, Timmy would lead to the death of Paul’s girlfriend who drowned in a boating accident that Paul (in drunken Timmy mode) was responsible for.

The truth is, while this case may be extreme, many of us might recognize signs of an inner Timmy in ourselves or in someone we know. Alcoholic rage syndrome, also known as alcohol-induced aggression or alcohol-related aggression, refers to a pattern of intense anger and aggression that occurs in people under the influence of alcohol. Ranging from verbal outbursts to physical violence, this behavior can pose a serious risk to our health and safety, as well as to the well-being of those around us. (For more information, check out “Why Do I Get Angry When I Drink?”)

A Link To ASPD

Those who do seem prone to get angry under the influence might have some characteristic brain activity patterns going on. These neurochemical changes are correlated to some behavioral symptoms, such as disinhibition, and also relate to some psychological factors.

1. Neurochemical Changes

Part of the story has to do with neurotransmitters. From the first sip, alcohol sends our brain chemistry into disarray, altering the delicate balance of neurochemicals in charge of impulse control and mood regulation. Here’s the gist:

  • Alcohol boosts the reward chemical, dopamine. The flood of dopamine causes temporary euphoria, making us feel chatty (sometimes too much so) and a bit “uplifted.” (But remember, what goes up must come down — sometimes way, way down).
  • It also boosts GABA while suppressing glutamate. At the same time, alcohol acts as a depressant by boosting the inhibitory neurotransmitter, GABA and putting the breaks on glutamate, its excitatory “partner.” The result? A “devil-may-care” attitude that can make it easier for us to exercise self control (more on this later).
  • There’s a seesaw effect as the brain tries to balance itself. While in the short run the inhibitory effects of alcohol “win out” (although aggression can still be part of the overall picture), the brain likes equilibrium and shifts to balance out the depressant effects. The result? Rebound agitation and anxiety, sometimes dubbed “hangxiety.” That unease we often feel the next day, in turn, can also come out as irritability and possible aggression.
  • Alcohol increases cortisol levels. Another link between alcohol and negative emotions, which can show up as anger, is stress. Yes, many of us think that drinking “relieves stress.” But that’s largely an illusion! In fact, alcohol has a neurochemical “dark side” — it raises the levels of the stress hormone cortisol, leading to increased anxiety as we’re drinking and adding to next-day unease.

Although the effects of alcohol on our brain chemistry kick in right away, over time the situation gets more and more complex. The brain gets used to the “new normal” and can lead to more pronounced long-term changes in our personality (read: our alter ego sets up camp and can become a permanent fixture). (For more information, check out  “How Alcohol Affects the Brain: A Look Into the Science” and “Alcohol and Emotions: How Alcohol Plays With Your Feelings.”)

A Link To ASPD

2. Disinhibition

By acting as a central nervous system depressant, alcohol also takes our prefrontal cortex — the hub of logic, and reasoning — temporarily “offline.” Without our decision-making powerhouse running the show, we have less control over our behavior and are more prone to impulsivity and aggression.

In other words, we’re likely to do things — including giving others an earful as soon as we feel irked — without thinking about the potential fallout. We might also misread social cues and lash out in response to perceived slights, nonexistent threats, or frustrations.

3. Psychological “Baggage” and Social Influence

The past has a sneaky way of making a less-than-pleasant appearance when we’re drinking. It might be something small that nagged us recently — the way our partner never makes the bed or the way our mother-in-law said the paella we tried to impress her with needed more salt. On the other hand, something deeper and more traumatic could also resurface: we might be dealing with unresolved trauma, an illness of a close relative, or financial problems. Either way, mixing any type of psychological “baggage” with booze is trouble waiting to happen — our anger is that much more likely to erupt if there’s already trouble brewing in the background. 

In a similar way, our present surroundings can play a role. If we hang out with people who throw digs at each other (or at us) or normalize alcohol-induced aggression, it’s more likely to make an appearance. Perhaps our friends play it off as funny, or maybe they downplay it due to their own insecurities — whatever the reason is, if our environment makes our “inner Timmy” feel welcome, he’s more likely to show up.

Cause of Effect?

While alcohol can induce rage, sometimes the tables are switched: we might also crave alcohol when we’re already angry. Why? The answer has to do with the nature of all cravings — they’re misguided attempts to feel better in the moment by silencing an emotion or external circumstance we don’t want to experience. The problem is, when booze becomes the answer, it backfires — big time. (To dive into the details, check out “Why Do I Crave Alcohol When I'm Angry?”)

Symptoms of Alcoholic Rage Syndrome

Symptoms of alcoholic rage syndrome run the gamut from verbal tiffs to outright violence. Here’s an overview:

  • We might become verbally aggressive. Science shows that alcohol brings out our aggressive side. With loosened inhibitions and heightened emotions, we’re likely to say what’s on our mind — for better or worse. What our sober self would have phrased more delicately suddenly slips right out.  
  • Things might even get physical. There’s a reason bar fights tend to get ugly. The “angry drunk” can start throwing punches (or plates, or furniture). Needless to say, physical violence is never okay and can quickly make an unpleasant situation outright dangerous. 
  • We could get irritable or hostile. You know how Seinfeld’s George Costanza gets riled up about perceived slights (for example, thinking that the waitress in the coffee shop is covertly flicking him off or that a driver, who ends up having a cast on his middle finger, is doing the same)? George doesn’t need alcohol to get hostile at the drop of our hat, but for many of us these heightened responses happen under the influence.  
  • Our impulses might be harder to control. Alcohol-induced aggression is often characterized by impulsive and reckless behavior with little regard for the consequences of one's actions.
  • Memory impairment. One of the most serious and often devastating aspects of “raging under the influence” is that sometimes we forget that we do it. Booze can get in the way of memory formation and retrieval, leading to memory gaps around the outbursts or violent confrontations. (These days, if things get really ugly and we’re in a public place, chances are someone will tape it, and we’ll end up seeing a visual reminder. But that doesn’t necessarily make things any better.) For more information, check out “What Happens When You Black Out From Drinking?

How To Overcome Alcoholic Rage Syndrome

Now that we know what alcoholic rage syndrome is, can we do anything about it? In other words, can we make our inner “Tammy” or “Jimmy” (or whatever name your boozy alter-ego might have) stay away for good? Absolutely.

  1. Consider cutting back. Now, this one’s obvious, but we’ll say it anyway — if your angry alter-ego insists on showing up over and over again, it might be time to cut back or take a break from booze altogether. 
  2. Know your triggers. What tends to rub you the wrong way or get under your skin, especially when you drink? Is it a certain subject of conversation? Global politics, the upcoming elections, or whether pineapple really does belong on pizza — whatever it is, steer clear of it before things escalate.
  3. Breathe out the stress. A lot of times, our anger (especially under the influence) gets ignited by underlying stress. Meditation and mindfulness can work wonders to ease the burden! Besides, a regular mindfulness practice is a science-backed way to reduce impulsivity by changing pathways in the brain while keeping alcohol cravings at bay. A double win!
  4. Set clear boundaries. If others’ aggression under the influence is the problem, communicate what behaviors are acceptable and which aren't. If aggression does occur, have a plan for enforcing consequences, such as stepping away from the situation to cool down.

If you do decide to take a break from booze, know that you’re in for a treat. In addition to helping your relationships, a life with less alcohol will leave you healthier and happier in myriad ways: your sleep will improve, your heart and liver will heal, you’ll find yourself getting sick less frequently, and you might even lose weight. And that’s just the beginning! If you need help starting, Reframe is here to help with science-backed strategies and tools to make the journey easy and fun.

Imagine this: everyone is sitting around the table, having a pleasant conversation, passing around platters of nachos and sipping on salt-rimmed margaritas. Everyone is acting presentable, and the atmosphere is, as they say “classy.” Then, a few margaritas in, the conversation gets a bit louder. You look over and see your friend’s face getting red, and, before you know it, voices are raised and you’re wondering if you’ll have to duck when that plate of nachos goes flying across the table. Yikes!

We’ve heard of the “raging alcoholic” or “angry drunk” stereotype, but is there any truth to the idea? Is alcohol really the culprit? Let’s explore what alcoholic rage syndrome is all about.

What Is Alcoholic Rage Syndrome?

A man in distress holds his head while sitting in front of a beer bottle

If you follow true crime, you’ve heard about the notorious Murdaugh trials in South Carolina, with the latest being the trial of Alec Murdaugh convicted for killing his son and wife. And although nothing justifies murder, the son Paul Murdaugh was quite a character (and not in a good way). And much of it came down to his drinking. Those close to him would talk about his personality under the influence — a character prominent enough to be seen as his alter-ego, “Timmy.” What was Timmy like? Well, let’s just say you wouldn’t want to get in Timmy’s way. Timmy would get angry. Timmy would get abusive. Ultimately, Timmy would lead to the death of Paul’s girlfriend who drowned in a boating accident that Paul (in drunken Timmy mode) was responsible for.

The truth is, while this case may be extreme, many of us might recognize signs of an inner Timmy in ourselves or in someone we know. Alcoholic rage syndrome, also known as alcohol-induced aggression or alcohol-related aggression, refers to a pattern of intense anger and aggression that occurs in people under the influence of alcohol. Ranging from verbal outbursts to physical violence, this behavior can pose a serious risk to our health and safety, as well as to the well-being of those around us. (For more information, check out “Why Do I Get Angry When I Drink?”)

A Link To ASPD

Those who do seem prone to get angry under the influence might have some characteristic brain activity patterns going on. These neurochemical changes are correlated to some behavioral symptoms, such as disinhibition, and also relate to some psychological factors.

1. Neurochemical Changes

Part of the story has to do with neurotransmitters. From the first sip, alcohol sends our brain chemistry into disarray, altering the delicate balance of neurochemicals in charge of impulse control and mood regulation. Here’s the gist:

  • Alcohol boosts the reward chemical, dopamine. The flood of dopamine causes temporary euphoria, making us feel chatty (sometimes too much so) and a bit “uplifted.” (But remember, what goes up must come down — sometimes way, way down).
  • It also boosts GABA while suppressing glutamate. At the same time, alcohol acts as a depressant by boosting the inhibitory neurotransmitter, GABA and putting the breaks on glutamate, its excitatory “partner.” The result? A “devil-may-care” attitude that can make it easier for us to exercise self control (more on this later).
  • There’s a seesaw effect as the brain tries to balance itself. While in the short run the inhibitory effects of alcohol “win out” (although aggression can still be part of the overall picture), the brain likes equilibrium and shifts to balance out the depressant effects. The result? Rebound agitation and anxiety, sometimes dubbed “hangxiety.” That unease we often feel the next day, in turn, can also come out as irritability and possible aggression.
  • Alcohol increases cortisol levels. Another link between alcohol and negative emotions, which can show up as anger, is stress. Yes, many of us think that drinking “relieves stress.” But that’s largely an illusion! In fact, alcohol has a neurochemical “dark side” — it raises the levels of the stress hormone cortisol, leading to increased anxiety as we’re drinking and adding to next-day unease.

Although the effects of alcohol on our brain chemistry kick in right away, over time the situation gets more and more complex. The brain gets used to the “new normal” and can lead to more pronounced long-term changes in our personality (read: our alter ego sets up camp and can become a permanent fixture). (For more information, check out  “How Alcohol Affects the Brain: A Look Into the Science” and “Alcohol and Emotions: How Alcohol Plays With Your Feelings.”)

A Link To ASPD

2. Disinhibition

By acting as a central nervous system depressant, alcohol also takes our prefrontal cortex — the hub of logic, and reasoning — temporarily “offline.” Without our decision-making powerhouse running the show, we have less control over our behavior and are more prone to impulsivity and aggression.

In other words, we’re likely to do things — including giving others an earful as soon as we feel irked — without thinking about the potential fallout. We might also misread social cues and lash out in response to perceived slights, nonexistent threats, or frustrations.

3. Psychological “Baggage” and Social Influence

The past has a sneaky way of making a less-than-pleasant appearance when we’re drinking. It might be something small that nagged us recently — the way our partner never makes the bed or the way our mother-in-law said the paella we tried to impress her with needed more salt. On the other hand, something deeper and more traumatic could also resurface: we might be dealing with unresolved trauma, an illness of a close relative, or financial problems. Either way, mixing any type of psychological “baggage” with booze is trouble waiting to happen — our anger is that much more likely to erupt if there’s already trouble brewing in the background. 

In a similar way, our present surroundings can play a role. If we hang out with people who throw digs at each other (or at us) or normalize alcohol-induced aggression, it’s more likely to make an appearance. Perhaps our friends play it off as funny, or maybe they downplay it due to their own insecurities — whatever the reason is, if our environment makes our “inner Timmy” feel welcome, he’s more likely to show up.

Cause of Effect?

While alcohol can induce rage, sometimes the tables are switched: we might also crave alcohol when we’re already angry. Why? The answer has to do with the nature of all cravings — they’re misguided attempts to feel better in the moment by silencing an emotion or external circumstance we don’t want to experience. The problem is, when booze becomes the answer, it backfires — big time. (To dive into the details, check out “Why Do I Crave Alcohol When I'm Angry?”)

Symptoms of Alcoholic Rage Syndrome

Symptoms of alcoholic rage syndrome run the gamut from verbal tiffs to outright violence. Here’s an overview:

  • We might become verbally aggressive. Science shows that alcohol brings out our aggressive side. With loosened inhibitions and heightened emotions, we’re likely to say what’s on our mind — for better or worse. What our sober self would have phrased more delicately suddenly slips right out.  
  • Things might even get physical. There’s a reason bar fights tend to get ugly. The “angry drunk” can start throwing punches (or plates, or furniture). Needless to say, physical violence is never okay and can quickly make an unpleasant situation outright dangerous. 
  • We could get irritable or hostile. You know how Seinfeld’s George Costanza gets riled up about perceived slights (for example, thinking that the waitress in the coffee shop is covertly flicking him off or that a driver, who ends up having a cast on his middle finger, is doing the same)? George doesn’t need alcohol to get hostile at the drop of our hat, but for many of us these heightened responses happen under the influence.  
  • Our impulses might be harder to control. Alcohol-induced aggression is often characterized by impulsive and reckless behavior with little regard for the consequences of one's actions.
  • Memory impairment. One of the most serious and often devastating aspects of “raging under the influence” is that sometimes we forget that we do it. Booze can get in the way of memory formation and retrieval, leading to memory gaps around the outbursts or violent confrontations. (These days, if things get really ugly and we’re in a public place, chances are someone will tape it, and we’ll end up seeing a visual reminder. But that doesn’t necessarily make things any better.) For more information, check out “What Happens When You Black Out From Drinking?

How To Overcome Alcoholic Rage Syndrome

Now that we know what alcoholic rage syndrome is, can we do anything about it? In other words, can we make our inner “Tammy” or “Jimmy” (or whatever name your boozy alter-ego might have) stay away for good? Absolutely.

  1. Consider cutting back. Now, this one’s obvious, but we’ll say it anyway — if your angry alter-ego insists on showing up over and over again, it might be time to cut back or take a break from booze altogether. 
  2. Know your triggers. What tends to rub you the wrong way or get under your skin, especially when you drink? Is it a certain subject of conversation? Global politics, the upcoming elections, or whether pineapple really does belong on pizza — whatever it is, steer clear of it before things escalate.
  3. Breathe out the stress. A lot of times, our anger (especially under the influence) gets ignited by underlying stress. Meditation and mindfulness can work wonders to ease the burden! Besides, a regular mindfulness practice is a science-backed way to reduce impulsivity by changing pathways in the brain while keeping alcohol cravings at bay. A double win!
  4. Set clear boundaries. If others’ aggression under the influence is the problem, communicate what behaviors are acceptable and which aren't. If aggression does occur, have a plan for enforcing consequences, such as stepping away from the situation to cool down.

If you do decide to take a break from booze, know that you’re in for a treat. In addition to helping your relationships, a life with less alcohol will leave you healthier and happier in myriad ways: your sleep will improve, your heart and liver will heal, you’ll find yourself getting sick less frequently, and you might even lose weight. And that’s just the beginning! If you need help starting, Reframe is here to help with science-backed strategies and tools to make the journey easy and fun.

Alcohol and Mental Health
2024-06-14 9:00
Alcohol and Mental Health
1 in 5 Americans Admit Lying to Their Doctor About Alcohol Consumption
This is some text inside of a div block.

Does alcohol make you tell the truth? Science says not really. Plus, more people than ever are lying about drinking itself. Learn more in our latest blog!

21 min read

Discover the True You and Thrive With Reframe!

Although it isn’t a treatment for alcohol use disorder (AUD), the Reframe app can help you cut back on drinking gradually with the science-backed knowledge to empower you 100% of the way. Our proven program has helped millions of people around the world drink less and live more. And we want to help you get there, too!

The Reframe app equips you with the knowledge and skills you need to not only survive drinking less, but to thrive while you navigate the journey. Our daily research-backed readings teach you the neuroscience of alcohol, and our in-app Toolkit provides the resources and activities you need to navigate each challenge.

You’ll meet millions of fellow Reframers in our 24/7 Forum chat and daily Zoom check-in meetings. Receive encouragement from people worldwide who know exactly what you’re going through! You’ll also have the opportunity to connect with our licensed Reframe coaches for more personalized guidance.

Plus, we’re always introducing new features to optimize your in-app experience. We recently launched our in-app chatbot, Melody, powered by the world’s most powerful AI technology. Melody is here to help as you adjust to a life with less (or no) alcohol. 

And that’s not all! Every month, we launch fun challenges, like Dry/Damp January, Mental Health May, and Outdoorsy June. You won’t want to miss out on the chance to participate alongside fellow Reframers (or solo if that’s more your thing!).

The Reframe app is free for 7 days, so you don’t have anything to lose by trying it. Are you ready to feel empowered and discover life beyond alcohol? Then download our app today!

Read Full Article  →

There’s an episode of Seinfeld that opens with a bit Jerry does about medical tests and our all-too-common urge to “do well”: 

“Remember in school, they'd do hearing tests? And you'd really be listening, you know … Trying to do well … I wanted to do unbelievable on that hearing test. I wanted them to come to me after the hearing test and go: ‘We think you may have something close to super hearing. We're sending the results to Washington. We'd like you to meet the president.’"

Unfortunately, this urge to “do well” can come at a hefty price when it comes to lying about our drinking habits. Imagine you’re at the doctor’s office for an annual physical. You know that question is coming … on an average week, how much do you drink? You do a quick tally in your head and respond, “five, maybe six drinks?” But it’s actually 10. Or 15. Or maybe even a lot more.

There are lots of reasons for being less than truthful. Maybe you counted that restaurant “glass” of wine as one drink when it’s actually 2 and a half. Maybe you’re embarrassed to give the actual number. Maybe you’ve simply lost track.

Whatever the case may be, the question is important and leads to the larger topic of alcohol and telling (or not telling) the truth. Does alcohol make you tell the truth when you’re under the influence? Or does it actually do the opposite? And what about lying about drinking — why does it seem to be so common?

Lying While Drinking

Pouring whiskey from a bottle into a glass

Do people tell the truth when drunk? Many people would probably say yes. After all, loosening up and getting chatty (sometimes a bit too chatty) is a classic effect of booze.

Alcohol is often seen as the ultimate “truth serum.” Another Seinfeld episode illustrates this: Elaine and the peach Schnapps, which (apparently without her consent) makes her “tell the truth.” Given how prone most Seinfeld characters are to fibbing (whether under the influence or not), the effect is quite dramatic. Relationships are strained, a destination wedding erupts in a fist fight, and the characters return with physical injuries on top of nasty hangovers. And, of course, it’s all very funny — at least on TV.

In reality, however, things get more serious. Alcohol affects the brain in a number of ways, and our truth-telling abilities get affected in the process. Here’s the gist.

  • Our prefrontal cortex (PFC) gets suppressed, lowering inhibitions. The decision-making part of the brain in charge of rational thought normally keeps us from getting into situations that end with wedding disruptions, stitches, or broken friendships. However, with the PFC temporarily “offline,” we tend to let loose, saying and doing things we would otherwise shy away from. And while it might look funny on TV, this loss of inhibitions can be costly in real life. After all, it takes years to develop relationships, but a drunken slip of the tongue can put them in jeopardy within seconds.
  • Our cognitive capacities are impaired. The depressant effects of alcohol slow down our thought processes. The result? Thinking under the influence can be a drag. As anyone who has gotten stuck in obsessive thought loops or found themselves unable to follow a movie plot line can attest, our cognitive capacities take a hit. So even if we think we’re being truthful, our “truth” might not line up with reality.
  • Our memory gets fuzzy. Alcohol affects the hippocampus — the part of the brain in charge of making new memories and accessing old ones.

So does alcohol make you tell the truth? As we can see, the answer depends on what we mean by “truth.” By temporarily messing with the brain’s self-regulating properties, it prevents us from hitting the brakes when it comes to oversharing. However, it also skews the content of what we’re sharing in the first place, distorting the accuracy of our stories.

Lying About Drinking

But what about lying about drinking itself? Do people do it? Oh, yes. You bet they do. According to an American Addiction Centers survey that asked 3,000 Americans if they tell their doctors the truth about their drinking, around 1 in 5 (21%) admitted to telling an occasional (or not-so-occasional) fib. Men were a bit more likely to lie, making up 60% of the fibbers.

It’s worth noting that doctors can usually tell if we bend the truth. For example, as Ohio physician Amber Tully told The Huffington Post, there are other indicators of drinking: “For instance, triglycerides might be high in someone who drinks a lot, or I could see certain elevated enzymes if I’m testing liver function. High blood pressure in someone with no other risk factors might clue me into excessive drinking.”

The body keeps score, as they say.

The Fallout of Fibbing 

We’re not helping ourselves by lying to the physician who is there to help us. If you’re thinking, “What’s the harm in bending the truth a little,” well, there are quite a few reasons.

  • Advice for staying healthy. Okay, now this one’s obvious, but it’s worth emphasizing: drinking too much harms our health. From harming our heart and liver to disrupting sleep and predisposing us to certain cancers, alcohol misuse is no joke. Our doctor can guide us toward resources and recommendations that could be vital to our health (and could even save our life). However, unless we’re stumbling into the doctor’s office or reeking of booze, their hands are tied.
  • Signs of health conditions. As physician Todd Sontag explains in The Huffington Post article, “The focus of family medicine is to take a thorough history of a patient, so your doctor can best practice preventative medicine … It is imperative to identify risk factors in a patient that can be harmful to their health. Alcohol use may raise the risks of issues, including cancers and liver disease.” For example, if someone is drinking heavily, certain tests might be warranted: “It may be a reason for high blood pressure, high cholesterol or even migraines, dehydration or poor sleep.”
  • Implications for other medical treatment. Many medications don’t play well with alcohol, and if our doctor doesn’t have the full picture of our drinking habits, we could be putting ourselves at risk. The same goes for other forms of treatment, such as surgeries and other procedures.

Reasons for Lying About Drinking

So why do people do it, especially in an ultra-private (HIPAA-protected) context? Especially one where the stakes — our health — are some of the highest?

The distortion of reality we just talked about is only part of the reason. There are other issues at play. Let's explore!

Honest Mistake

Let’s start by giving ourselves the benefit of the doubt. Maybe we made an honest mistake! After all, it can be difficult to count those drinks (or count anything, for that matter) once we get going. 

Moreover, we might be confused about what “counts” as a drink in the first place. Picture a “glass of wine,” for instance. In the U.S., a “standard drink” (or one “unit”) is defined as 14 grams of pure alcohol. 

For wine, this adds up to a 5 oz. serving, or one “glass.” However, anything from a thimble to a pitcher could technically be called a “glass.” And, of course, the amount of alcohol units inside doesn’t automatically adjust to the name of the drinkware we use to put it in: just because it fits in one glass doesn’t mean it’s “one drink.” You know those jumbo-sized ones at restaurants? They can easily hold two or more. (To learn more, check out “Alcohol Units.”)

Denial

Further down the “innocence scale,” there’s denial.

The truth is, alcohol is addictive. By releasing a cocktail (pardon the pun) of pleasure-inducing neurotransmitters such as dopamine, alcohol hijacks the brain’s reward system, making us come back for more. Over time, our drinking can slide into misuse and, eventually dependence — we feel as if we “need” alcohol to feel normal and might experience withdrawal symptoms if we attempt to stop.

This gradual slip into alcohol misuse might go unnoticed for a time, but it’s likely that, at a certain point, we’ll start questioning our habits and worrying about the health consequences. At the same time, the addictive pull of booze makes it difficult to let go or cut back.

The result is cognitive dissonance: we want something more and more, all the while wishing we didn’t want it. Since cognitive dissonance is a stressful state to be in, the brain “mutes” one of the competing voices to stop the mental struggle. In other words, we start to side with our own “preferred” version of reality (or, to put it bluntly, we believe our own lies).

Shame

Eventually, we come to the point where denial doesn’t quite hold up anymore. As much as we’d like to keep believing our own version of reality, we simply can’t anymore. At this point, we’re likely to feel ashamed.

The silver lining? Shame can also be the way out. Let’s see how it can help us get out of the trap set by alcohol as we explore the way back to the truth. (For more information, check out “Regret and Shame: Harnessing Their Power in Your Journey.”)

Finding the Truth

Finding the Truth

Before you start feeling hopeless with all this talk of lies, shame, and regret — relax. We’ve got great news for you! Just as we can lose touch with our authentic selves when alcohol is in the picture, we can find our way back.

  • Lean into the mental discomfort. Yes, shame is no picnic, but it has a purpose. It can serve as a crucial warning signal that’s telling us something about the way we’re living is amiss. By approaching shame as your mind sending you a persistent message that your actions don’t align with your true intentions, you can see it from a nonjudgmental perspective. Instead of getting mad at yourself, stop and thank your mind for sending you this reminder — it’s worth listening to!
  • Take note of the physical signs. At the same time, it can be helpful to pay more attention to the physical signs your body is telling you about booze. How do you feel after having the first drink? What about the second? Now, think about the morning after. Are you waking up feeling groggy? Do you find that a night out leaves you nauseous, dehydrated, and nursing a hangover more often than not? Your body might be sending you persistent signals that it’s tired of dealing with all the booze. Why not give it a much-needed break?
  • Speak up. No, you don’t have to shout your weekly number of drinks from the rooftops. But make sure to tell your doctor. And, most importantly, tell yourself the truth. 
  • Write it down. On this journey of exploration, it’s helpful to have a clear picture of what’s going on. Journaling can be a great asset in this process. Set aside some time in the morning to write about your experiences from the day before. Write down how many drinks you had, and exactly how you felt then (as well as the morning after). Nobody has to see it but you, so be as honest as you can!
  • Find a community. Everything is easier with a support system, and the alcohol journey is certainly no exception. Reach out to friends or family members who have been where you are and check out the vibrant Reframe community —  we’re eager to back you up every step of the way!

If you commit to being honest with yourself about your drinking habits, the rest of the pieces will fall into place. It’s never too late, and in time you can rediscover a version of yourself that’s happier and healthier than the one looking back at you in the mirror today. 

“Better Than Before”

The most exciting part? There are no limits here. Many find that once they start their journey of self-discovery, the result is a level of well-being they’ve never experienced before, with, or without alcohol. Challenges help us grow into versions of ourselves that surpass our own expectations. 

And those healthy habits truly do add up. As Gretchen Rubin writes in Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives, “Habits are the invisible architecture of daily life. We repeat about 40 percent of our behavior almost daily, so our habits shape our existence, and our future. If we change our habits, we change our lives.”

There’s an episode of Seinfeld that opens with a bit Jerry does about medical tests and our all-too-common urge to “do well”: 

“Remember in school, they'd do hearing tests? And you'd really be listening, you know … Trying to do well … I wanted to do unbelievable on that hearing test. I wanted them to come to me after the hearing test and go: ‘We think you may have something close to super hearing. We're sending the results to Washington. We'd like you to meet the president.’"

Unfortunately, this urge to “do well” can come at a hefty price when it comes to lying about our drinking habits. Imagine you’re at the doctor’s office for an annual physical. You know that question is coming … on an average week, how much do you drink? You do a quick tally in your head and respond, “five, maybe six drinks?” But it’s actually 10. Or 15. Or maybe even a lot more.

There are lots of reasons for being less than truthful. Maybe you counted that restaurant “glass” of wine as one drink when it’s actually 2 and a half. Maybe you’re embarrassed to give the actual number. Maybe you’ve simply lost track.

Whatever the case may be, the question is important and leads to the larger topic of alcohol and telling (or not telling) the truth. Does alcohol make you tell the truth when you’re under the influence? Or does it actually do the opposite? And what about lying about drinking — why does it seem to be so common?

Lying While Drinking

Pouring whiskey from a bottle into a glass

Do people tell the truth when drunk? Many people would probably say yes. After all, loosening up and getting chatty (sometimes a bit too chatty) is a classic effect of booze.

Alcohol is often seen as the ultimate “truth serum.” Another Seinfeld episode illustrates this: Elaine and the peach Schnapps, which (apparently without her consent) makes her “tell the truth.” Given how prone most Seinfeld characters are to fibbing (whether under the influence or not), the effect is quite dramatic. Relationships are strained, a destination wedding erupts in a fist fight, and the characters return with physical injuries on top of nasty hangovers. And, of course, it’s all very funny — at least on TV.

In reality, however, things get more serious. Alcohol affects the brain in a number of ways, and our truth-telling abilities get affected in the process. Here’s the gist.

  • Our prefrontal cortex (PFC) gets suppressed, lowering inhibitions. The decision-making part of the brain in charge of rational thought normally keeps us from getting into situations that end with wedding disruptions, stitches, or broken friendships. However, with the PFC temporarily “offline,” we tend to let loose, saying and doing things we would otherwise shy away from. And while it might look funny on TV, this loss of inhibitions can be costly in real life. After all, it takes years to develop relationships, but a drunken slip of the tongue can put them in jeopardy within seconds.
  • Our cognitive capacities are impaired. The depressant effects of alcohol slow down our thought processes. The result? Thinking under the influence can be a drag. As anyone who has gotten stuck in obsessive thought loops or found themselves unable to follow a movie plot line can attest, our cognitive capacities take a hit. So even if we think we’re being truthful, our “truth” might not line up with reality.
  • Our memory gets fuzzy. Alcohol affects the hippocampus — the part of the brain in charge of making new memories and accessing old ones.

So does alcohol make you tell the truth? As we can see, the answer depends on what we mean by “truth.” By temporarily messing with the brain’s self-regulating properties, it prevents us from hitting the brakes when it comes to oversharing. However, it also skews the content of what we’re sharing in the first place, distorting the accuracy of our stories.

Lying About Drinking

But what about lying about drinking itself? Do people do it? Oh, yes. You bet they do. According to an American Addiction Centers survey that asked 3,000 Americans if they tell their doctors the truth about their drinking, around 1 in 5 (21%) admitted to telling an occasional (or not-so-occasional) fib. Men were a bit more likely to lie, making up 60% of the fibbers.

It’s worth noting that doctors can usually tell if we bend the truth. For example, as Ohio physician Amber Tully told The Huffington Post, there are other indicators of drinking: “For instance, triglycerides might be high in someone who drinks a lot, or I could see certain elevated enzymes if I’m testing liver function. High blood pressure in someone with no other risk factors might clue me into excessive drinking.”

The body keeps score, as they say.

The Fallout of Fibbing 

We’re not helping ourselves by lying to the physician who is there to help us. If you’re thinking, “What’s the harm in bending the truth a little,” well, there are quite a few reasons.

  • Advice for staying healthy. Okay, now this one’s obvious, but it’s worth emphasizing: drinking too much harms our health. From harming our heart and liver to disrupting sleep and predisposing us to certain cancers, alcohol misuse is no joke. Our doctor can guide us toward resources and recommendations that could be vital to our health (and could even save our life). However, unless we’re stumbling into the doctor’s office or reeking of booze, their hands are tied.
  • Signs of health conditions. As physician Todd Sontag explains in The Huffington Post article, “The focus of family medicine is to take a thorough history of a patient, so your doctor can best practice preventative medicine … It is imperative to identify risk factors in a patient that can be harmful to their health. Alcohol use may raise the risks of issues, including cancers and liver disease.” For example, if someone is drinking heavily, certain tests might be warranted: “It may be a reason for high blood pressure, high cholesterol or even migraines, dehydration or poor sleep.”
  • Implications for other medical treatment. Many medications don’t play well with alcohol, and if our doctor doesn’t have the full picture of our drinking habits, we could be putting ourselves at risk. The same goes for other forms of treatment, such as surgeries and other procedures.

Reasons for Lying About Drinking

So why do people do it, especially in an ultra-private (HIPAA-protected) context? Especially one where the stakes — our health — are some of the highest?

The distortion of reality we just talked about is only part of the reason. There are other issues at play. Let's explore!

Honest Mistake

Let’s start by giving ourselves the benefit of the doubt. Maybe we made an honest mistake! After all, it can be difficult to count those drinks (or count anything, for that matter) once we get going. 

Moreover, we might be confused about what “counts” as a drink in the first place. Picture a “glass of wine,” for instance. In the U.S., a “standard drink” (or one “unit”) is defined as 14 grams of pure alcohol. 

For wine, this adds up to a 5 oz. serving, or one “glass.” However, anything from a thimble to a pitcher could technically be called a “glass.” And, of course, the amount of alcohol units inside doesn’t automatically adjust to the name of the drinkware we use to put it in: just because it fits in one glass doesn’t mean it’s “one drink.” You know those jumbo-sized ones at restaurants? They can easily hold two or more. (To learn more, check out “Alcohol Units.”)

Denial

Further down the “innocence scale,” there’s denial.

The truth is, alcohol is addictive. By releasing a cocktail (pardon the pun) of pleasure-inducing neurotransmitters such as dopamine, alcohol hijacks the brain’s reward system, making us come back for more. Over time, our drinking can slide into misuse and, eventually dependence — we feel as if we “need” alcohol to feel normal and might experience withdrawal symptoms if we attempt to stop.

This gradual slip into alcohol misuse might go unnoticed for a time, but it’s likely that, at a certain point, we’ll start questioning our habits and worrying about the health consequences. At the same time, the addictive pull of booze makes it difficult to let go or cut back.

The result is cognitive dissonance: we want something more and more, all the while wishing we didn’t want it. Since cognitive dissonance is a stressful state to be in, the brain “mutes” one of the competing voices to stop the mental struggle. In other words, we start to side with our own “preferred” version of reality (or, to put it bluntly, we believe our own lies).

Shame

Eventually, we come to the point where denial doesn’t quite hold up anymore. As much as we’d like to keep believing our own version of reality, we simply can’t anymore. At this point, we’re likely to feel ashamed.

The silver lining? Shame can also be the way out. Let’s see how it can help us get out of the trap set by alcohol as we explore the way back to the truth. (For more information, check out “Regret and Shame: Harnessing Their Power in Your Journey.”)

Finding the Truth

Finding the Truth

Before you start feeling hopeless with all this talk of lies, shame, and regret — relax. We’ve got great news for you! Just as we can lose touch with our authentic selves when alcohol is in the picture, we can find our way back.

  • Lean into the mental discomfort. Yes, shame is no picnic, but it has a purpose. It can serve as a crucial warning signal that’s telling us something about the way we’re living is amiss. By approaching shame as your mind sending you a persistent message that your actions don’t align with your true intentions, you can see it from a nonjudgmental perspective. Instead of getting mad at yourself, stop and thank your mind for sending you this reminder — it’s worth listening to!
  • Take note of the physical signs. At the same time, it can be helpful to pay more attention to the physical signs your body is telling you about booze. How do you feel after having the first drink? What about the second? Now, think about the morning after. Are you waking up feeling groggy? Do you find that a night out leaves you nauseous, dehydrated, and nursing a hangover more often than not? Your body might be sending you persistent signals that it’s tired of dealing with all the booze. Why not give it a much-needed break?
  • Speak up. No, you don’t have to shout your weekly number of drinks from the rooftops. But make sure to tell your doctor. And, most importantly, tell yourself the truth. 
  • Write it down. On this journey of exploration, it’s helpful to have a clear picture of what’s going on. Journaling can be a great asset in this process. Set aside some time in the morning to write about your experiences from the day before. Write down how many drinks you had, and exactly how you felt then (as well as the morning after). Nobody has to see it but you, so be as honest as you can!
  • Find a community. Everything is easier with a support system, and the alcohol journey is certainly no exception. Reach out to friends or family members who have been where you are and check out the vibrant Reframe community —  we’re eager to back you up every step of the way!

If you commit to being honest with yourself about your drinking habits, the rest of the pieces will fall into place. It’s never too late, and in time you can rediscover a version of yourself that’s happier and healthier than the one looking back at you in the mirror today. 

“Better Than Before”

The most exciting part? There are no limits here. Many find that once they start their journey of self-discovery, the result is a level of well-being they’ve never experienced before, with, or without alcohol. Challenges help us grow into versions of ourselves that surpass our own expectations. 

And those healthy habits truly do add up. As Gretchen Rubin writes in Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives, “Habits are the invisible architecture of daily life. We repeat about 40 percent of our behavior almost daily, so our habits shape our existence, and our future. If we change our habits, we change our lives.”

Alcohol and Mental Health
2024-06-13 9:00
Alcohol and Mental Health
The Impact of Alcohol on Self-Perception and Self-Worth
This is some text inside of a div block.

Explore the profound effects of alcohol on self-perception and self-worth, including its impact on confidence, identity, and emotional well-being, and strategies to mitigate these effects.

8 min read

Reframe Your Self-Worth – Learn How Alcohol Consumption Influences Your Self-Perception

Although it isn’t a treatment for alcohol use disorder (AUD), the Reframe app can help you cut back on drinking gradually with the science-backed knowledge to empower you 100% of the way. Our proven program has helped millions of people around the world drink less and live more. And we want to help you get there, too!

The Reframe app equips you with the knowledge and skills you need to not only survive drinking less, but to thrive while you navigate the journey. Our daily research-backed readings teach you the neuroscience of alcohol, and our in-app Toolkit provides the resources and activities you need to navigate each challenge.

You’ll meet millions of fellow Reframers in our 24/7 Forum chat and daily Zoom check-in meetings. Receive encouragement from people worldwide who know exactly what you’re going through! You’ll also have the opportunity to connect with our licensed Reframe coaches for more personalized guidance.

Plus, we’re always introducing new features to optimize your in-app experience. We recently launched our in-app chatbot, Melody, powered by the world’s most powerful AI technology. Melody is here to help as you adjust to a life with less (or no) alcohol. 

And that’s not all! Every month, we launch fun challenges, like Dry/Damp January, Mental Health May, and Outdoorsy June. You won’t want to miss out on the chance to participate alongside fellow Reframers (or solo if that’s more your thing!).

The Reframe app is free for 7 days, so you don’t have anything to lose by trying it. Are you ready to feel empowered and discover life beyond alcohol? Then download our app through the App Store or Google Play today!

Read Full Article  →

Alcohol consumption has pervasive effects on both our physical health and our psychological well-being. However, one of the most profound impacts it has is on our self-perception and self-worth. Understanding these effects is crucial for anyone looking to build healthier drinking habits and reframe their relationship with alcohol. This article explores the psychological and emotional effects of alcohol, focusing on how it influences self-perception and self-worth.

The Psychological Impact of Alcohol

The Impact of Alcohol on Self-Perception and Self-Worth

Self-Perception

Self-perception is essentially how we see ourselves, and it is a fundamental aspect of our mental health. Alcohol has a significant impact on self-perception in various ways:

  1. Distorted Self-Image: Alcohol can alter our perception of reality, including how we see ourselves. Under the influence, we might feel more confident and outgoing, but this is often a false sense of self. Over time, reliance on alcohol to feel good about oneself can lead to a distorted self-image.
  2. Lowered Inhibitions: While alcohol might temporarily boost confidence, it also lowers inhibitions, leading to actions and decisions that one might regret later. These actions can severely affect one's self-esteem and self-worth in the long run.
  3. Dependence and Identity: For some, alcohol becomes a part of their identity. They might see themselves as "the life of the party" when drinking but struggle with self-worth when sober.

Self-Worth

Self-worth, or self-esteem, is our overall sense of value or worth as a person. Alcohol can have a detrimental impact on this aspect of mental health:

  1. Guilt and Shame: Excessive drinking often leads to actions that one might regret, resulting in feelings of guilt and shame. These feelings can erode self-worth over time.
  2. Social Comparisons: Alcohol can exacerbate feelings of inadequacy, especially when one compares themselves to others who might seem to handle their drinking better or those who abstain altogether.
  3. Emotional Numbing: Many people use alcohol to numb emotional pain or stress. While this might provide temporary relief, it prevents the development of healthier coping mechanisms, ultimately leading to lower self-worth.

The Six-Factor Model of Psychological Well-Being

Understanding the impact of alcohol on self-perception and self-worth can be further illuminated through Carol Ryff’s Six-Factor Model of Psychological Well-Being. This model identifies six dimensions that contribute to overall mental health:

  1. Autonomy: The ability to make independent decisions. Alcohol can hinder one’s autonomy by creating dependence.
  2. Personal Growth: Ongoing development and realization of potential. Alcohol can stunt personal growth by becoming a crutch.
  3. Self-Acceptance: A balanced view of oneself, acknowledging both strengths and weaknesses. Alcohol often masks true self-acceptance.
  4. Life Purpose: Having meaningful goals and a sense of direction. Excessive drinking can derail one’s life purpose.
  5. Mastery: The ability to manage life effectively. Alcohol consumption can impede one’s sense of mastery and control.
  6. Positive Relations: The ability to form meaningful connections with others. Alcohol can damage relationships and hinder the formation of genuine connections.

How to Take Back Your Power from Alcohol

Reclaiming self-perception and self-worth from the clutches of alcohol is possible. According to the article How To Take Back Your Power From Alcohol, there are several strategies to regain control:

  1. Awareness of Alcohol’s Impact: Understanding how alcohol affects the brain and self-worth is the first step. Alcohol changes brain chemistry, impacting mental and emotional resilience.
  2. Breaking the Cycle: Alcohol can create a feedback loop of anxiety and stress. Breaking this cycle requires developing new coping mechanisms.
  3. Seeking Support: Having a support system in place can make a significant difference. This might include friends, family, or support groups.
  4. Self-Compassion: Being kind to oneself during the journey of reducing alcohol consumption is crucial. Negative emotions and stress are normal, and learning to navigate them without alcohol is key.

Self-Esteem vs. Self-Confidence

It’s also important to differentiate between self-esteem and self-confidence. The article Self-Esteem vs. Self-Confidence: How Are They Different? explains that self-esteem is about overall self-worth, while self-confidence is about trust in one’s abilities. Alcohol might temporarily boost self-confidence but often at the expense of long-term self-esteem.

Strategies for Building Healthier Self-Perception and Self-Worth

  1. Mindfulness and Meditation: Regular mindfulness practices can help improve self-awareness and self-acceptance.
  2. Journaling: Keeping a journal of positive experiences and accomplishments can reinforce a positive self-image.
  3. Positive Affirmations: Regularly affirming one's strengths and achievements can help build self-worth.
  4. Therapy and Counseling: Professional help can provide strategies and tools to improve self-perception and self-worth.
  5. Healthy Social Interactions: Engaging in meaningful and supportive social interactions can enhance one’s self-worth.

Conclusion

The impact of alcohol on self-perception and self-worth is profound and multifaceted. Understanding these effects is crucial for anyone looking to build healthier drinking habits and reframe their relationship with alcohol. By focusing on the dimensions of psychological well-being, breaking the cycle of dependence, and employing strategies to build self-esteem and self-worth, it is possible to regain control and lead a fulfilling life.

Alcohol consumption has pervasive effects on both our physical health and our psychological well-being. However, one of the most profound impacts it has is on our self-perception and self-worth. Understanding these effects is crucial for anyone looking to build healthier drinking habits and reframe their relationship with alcohol. This article explores the psychological and emotional effects of alcohol, focusing on how it influences self-perception and self-worth.

The Psychological Impact of Alcohol

The Impact of Alcohol on Self-Perception and Self-Worth

Self-Perception

Self-perception is essentially how we see ourselves, and it is a fundamental aspect of our mental health. Alcohol has a significant impact on self-perception in various ways:

  1. Distorted Self-Image: Alcohol can alter our perception of reality, including how we see ourselves. Under the influence, we might feel more confident and outgoing, but this is often a false sense of self. Over time, reliance on alcohol to feel good about oneself can lead to a distorted self-image.
  2. Lowered Inhibitions: While alcohol might temporarily boost confidence, it also lowers inhibitions, leading to actions and decisions that one might regret later. These actions can severely affect one's self-esteem and self-worth in the long run.
  3. Dependence and Identity: For some, alcohol becomes a part of their identity. They might see themselves as "the life of the party" when drinking but struggle with self-worth when sober.

Self-Worth

Self-worth, or self-esteem, is our overall sense of value or worth as a person. Alcohol can have a detrimental impact on this aspect of mental health:

  1. Guilt and Shame: Excessive drinking often leads to actions that one might regret, resulting in feelings of guilt and shame. These feelings can erode self-worth over time.
  2. Social Comparisons: Alcohol can exacerbate feelings of inadequacy, especially when one compares themselves to others who might seem to handle their drinking better or those who abstain altogether.
  3. Emotional Numbing: Many people use alcohol to numb emotional pain or stress. While this might provide temporary relief, it prevents the development of healthier coping mechanisms, ultimately leading to lower self-worth.

The Six-Factor Model of Psychological Well-Being

Understanding the impact of alcohol on self-perception and self-worth can be further illuminated through Carol Ryff’s Six-Factor Model of Psychological Well-Being. This model identifies six dimensions that contribute to overall mental health:

  1. Autonomy: The ability to make independent decisions. Alcohol can hinder one’s autonomy by creating dependence.
  2. Personal Growth: Ongoing development and realization of potential. Alcohol can stunt personal growth by becoming a crutch.
  3. Self-Acceptance: A balanced view of oneself, acknowledging both strengths and weaknesses. Alcohol often masks true self-acceptance.
  4. Life Purpose: Having meaningful goals and a sense of direction. Excessive drinking can derail one’s life purpose.
  5. Mastery: The ability to manage life effectively. Alcohol consumption can impede one’s sense of mastery and control.
  6. Positive Relations: The ability to form meaningful connections with others. Alcohol can damage relationships and hinder the formation of genuine connections.

How to Take Back Your Power from Alcohol

Reclaiming self-perception and self-worth from the clutches of alcohol is possible. According to the article How To Take Back Your Power From Alcohol, there are several strategies to regain control:

  1. Awareness of Alcohol’s Impact: Understanding how alcohol affects the brain and self-worth is the first step. Alcohol changes brain chemistry, impacting mental and emotional resilience.
  2. Breaking the Cycle: Alcohol can create a feedback loop of anxiety and stress. Breaking this cycle requires developing new coping mechanisms.
  3. Seeking Support: Having a support system in place can make a significant difference. This might include friends, family, or support groups.
  4. Self-Compassion: Being kind to oneself during the journey of reducing alcohol consumption is crucial. Negative emotions and stress are normal, and learning to navigate them without alcohol is key.

Self-Esteem vs. Self-Confidence

It’s also important to differentiate between self-esteem and self-confidence. The article Self-Esteem vs. Self-Confidence: How Are They Different? explains that self-esteem is about overall self-worth, while self-confidence is about trust in one’s abilities. Alcohol might temporarily boost self-confidence but often at the expense of long-term self-esteem.

Strategies for Building Healthier Self-Perception and Self-Worth

  1. Mindfulness and Meditation: Regular mindfulness practices can help improve self-awareness and self-acceptance.
  2. Journaling: Keeping a journal of positive experiences and accomplishments can reinforce a positive self-image.
  3. Positive Affirmations: Regularly affirming one's strengths and achievements can help build self-worth.
  4. Therapy and Counseling: Professional help can provide strategies and tools to improve self-perception and self-worth.
  5. Healthy Social Interactions: Engaging in meaningful and supportive social interactions can enhance one’s self-worth.

Conclusion

The impact of alcohol on self-perception and self-worth is profound and multifaceted. Understanding these effects is crucial for anyone looking to build healthier drinking habits and reframe their relationship with alcohol. By focusing on the dimensions of psychological well-being, breaking the cycle of dependence, and employing strategies to build self-esteem and self-worth, it is possible to regain control and lead a fulfilling life.

Alcohol and Mental Health
2024-06-13 9:00
Alcohol and Mental Health
The Impact of Family Relationships and History on Drinking Habits
This is some text inside of a div block.

Explore how family relationships and history shape drinking habits, highlighting the roles of parental influence, family dynamics, and genetic predispositions, and offering strategies for healthier drinking behaviors.

9 min read

Understand How Family Relationships Influence Drinking

Although it isn’t a treatment for alcohol use disorder (AUD), the Reframe app can help you cut back on drinking gradually with the science-backed knowledge to empower you 100% of the way. Our proven program has helped millions of people around the world drink less and live more. And we want to help you get there, too!

The Reframe app equips you with the knowledge and skills you need to not only survive drinking less, but to thrive while you navigate the journey. Our daily research-backed readings teach you the neuroscience of alcohol, and our in-app Toolkit provides the resources and activities you need to navigate each challenge.

You’ll meet millions of fellow Reframers in our 24/7 Forum chat and daily Zoom check-in meetings. Receive encouragement from people worldwide who know exactly what you’re going through! You’ll also have the opportunity to connect with our licensed Reframe coaches for more personalized guidance.

Plus, we’re always introducing new features to optimize your in-app experience. We recently launched our in-app chatbot, Melody, powered by the world’s most powerful AI technology. Melody is here to help as you adjust to a life with less (or no) alcohol. 

And that’s not all! Every month, we launch fun challenges, like Dry/Damp January, Mental Health May, and Outdoorsy June. You won’t want to miss out on the chance to participate alongside fellow Reframers (or solo if that’s more your thing!).

The Reframe app is free for 7 days, so you don’t have anything to lose by trying it. Are you ready to feel empowered and discover life beyond alcohol? Then download our app through the App Store or Google Play today!

Read Full Article  →

Understanding the intricate web of factors that influence drinking habits is essential in addressing alcohol misuse and developing healthier drinking behaviors. One of the most significant influences comes from family relationships and history. This article delves into how family dynamics and history can shape an individual's relationship with alcohol, and offers insights into fostering healthier drinking habits.

The Role of Family Relationships in Shaping Drinking Habits

The Impact of Family Relationships and History on Drinking Habits

Family relationships play a pivotal role in shaping an individual’s attitudes and behaviors towards alcohol. The impact can be both direct and indirect, influencing drinking habits through various mechanisms:

Parental Influence and Modeling

Parents serve as primary role models for their children. The way parents handle alcohol significantly affects their children's attitudes towards drinking. For instance, children of parents who drink responsibly are more likely to develop moderate drinking habits. Conversely, children who grow up in households where alcohol misuse is prevalent may adopt similar behaviors.

As discussed in How Parents' Drinking Habits Affect Their Kids, children of parents who misuse alcohol often face emotional and psychological challenges, including trust issues and low self-esteem. These children might internalize these issues and turn to alcohol as a coping mechanism.

Emotional and Psychological Impact

Growing up in a household with alcohol misuse can lead to long-lasting emotional and psychological effects. Children in such environments may experience neglect, emotional abuse, and inconsistent parenting, which can contribute to the development of unhealthy drinking habits later in life. The emotional turmoil and instability can push individuals towards alcohol as a means to escape or cope with their feelings.

Family Dynamics and Communication

The overall family dynamic and communication patterns also play a crucial role. In families where open communication about alcohol and its effects is encouraged, children are more likely to develop a healthy relationship with alcohol. On the other hand, in families where alcohol is a taboo subject, children might lack the information and support needed to understand and manage their drinking habits effectively.

The Impact of Family History on Drinking Habits

Family history, particularly the presence of alcohol use disorder (AUD) in close relatives, is a significant risk factor for developing similar issues. Genetics and environmental factors combine to influence drinking behaviors.

Genetic Predisposition

Research has shown that genetics can account for about 50% of the risk of developing AUD. If a parent or close relative struggles with alcohol misuse, the likelihood of an individual developing similar issues increases. This genetic predisposition means that some people are more vulnerable to the effects of alcohol and may develop dependence more quickly.

Learned Behaviors and Coping Mechanisms

Apart from genetics, learned behaviors play a critical role. Children often mimic their parents' coping mechanisms. If they observe their parents using alcohol to deal with stress, anxiety, or other emotional issues, they might adopt the same approach. This learned behavior can perpetuate a cycle of alcohol misuse across generations.

In the article Understanding Alcoholism's Impact on Families: How To Help, it is highlighted that the emotional and psychological toll on family members can lead to long-term issues, including fear, anxiety, and difficulties in forming healthy relationships. These factors can contribute to the development of unhealthy drinking habits.

Breaking the Cycle: Steps Towards Healthier Drinking Habits

Understanding the impact of family relationships and history on drinking habits is the first step towards breaking the cycle of alcohol misuse. Here are some strategies to foster healthier drinking behaviors:

Open Communication and Education

Encouraging open communication about alcohol and its effects within the family can help demystify the subject and provide children with the knowledge they need to make informed decisions. Education about the risks associated with alcohol misuse and the importance of moderation can empower individuals to develop healthier drinking habits.

Seeking Professional Help

For families struggling with alcohol misuse, seeking professional help can be crucial. Therapy and counseling can address underlying emotional and psychological issues, providing family members with the tools they need to cope in healthier ways. Family therapy can also help improve communication and strengthen relationships, creating a supportive environment for recovery.

Building Healthy Coping Mechanisms

Developing and promoting healthy coping mechanisms is essential in preventing alcohol misuse. Encouraging activities such as exercise, meditation, and hobbies can provide alternative ways to deal with stress and emotional challenges. Teaching children and adolescents healthy ways to cope with life's difficulties can reduce their reliance on alcohol as a coping tool.

Support Groups and Resources

Support groups like Al-Anon and Alateen offer support to family members affected by someone else's drinking. These groups provide a safe space to share experiences, gain insights, and find support from others facing similar challenges. Engaging with such resources can help family members navigate the complexities of alcohol misuse and its impact on their lives.

Conclusion

Family relationships and history significantly influence drinking habits. Understanding these influences is crucial in developing strategies to promote healthier drinking behaviors. By fostering open communication, seeking professional help, building healthy coping mechanisms, and utilizing support groups, individuals and families can break the cycle of alcohol misuse and build a healthier future.

By exploring these related articles, you can gain a deeper understanding of the various factors influencing drinking habits and find additional strategies to support healthier drinking behaviors.

Understanding the intricate web of factors that influence drinking habits is essential in addressing alcohol misuse and developing healthier drinking behaviors. One of the most significant influences comes from family relationships and history. This article delves into how family dynamics and history can shape an individual's relationship with alcohol, and offers insights into fostering healthier drinking habits.

The Role of Family Relationships in Shaping Drinking Habits

The Impact of Family Relationships and History on Drinking Habits

Family relationships play a pivotal role in shaping an individual’s attitudes and behaviors towards alcohol. The impact can be both direct and indirect, influencing drinking habits through various mechanisms:

Parental Influence and Modeling

Parents serve as primary role models for their children. The way parents handle alcohol significantly affects their children's attitudes towards drinking. For instance, children of parents who drink responsibly are more likely to develop moderate drinking habits. Conversely, children who grow up in households where alcohol misuse is prevalent may adopt similar behaviors.

As discussed in How Parents' Drinking Habits Affect Their Kids, children of parents who misuse alcohol often face emotional and psychological challenges, including trust issues and low self-esteem. These children might internalize these issues and turn to alcohol as a coping mechanism.

Emotional and Psychological Impact

Growing up in a household with alcohol misuse can lead to long-lasting emotional and psychological effects. Children in such environments may experience neglect, emotional abuse, and inconsistent parenting, which can contribute to the development of unhealthy drinking habits later in life. The emotional turmoil and instability can push individuals towards alcohol as a means to escape or cope with their feelings.

Family Dynamics and Communication

The overall family dynamic and communication patterns also play a crucial role. In families where open communication about alcohol and its effects is encouraged, children are more likely to develop a healthy relationship with alcohol. On the other hand, in families where alcohol is a taboo subject, children might lack the information and support needed to understand and manage their drinking habits effectively.

The Impact of Family History on Drinking Habits

Family history, particularly the presence of alcohol use disorder (AUD) in close relatives, is a significant risk factor for developing similar issues. Genetics and environmental factors combine to influence drinking behaviors.

Genetic Predisposition

Research has shown that genetics can account for about 50% of the risk of developing AUD. If a parent or close relative struggles with alcohol misuse, the likelihood of an individual developing similar issues increases. This genetic predisposition means that some people are more vulnerable to the effects of alcohol and may develop dependence more quickly.

Learned Behaviors and Coping Mechanisms

Apart from genetics, learned behaviors play a critical role. Children often mimic their parents' coping mechanisms. If they observe their parents using alcohol to deal with stress, anxiety, or other emotional issues, they might adopt the same approach. This learned behavior can perpetuate a cycle of alcohol misuse across generations.

In the article Understanding Alcoholism's Impact on Families: How To Help, it is highlighted that the emotional and psychological toll on family members can lead to long-term issues, including fear, anxiety, and difficulties in forming healthy relationships. These factors can contribute to the development of unhealthy drinking habits.

Breaking the Cycle: Steps Towards Healthier Drinking Habits

Understanding the impact of family relationships and history on drinking habits is the first step towards breaking the cycle of alcohol misuse. Here are some strategies to foster healthier drinking behaviors:

Open Communication and Education

Encouraging open communication about alcohol and its effects within the family can help demystify the subject and provide children with the knowledge they need to make informed decisions. Education about the risks associated with alcohol misuse and the importance of moderation can empower individuals to develop healthier drinking habits.

Seeking Professional Help

For families struggling with alcohol misuse, seeking professional help can be crucial. Therapy and counseling can address underlying emotional and psychological issues, providing family members with the tools they need to cope in healthier ways. Family therapy can also help improve communication and strengthen relationships, creating a supportive environment for recovery.

Building Healthy Coping Mechanisms

Developing and promoting healthy coping mechanisms is essential in preventing alcohol misuse. Encouraging activities such as exercise, meditation, and hobbies can provide alternative ways to deal with stress and emotional challenges. Teaching children and adolescents healthy ways to cope with life's difficulties can reduce their reliance on alcohol as a coping tool.

Support Groups and Resources

Support groups like Al-Anon and Alateen offer support to family members affected by someone else's drinking. These groups provide a safe space to share experiences, gain insights, and find support from others facing similar challenges. Engaging with such resources can help family members navigate the complexities of alcohol misuse and its impact on their lives.

Conclusion

Family relationships and history significantly influence drinking habits. Understanding these influences is crucial in developing strategies to promote healthier drinking behaviors. By fostering open communication, seeking professional help, building healthy coping mechanisms, and utilizing support groups, individuals and families can break the cycle of alcohol misuse and build a healthier future.

By exploring these related articles, you can gain a deeper understanding of the various factors influencing drinking habits and find additional strategies to support healthier drinking behaviors.

Alcohol and Mental Health
2024-06-10 9:00
Alcohol and Mental Health
The Link Between PTSD and Alcohol Misuse
This is some text inside of a div block.

PTSD is a mental health disorder that is complicated by alcohol misuse. The consequences of combining alcohol and PTSD can lead to panic attacks and a worsening of symptoms.

19 min read

Develop Healthy Coping Skills With Reframe

PTSD can be a disabling condition, and, when combined with alcohol, it generally becomes worse. Whether you’re looking for assistance with PTSD symptoms, anxiety, alcohol-related issues, or simply seeking a path to better wellness, Reframe is a great place to start.

Although it isn’t a treatment for alcohol use disorder (AUD), the Reframe app can help you cut back on drinking gradually with science-backed knowledge to empower you 100% of the way. Our proven program has helped millions worldwide drink less and live more. And we want to help you get there, too!

The Reframe app equips you with the knowledge and skills you need to not only survive drinking less but thrive while you navigate the journey. Our daily research-backed readings teach you the neuroscience of alcohol, and our in-app Toolkit provides the resources and activities you need to navigate each challenge.

You’ll meet millions of fellow Reframers in our 24/7 Forum chat and daily Zoom check-in meetings. Receive encouragement from people worldwide who know exactly what you’re going through! You’ll also be able to connect with our licensed Reframe coaches for more personalized guidance.

Plus, we’re always introducing new features to optimize your in-app experience. We recently launched our in-app chatbot, Melody, powered by the world’s most powerful AI technology. Melody is here to help you adjust to a life with less (or no) alcohol. 

And that’s not all! Every month, we launch fun challenges, like Dry/Damp January, Mental Health May, and Outdoorsy June. You won’t want to miss out on the chance to participate alongside fellow Reframers (or solo if that’s more your thing!).

The Reframe app is free for 7 days, so you don’t have anything to lose by trying it. Are you ready to feel empowered and discover life beyond alcohol? Then download our app through the App Store or Google Play today!

Read Full Article  →

For many of us, waking up on a workday morning is generally not the highlight of our day. Still, we pull ourselves together, grab a coffee, and head out (or head to our home office), even if we do it begrudgingly. And that’s the way it goes! However, this is not the case for all of us. 

Imagine waking up every morning with the weight of yesterday's nightmares on our mind. Worse yet, every routine task, whether a trip to the grocery store or a simple phone call, becomes a potential trigger for past traumas.

Unfortunately, some of us don’t have to imagine this scenario. Struggles like these are the reality for those of us living with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It’s a condition in which life becomes a daily struggle to find a semblance of stability in the midst of persisting traumatic memories. 

Let’s delve into the challenging aspects of PTSD by exploring its causes, risk factors, connection to alcohol misuse, and ways of coping with it. 

Defining Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

A person lying on a table with a bottle of alcohol nearby

The American Psychiatric Association defines PTSD as a psychiatric disorder that may occur in people who experienced or witnessed one or more traumatic events. Examples of traumatic events include:

  • Natural disasters
  • Serious accidents
  • Terrorist acts
  • War or combat
  • Rape or sexual assault
  • Intimate partner violence
  • Bullying

Traumatic events may be emotionally or physically harmful, or even life-threatening. The consequences of being exposed to traumatic events include mental, physical, social, and spiritual well-being effects. 

How Common Is PTSD?

Although an estimated 70% of adults in the United States will experience at least one traumatic event in their lifetime, only 20% will go on to develop PTSD. The disparity between those exposed to traumatic events and others who develop the disorder may be based on the level of trauma experienced or possibly the stigma around seeking professional help, which hides the reality of this statistic.

Looking at the overall picture, approximately 3.6% or 9.25 million adults in the U.S. have PTSD in any given year. Women are twice as likely as men to develop the disorder, with 1 in 9 women developing PTSD at some point in their lifetime. 

PTSD Symptoms

People who have PTSD experience a wide range of symptoms.

  • Nightmares 
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Headaches
  • Gastrointestinal problems

Flashbacks are the most common and well-known symptom of PTSD. These are more than “bad memories” — they are vivid experiences in which parts of a traumatic event are re-experienced. It may feel like the event is happening again in the moment.

How Is PTSD Diagnosed?

Not all PTSD sufferers experience all symptoms. Furthermore, not everyone with these symptoms meets the requirements of PTSD. To better understand PTSD, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM-V) identifies these key diagnostic criteria.

1. One or more incidents of exposure to actual or threatened death, serious injury, or sexual violence


2. One or more intrusive symptoms associated with the traumatic event, starting after the traumatic event occurred

  • Recurring and distressing memories
  • Recurring and distressing dreams
  • Recurring flashbacks
  • Intense or prolonged psychological distress by triggers related to the event


3. Persistently avoiding triggers associated with the traumatic event


4. Negative changes in thoughts and mood associated with the traumatic event


5. Loss of interest or participation in significant activities


6. Two or more changes in arousal and reactivity associated with the traumatic event

  • Irritability and angry outbursts 
  • Reckless or self-destructive behavior
  • Hypervigilance
  • Exaggerated startle response
  • Problems with concentration
  • Sleep disturbance 


7. The above symptoms are present for more than one month.


8. The symptoms cause distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.


9. The symptoms are not a result of the effects of a substance such as medication, alcohol, or another medical condition.

PTSD Risk Factors

The most obvious risk factor for PTSD is exposure to a traumatic event. However, as we learned, not everyone who experiences or witnesses a traumatic event will develop PTSD. This discrepancy is primarily due to the type of trauma, the length or frequency of exposure, and the increased vulnerability of some groups of individuals. The following is a list of individuals who are more at risk for developing PTSD.

  • Women are twice as likely as men
  • Children who experienced abuse or neglect
  • Individuals who have a family history of PTSD
  • Combat veterans
  • First responders
  • Individuals who are victims of sexual assault
  • Individuals with a history of alcohol and substance abuse
  • Survivors of natural disasters
  • Crime victims or witnesses to a crime
  • Individuals with lower income and education

Sadly, many people with PTSD suffer in silence. Perhaps it’s the stigma or a fear that no one will understand. Unfortunately, their silence stands in the way of treatment and recovery. Recently, celebrities have stepped forward to share their stories of PTSD and raise awareness of this often debilitating condition. Lady Gaga and Prince Harry are two vocal advocates of PTSD awareness. 

Alcohol’s Role

Those of us who drink do so for many reasons. Some of us like to drink to relax, chill out, or unwind, while others enjoy having a glass or two of wine with a meal or a beer while socializing. Still, for some, drinking alcohol serves an entirely different purpose. Some of us may consume alcohol as a coping mechanism or a form of self-medication. For those of us struggling with the distress of PTSD, alcohol can transform from a social lubricant into a temporary respite from pain.

There’s a reason everything feels a little less intense when drinking: alcohol is categorized as a depressant, meaning it slows down signals in our brain. Drinking affects our body and brain by slowing our reaction time, impairing our coordination and judgment, and generally relaxing us. 

Alcohol’s feel-good effects are short-lived. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism explains this phenomenon as the brain’s attempt to quickly adjust to alcohol’s induced positive effects to maintain balance. When the buzz wears off, we may feel more restless and anxious than we did before we drank. In other words, alcohol really does more harm than good.

The Connection Between PTSD and Alcohol Abuse

We just learned that excessive consumption of alcohol often has a boomerang effect on those of us who use it as a coping method or self-medication. This effect has particular relevance for anyone who struggles with PTSD.

Research on the connection between alcohol and PTSD dates back 40 years and has consistently found that alcohol use disorder (AUD) is much higher among people with PTSD diagnoses than those with no PTSD symptoms. Over the years, research on PTSD and alcohol (and PTSD and alcohol abuse, in particular) shows constant comorbidity and point sto self-medicating as a reasonable hypothesis.

For people struggling with alcohol and PTSD, it’s clear that consuming alcohol does little to help them cope; instead, it only temporarily numbs traumatic memories. In other words, the combination of PTSD and alcohol abuse is not only a poor coping mechanism, it can also be a harmful one. 

The Fallout From Combining Alcohol and PTSD

The unfortunate consequence of PTSD and alcohol abuse is often a worsening of PTSD’s symptoms. We learned that one of PTSD’s symptoms is increased reactivity. In some people who drink excessively while struggling with PTSD, their increased reactivity translates into panic attacks. While panic attacks on their own are not dangerous, for someone with PTSD, they can induce intense fear, anxiety, and flashbacks. 

Many people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) experience blackouts. These can also occur as a result of excessive alcohol intake. PTSD-alcohol blackouts may include intense flashbacks, or they may involve a dissociation from reality. 

Other mental or physical health problems often accompany PTSD and drinking problems. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, up to half of adults with both PTSD and drinking problems also have one or more of the following serious problems.


  • Panic disorder
  • Mood problems such as depression
  • Attention problems
  • Behaving in ways that harm others
  • Addiction to or abuse of street or prescription drugs
  • Long-term physical illness such as diabetes, heart disease, or liver disease
  • Ongoing physical pain


Without treatment for PTSD and alcohol abuse, a person can develop a destructive cycle of PTSD symptoms followed by drinking for relief of symptoms followed by increased PTSD symptoms and so on.

Treatment Options for PTSD and Alcohol Abuse

Current treatment strategies for the control of trauma-associated symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) related to alcohol misuse have recently been updated by Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Department of Defense (DoD) after over a decade of dedicated research. The most recent evidence suggests dramatic benefits from the use of trauma-focused therapies

  • Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT)
  • Prolonged Exposure Therapy (PE)
  • Eye Movement, Desensitization, and Restructuring (EMDR)

Drug treatment options are an evidence-based supplement to therapy, but neither of these work on their own. Common drugs prescribed to treat PTSD include antidepressants, anxiolytics, and antipsychotics. Evidence suggests particularly strong benefits from sertraline (Zoloft), paroxetine (Paxil), and venlafaxine (Effexor).

Healthy Ways to Cope With PTSD

Healthy Ways to Cope With PTSD 

Dealing with PTSD symptoms can be a struggle. Healthy coping mechanisms offer a lifeline through alternative paths to relief of PTSD symptoms. From mindfulness practices to therapeutic interventions, the journey toward healing involves reclaiming the semblance of normalcy that trauma seeks to unravel.

1. Mindful journaling. Create a daily journal to explore and express your emotions. Use prompts to delve into both positive and challenging experiences. This practice fosters self-awareness, allowing you to identify triggers and feelings that may contribute to alcohol misuse.

2. Strong support systems. Connect with friends, family, or support groups who understand the complexities of PTSD and alcohol misuse. Share your journey, lean on others for support, and let them be a guiding light during challenging times.

3. Quitting or cutting back on alcohol. If you choose to consume alcohol, do so mindfully. Set limits, be aware of your triggers, and recognize when it's becoming a coping mechanism. Consider exploring alcohol-free alternatives during social events.

4. Physical activity. Engage in regular physical activity, as it has proven benefits for mental health. Whether it's a brisk walk, yoga, or dance, movement can be a powerful tool in managing both PTSD symptoms and alcohol misuse.

5. Artistic expression. Explore creative outlets as a form of therapy. Whether it's painting, writing, or playing music, artistic expression can provide a channel for processing emotions and breaking free from the constraints of trauma.

6. Professional guidance. Reach out to mental health professionals specializing in trauma and addiction. They can provide personalized guidance, therapeutic interventions, and a roadmap to recovery tailored to your unique journey.

7. The Reframe app. A mindful drinking app like Reframe is an excellent supplement to the above options. Reframe offers a holistic approach to your well-being with daily readings on a variety of topics, a 24/7 forum of fellow Reframers ready to cheer you on, 1-on-1 coaching, daily Zoom meetings, courses, and challenges.

Moving Forward

If you’re experiencing PTSD, you are not alone. There are many resources out there to help you develop coping skills so you can move forward and thrive.

If you are experiencing a mental health crisis, please dial 988 (in the United States) to be connected with mental health resources in your area. If you live outside the U.S., dial your local mental health crisis line.

For many of us, waking up on a workday morning is generally not the highlight of our day. Still, we pull ourselves together, grab a coffee, and head out (or head to our home office), even if we do it begrudgingly. And that’s the way it goes! However, this is not the case for all of us. 

Imagine waking up every morning with the weight of yesterday's nightmares on our mind. Worse yet, every routine task, whether a trip to the grocery store or a simple phone call, becomes a potential trigger for past traumas.

Unfortunately, some of us don’t have to imagine this scenario. Struggles like these are the reality for those of us living with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It’s a condition in which life becomes a daily struggle to find a semblance of stability in the midst of persisting traumatic memories. 

Let’s delve into the challenging aspects of PTSD by exploring its causes, risk factors, connection to alcohol misuse, and ways of coping with it. 

Defining Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

A person lying on a table with a bottle of alcohol nearby

The American Psychiatric Association defines PTSD as a psychiatric disorder that may occur in people who experienced or witnessed one or more traumatic events. Examples of traumatic events include:

  • Natural disasters
  • Serious accidents
  • Terrorist acts
  • War or combat
  • Rape or sexual assault
  • Intimate partner violence
  • Bullying

Traumatic events may be emotionally or physically harmful, or even life-threatening. The consequences of being exposed to traumatic events include mental, physical, social, and spiritual well-being effects. 

How Common Is PTSD?

Although an estimated 70% of adults in the United States will experience at least one traumatic event in their lifetime, only 20% will go on to develop PTSD. The disparity between those exposed to traumatic events and others who develop the disorder may be based on the level of trauma experienced or possibly the stigma around seeking professional help, which hides the reality of this statistic.

Looking at the overall picture, approximately 3.6% or 9.25 million adults in the U.S. have PTSD in any given year. Women are twice as likely as men to develop the disorder, with 1 in 9 women developing PTSD at some point in their lifetime. 

PTSD Symptoms

People who have PTSD experience a wide range of symptoms.

  • Nightmares 
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Headaches
  • Gastrointestinal problems

Flashbacks are the most common and well-known symptom of PTSD. These are more than “bad memories” — they are vivid experiences in which parts of a traumatic event are re-experienced. It may feel like the event is happening again in the moment.

How Is PTSD Diagnosed?

Not all PTSD sufferers experience all symptoms. Furthermore, not everyone with these symptoms meets the requirements of PTSD. To better understand PTSD, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM-V) identifies these key diagnostic criteria.

1. One or more incidents of exposure to actual or threatened death, serious injury, or sexual violence


2. One or more intrusive symptoms associated with the traumatic event, starting after the traumatic event occurred

  • Recurring and distressing memories
  • Recurring and distressing dreams
  • Recurring flashbacks
  • Intense or prolonged psychological distress by triggers related to the event


3. Persistently avoiding triggers associated with the traumatic event


4. Negative changes in thoughts and mood associated with the traumatic event


5. Loss of interest or participation in significant activities


6. Two or more changes in arousal and reactivity associated with the traumatic event

  • Irritability and angry outbursts 
  • Reckless or self-destructive behavior
  • Hypervigilance
  • Exaggerated startle response
  • Problems with concentration
  • Sleep disturbance 


7. The above symptoms are present for more than one month.


8. The symptoms cause distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.


9. The symptoms are not a result of the effects of a substance such as medication, alcohol, or another medical condition.

PTSD Risk Factors

The most obvious risk factor for PTSD is exposure to a traumatic event. However, as we learned, not everyone who experiences or witnesses a traumatic event will develop PTSD. This discrepancy is primarily due to the type of trauma, the length or frequency of exposure, and the increased vulnerability of some groups of individuals. The following is a list of individuals who are more at risk for developing PTSD.

  • Women are twice as likely as men
  • Children who experienced abuse or neglect
  • Individuals who have a family history of PTSD
  • Combat veterans
  • First responders
  • Individuals who are victims of sexual assault
  • Individuals with a history of alcohol and substance abuse
  • Survivors of natural disasters
  • Crime victims or witnesses to a crime
  • Individuals with lower income and education

Sadly, many people with PTSD suffer in silence. Perhaps it’s the stigma or a fear that no one will understand. Unfortunately, their silence stands in the way of treatment and recovery. Recently, celebrities have stepped forward to share their stories of PTSD and raise awareness of this often debilitating condition. Lady Gaga and Prince Harry are two vocal advocates of PTSD awareness. 

Alcohol’s Role

Those of us who drink do so for many reasons. Some of us like to drink to relax, chill out, or unwind, while others enjoy having a glass or two of wine with a meal or a beer while socializing. Still, for some, drinking alcohol serves an entirely different purpose. Some of us may consume alcohol as a coping mechanism or a form of self-medication. For those of us struggling with the distress of PTSD, alcohol can transform from a social lubricant into a temporary respite from pain.

There’s a reason everything feels a little less intense when drinking: alcohol is categorized as a depressant, meaning it slows down signals in our brain. Drinking affects our body and brain by slowing our reaction time, impairing our coordination and judgment, and generally relaxing us. 

Alcohol’s feel-good effects are short-lived. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism explains this phenomenon as the brain’s attempt to quickly adjust to alcohol’s induced positive effects to maintain balance. When the buzz wears off, we may feel more restless and anxious than we did before we drank. In other words, alcohol really does more harm than good.

The Connection Between PTSD and Alcohol Abuse

We just learned that excessive consumption of alcohol often has a boomerang effect on those of us who use it as a coping method or self-medication. This effect has particular relevance for anyone who struggles with PTSD.

Research on the connection between alcohol and PTSD dates back 40 years and has consistently found that alcohol use disorder (AUD) is much higher among people with PTSD diagnoses than those with no PTSD symptoms. Over the years, research on PTSD and alcohol (and PTSD and alcohol abuse, in particular) shows constant comorbidity and point sto self-medicating as a reasonable hypothesis.

For people struggling with alcohol and PTSD, it’s clear that consuming alcohol does little to help them cope; instead, it only temporarily numbs traumatic memories. In other words, the combination of PTSD and alcohol abuse is not only a poor coping mechanism, it can also be a harmful one. 

The Fallout From Combining Alcohol and PTSD

The unfortunate consequence of PTSD and alcohol abuse is often a worsening of PTSD’s symptoms. We learned that one of PTSD’s symptoms is increased reactivity. In some people who drink excessively while struggling with PTSD, their increased reactivity translates into panic attacks. While panic attacks on their own are not dangerous, for someone with PTSD, they can induce intense fear, anxiety, and flashbacks. 

Many people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) experience blackouts. These can also occur as a result of excessive alcohol intake. PTSD-alcohol blackouts may include intense flashbacks, or they may involve a dissociation from reality. 

Other mental or physical health problems often accompany PTSD and drinking problems. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, up to half of adults with both PTSD and drinking problems also have one or more of the following serious problems.


  • Panic disorder
  • Mood problems such as depression
  • Attention problems
  • Behaving in ways that harm others
  • Addiction to or abuse of street or prescription drugs
  • Long-term physical illness such as diabetes, heart disease, or liver disease
  • Ongoing physical pain


Without treatment for PTSD and alcohol abuse, a person can develop a destructive cycle of PTSD symptoms followed by drinking for relief of symptoms followed by increased PTSD symptoms and so on.

Treatment Options for PTSD and Alcohol Abuse

Current treatment strategies for the control of trauma-associated symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) related to alcohol misuse have recently been updated by Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Department of Defense (DoD) after over a decade of dedicated research. The most recent evidence suggests dramatic benefits from the use of trauma-focused therapies

  • Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT)
  • Prolonged Exposure Therapy (PE)
  • Eye Movement, Desensitization, and Restructuring (EMDR)

Drug treatment options are an evidence-based supplement to therapy, but neither of these work on their own. Common drugs prescribed to treat PTSD include antidepressants, anxiolytics, and antipsychotics. Evidence suggests particularly strong benefits from sertraline (Zoloft), paroxetine (Paxil), and venlafaxine (Effexor).

Healthy Ways to Cope With PTSD

Healthy Ways to Cope With PTSD 

Dealing with PTSD symptoms can be a struggle. Healthy coping mechanisms offer a lifeline through alternative paths to relief of PTSD symptoms. From mindfulness practices to therapeutic interventions, the journey toward healing involves reclaiming the semblance of normalcy that trauma seeks to unravel.

1. Mindful journaling. Create a daily journal to explore and express your emotions. Use prompts to delve into both positive and challenging experiences. This practice fosters self-awareness, allowing you to identify triggers and feelings that may contribute to alcohol misuse.

2. Strong support systems. Connect with friends, family, or support groups who understand the complexities of PTSD and alcohol misuse. Share your journey, lean on others for support, and let them be a guiding light during challenging times.

3. Quitting or cutting back on alcohol. If you choose to consume alcohol, do so mindfully. Set limits, be aware of your triggers, and recognize when it's becoming a coping mechanism. Consider exploring alcohol-free alternatives during social events.

4. Physical activity. Engage in regular physical activity, as it has proven benefits for mental health. Whether it's a brisk walk, yoga, or dance, movement can be a powerful tool in managing both PTSD symptoms and alcohol misuse.

5. Artistic expression. Explore creative outlets as a form of therapy. Whether it's painting, writing, or playing music, artistic expression can provide a channel for processing emotions and breaking free from the constraints of trauma.

6. Professional guidance. Reach out to mental health professionals specializing in trauma and addiction. They can provide personalized guidance, therapeutic interventions, and a roadmap to recovery tailored to your unique journey.

7. The Reframe app. A mindful drinking app like Reframe is an excellent supplement to the above options. Reframe offers a holistic approach to your well-being with daily readings on a variety of topics, a 24/7 forum of fellow Reframers ready to cheer you on, 1-on-1 coaching, daily Zoom meetings, courses, and challenges.

Moving Forward

If you’re experiencing PTSD, you are not alone. There are many resources out there to help you develop coping skills so you can move forward and thrive.

If you are experiencing a mental health crisis, please dial 988 (in the United States) to be connected with mental health resources in your area. If you live outside the U.S., dial your local mental health crisis line.

Alcohol and Mental Health
2024-06-08 9:00
Alcohol and Mental Health
PTSD and Alcoholism in Veterans
This is some text inside of a div block.

Alcoholism in veterans is often the unfortunate fallout of PTSD. What’s the science behind the connection? And is there a way out? Find out more in our latest blog!

23 min read

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Read Full Article  →

“There’s a group of people coming to kill all of us right now.” In his talk about dealing with PTSD after his 2009 tour in Afghanistan, Brandon talks about the terrifying realization he had during his first days of combat. The experience left him with the kind of emotional turmoil that makes everyday situations trigger intense outbursts.

Brandon’s story is, unfortunately, all too common among the ranks of veterans. And often it leads to substance abuse. What is the link between veterans and alcoholism? And is alcoholism a VA disability? Let’s find out more.

Alcoholism in Veterans: Invisible Wounds

Most of us can’t imagine the horrors of war. But for thousands of veterans, the sights and sounds of extreme fear, pain, and death were once an everyday reality. Understandably, it leaves wounds — physical ones, but invisible ones as well.

The roots of veteran alcohol abuse are often connected to the trauma left behind after the gunshots have ceased and the dust has settled on the battlefield. Life has moved on, but something in the mind clings to the horrors of the past, trying to make sense of them. 

What Is PTSD?

In The Evil Hours: A Biography of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, David Morris writes about the devastating effects of PTSD. It can make it feel as if we’re stuck in time, unable to find our “groove” for years on end:

“Trauma destroys the fabric of time. In normal time you move from one moment to the next, sunrise to sunset, birth to death. After trauma, you may move in circles, find yourself being sucked backwards into an eddy or bouncing like a rubber ball from now to then to back again ... In the traumatic universe the basic laws of matter are suspended: ceiling fans can be helicopters, car exhaust can be mustard gas.”

In psychological terms, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that can develop after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event. It can have many causes and can manifest in different ways, often leading to alcoholism in veterans and others who experience it.

Causes of PTSD

As New York Times columnist David Brooks writes in “The Moral Injury,” 

“People generally don’t suffer high rates of PTSD after natural disasters. Instead, people suffer from PTSD after moral atrocities. Soldiers who’ve endured the depraved world of combat experience their own symptoms. Trauma is an expulsive cataclysm of the soul.”

For veterans, traumatic experiences such as combat exposure, military sexual trauma, or the loss of comrades can trigger symptoms of PTSD. 

Symptoms of PTSD

The main feature of PTSD is that the memories persist, intruding on our daily experience of life and making it difficult to move on. 

The symptoms of PTSD may include a number of psychological traits and patterns:

  • Flashbacks. One of the most common and devastating symptoms, flashbacks bring us back to the trauma-causing event. They can happen at any time — a memory, a conversation, something we see in the news, or even a particular smell or taste can serve as a trigger. All of a sudden we’re back on the battlefield, our life flashing before our eyes.
  • Nightmares. The trauma we experience in real life often haunts our dreams, causing nightmares that add to the stress during the day and sometimes rob us of much-needed sleep.
  • Hypervigilance. In Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence — From Domestic Abuse to Political Terror, Judith Lewis Herman writes: “After a traumatic experience, the human system of self-preservation seems to go onto permanent alert, as if the danger might return at any moment.” We might feel the need to “sleep with one eye open” all the time, watching for signs of danger coming around the corner. With the “fight or flight” response of the autonomic nervous system activated at the slightest provocation, we find ourselves in a state of hyperarousal.
  • Avoidance of reminders of the trauma. We might develop a habit of avoiding subjects related to our past trauma altogether. It’s the brain’s way of keeping us safe, but it can become counterproductive, getting in the way of our daily activities.
  • Negative changes in mood and cognition. We might notice shifts in our overall energy levels, mood, and ability to keep up with life. Tasks that used to be automatic might get more difficult, while small things set us off, causing angry outbursts or crying spells.

How Common Are PTSD and SUD in Veterans?

Research shows that alcohol use disorder (AUD) is very common in veterans. Part of the reason has to do with simple demographics: AUD is more common in males. Around 90% of veterans who receive AUD care from Veterans Affairs (VA) are male — a percentage that matches the overall gender composition of the veteran population, which is predominantly male. According to the NIH, 65% of those seeking help for substance abuse disorder(SUD) report alcohol as their “drug of choice.” However, some might be hesitant to admit to using other drugs because of the stigma or possible impact on their military careers.

As for PTSD, at least 7% of veterans are likely to experience it. However, this is probably an underestimate. If we dig deeper and look at the statistics related to recent wars, the numbers are even higher. As it turns out, 15% of veterans who participated in Operations Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Enduring Freedom (OEF) experienced PTSD in the last year. And 29% (almost a third!) will experience PTSD at some point in their lives. Understandably, PTSD is also 3 times more likely in veterans who were deployed (i.e. went overseas and saw combat) than those who were not. 

The numbers tend to be higher among women. In 2021, there were 6 million veterans using VA care. Out of them, 10% of males and 19% of females were diagnosed with PTSD. Unfortunately, the reason has to do with the prevalence of sexual trauma that adds to the burden women often face in the military. The numbers are staggering: as many as 1 in 3 women (compared to 1 in 50 men) receiving VA services reported sexual trauma related to their time in the service. 

With over 2.5 million soldiers deployed to Afghanistan or Iraq, since September 11, 2001, PTSD has been called an “epidemic” among veterans. The implications are devastating: according to the UNC School of Medicine Institute for Trauma Recovery, “1 veteran commits suicide in the U.S. every 80 minutes.”

Alcoholism VA Ratings

The VA uses a system of ratings to classify combat-related disabilities. They are expressed as percentages, with higher values indicating a higher level of disability (and possible compensation).

Some of us might be wondering, what is the “PTSD with alcohol use disorder” VA rating? And is alcoholism a VA disability in the first place? 

While alcoholism doesn’t “count” as a primary VA disability, its aftereffects (as well as the PTSD that might have led up to it) do. For example, if a veteran receives a 50% disability rating for PTSD, that number could go up to 70% as a result of AUD-related health effects. 

The Link Between Alcohol Misuse and PTSD

Research has shown a strong association between PTSD and alcoholism in veterans. According to studies, veterans with PTSD are more likely to develop alcohol use disorder compared to those without PTSD. 

The relationship between PTSD and alcoholism is complex and multifaceted, with several factors coming into play:

1. Impaired Coping Skills

There’s a lot of guilt that comes with combat-related PTSD. As Brooks writes in “The Moral Injury,” 

“Many veterans feel guilty because they lived while others died. Some feel ashamed because they didn’t bring all their men home and wonder what they could have done differently to save them. When they get home they wonder if there’s something wrong with them because they find war repugnant but also thrilling. They hate it and miss it. Many of their self-judgments go to extremes … The self-condemnation can be crippling.”

Added to the guilt are many other emotions, including fear, anger, and hopelessness. Intrusive memories, nightmares, and hyperarousal can make the challenge of dealing with these difficult feelings appear insurmountable. 

We need coping strategies to overcome challenges as heavy as PTSD and AUD, but it’s not always obvious what we should do. Without adequate resources or access to psychological help, alcohol or drugs might seem like the easiest “quick fix.” 

As a central nervous system depressant, alcohol temporarily slows down our thinking and dulls our reflexes, creating an illusion of relaxation. However, the effect is only temporary: the emotional pain and psychological distress might fade into the background for some time, but usually come back stronger once the boozy haze wears off.

2. Neurobiological Factors

As veteran Jake Wood writes in Among You: The Extraordinary True Story of a Soldier Broken By War, experiencing combat and PTSD changes something in the very biology of our emotional landscape:

“You are no longer human, with all those depths and highs and nuances of emotion that define you as a person. There is no feeling anymore, because to feel any emotion would also be to beckon the overwhelming blackness from you. My mind has now locked all this down. And without any control of this self-defense mechanism my subconscious has operated. I do not feel anymore.”

This emotional “dullness” is a classic sign of dopamine depletion, which can be a symptom of PTSD and alcoholism alike. The “feel-good chemical” is part of the brain’s reward system, which normally makes activities such as socializing, eating, or pursuing romantic interests enjoyable. 

Traumatic experiences can cause neurological shifts in our reward system (as well as in our natural endorphin levels) that make it hard for us to experience joy. It makes all the more sense why alcohol — which boosts dopamine and endorphins in the short term — seems like a solution. However, over time the brain produces less of the neurochemical to rebalance itself, leading to dependence and addiction. The result? Both PTSD and alcohol misuse become further entrenched and more difficult to overcome.

3. Social Isolation 

Last but not least, one of the most crippling effects of living with the memories of active combat is the fact that it can be an incredibly lonely experience. Most of us haven’t experienced it directly, and while we might be able to empathize at a human level, it’s not the same. Heartbreaking as it is, our gestures of empathy are simply not enough. As veteran Jake Wood writes in Among You: The Extraordinary True Story of a Soldier Broken By War, “I feel no emotional connection to these outwardly human gestures. I am not there, because I never left Afghanistan.”

As a result, veterans can fall into a downward spiral of isolation, retreating from life rather than trying to find connection and meaning. Once alcohol is in the picture, the spiral turns into a vortex: drinking to cope with the trauma only increases the isolation, fueling addictive behavior as time goes on. (To find out more, take a look at “How Do Loneliness and Alcohol Fuel Each Other.”)

The Way Out of PTSD and AUD

While PTSD and AUD alike can seem like an impossible trap, there’s light at the end of the tunnel. Many have made it out to the other side. That said, it takes some hard work — but it can absolutely be done! Here are some ideas to start with.

  1. Seek help. There’s no shame in asking for help — in fact, it’s a sign of strength. As Joan Beder writes in Advances in Social Work Practice with the Military, “The key to reducing stigma is to present mental health care as a routine aspect of health care, similar to getting a checkup or an X-ray.” Getting help should be the norm, not the exception, and it should always be actively encouraged. After all, there are lives at stake — lives that were so bravely put on the line on the battlefield.
  2. Find a community. There’s strength in numbers, and battling PTSD and AUD is no exception. Both conditions can be extremely isolating, so getting support from others can make a world of difference, providing that crucial bit of hope that recovery is possible. 

    There are many support groups for veterans out there, including organizations such as the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) and Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), which can provide valuable resources for PTSD and AUD while fostering a sense of community. You’re not alone!
  3. Build a new life, step by step. While it’s certainly easier said than done, it’s possible to find peace, joy, and a source of meaning after a struggle with PTSD and AUD. The key is taking small steps: rediscover old hobbies, take classes in subjects you’re interested in, and listen to podcasts or audiobooks to spark curiosity. 

    Start with a few minutes a day devoted to activities that enrich your life and help you tap into new sources of meaning. It might feel awkward at first, but don’t worry! Any step in the right direction is a victory worth celebrating.

With these steps, you can start your journey to rediscovering life and redefining your place in it. And remember, Reframe is here to support you every step of the way!

PTSD, AUD, and Hope

In the end, it’s crucial to remember that both PTSD and AUD are medical conditions. And while it’s our responsibility to address them, it’s never our fault if we find ourselves struggling. We should never feel alone in the process — let’s not lose sight of the fact that recovery is possible, and there’s so much hope and joy waiting for us.

“There’s a group of people coming to kill all of us right now.” In his talk about dealing with PTSD after his 2009 tour in Afghanistan, Brandon talks about the terrifying realization he had during his first days of combat. The experience left him with the kind of emotional turmoil that makes everyday situations trigger intense outbursts.

Brandon’s story is, unfortunately, all too common among the ranks of veterans. And often it leads to substance abuse. What is the link between veterans and alcoholism? And is alcoholism a VA disability? Let’s find out more.

Alcoholism in Veterans: Invisible Wounds

Most of us can’t imagine the horrors of war. But for thousands of veterans, the sights and sounds of extreme fear, pain, and death were once an everyday reality. Understandably, it leaves wounds — physical ones, but invisible ones as well.

The roots of veteran alcohol abuse are often connected to the trauma left behind after the gunshots have ceased and the dust has settled on the battlefield. Life has moved on, but something in the mind clings to the horrors of the past, trying to make sense of them. 

What Is PTSD?

In The Evil Hours: A Biography of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, David Morris writes about the devastating effects of PTSD. It can make it feel as if we’re stuck in time, unable to find our “groove” for years on end:

“Trauma destroys the fabric of time. In normal time you move from one moment to the next, sunrise to sunset, birth to death. After trauma, you may move in circles, find yourself being sucked backwards into an eddy or bouncing like a rubber ball from now to then to back again ... In the traumatic universe the basic laws of matter are suspended: ceiling fans can be helicopters, car exhaust can be mustard gas.”

In psychological terms, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that can develop after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event. It can have many causes and can manifest in different ways, often leading to alcoholism in veterans and others who experience it.

Causes of PTSD

As New York Times columnist David Brooks writes in “The Moral Injury,” 

“People generally don’t suffer high rates of PTSD after natural disasters. Instead, people suffer from PTSD after moral atrocities. Soldiers who’ve endured the depraved world of combat experience their own symptoms. Trauma is an expulsive cataclysm of the soul.”

For veterans, traumatic experiences such as combat exposure, military sexual trauma, or the loss of comrades can trigger symptoms of PTSD. 

Symptoms of PTSD

The main feature of PTSD is that the memories persist, intruding on our daily experience of life and making it difficult to move on. 

The symptoms of PTSD may include a number of psychological traits and patterns:

  • Flashbacks. One of the most common and devastating symptoms, flashbacks bring us back to the trauma-causing event. They can happen at any time — a memory, a conversation, something we see in the news, or even a particular smell or taste can serve as a trigger. All of a sudden we’re back on the battlefield, our life flashing before our eyes.
  • Nightmares. The trauma we experience in real life often haunts our dreams, causing nightmares that add to the stress during the day and sometimes rob us of much-needed sleep.
  • Hypervigilance. In Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence — From Domestic Abuse to Political Terror, Judith Lewis Herman writes: “After a traumatic experience, the human system of self-preservation seems to go onto permanent alert, as if the danger might return at any moment.” We might feel the need to “sleep with one eye open” all the time, watching for signs of danger coming around the corner. With the “fight or flight” response of the autonomic nervous system activated at the slightest provocation, we find ourselves in a state of hyperarousal.
  • Avoidance of reminders of the trauma. We might develop a habit of avoiding subjects related to our past trauma altogether. It’s the brain’s way of keeping us safe, but it can become counterproductive, getting in the way of our daily activities.
  • Negative changes in mood and cognition. We might notice shifts in our overall energy levels, mood, and ability to keep up with life. Tasks that used to be automatic might get more difficult, while small things set us off, causing angry outbursts or crying spells.

How Common Are PTSD and SUD in Veterans?

Research shows that alcohol use disorder (AUD) is very common in veterans. Part of the reason has to do with simple demographics: AUD is more common in males. Around 90% of veterans who receive AUD care from Veterans Affairs (VA) are male — a percentage that matches the overall gender composition of the veteran population, which is predominantly male. According to the NIH, 65% of those seeking help for substance abuse disorder(SUD) report alcohol as their “drug of choice.” However, some might be hesitant to admit to using other drugs because of the stigma or possible impact on their military careers.

As for PTSD, at least 7% of veterans are likely to experience it. However, this is probably an underestimate. If we dig deeper and look at the statistics related to recent wars, the numbers are even higher. As it turns out, 15% of veterans who participated in Operations Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Enduring Freedom (OEF) experienced PTSD in the last year. And 29% (almost a third!) will experience PTSD at some point in their lives. Understandably, PTSD is also 3 times more likely in veterans who were deployed (i.e. went overseas and saw combat) than those who were not. 

The numbers tend to be higher among women. In 2021, there were 6 million veterans using VA care. Out of them, 10% of males and 19% of females were diagnosed with PTSD. Unfortunately, the reason has to do with the prevalence of sexual trauma that adds to the burden women often face in the military. The numbers are staggering: as many as 1 in 3 women (compared to 1 in 50 men) receiving VA services reported sexual trauma related to their time in the service. 

With over 2.5 million soldiers deployed to Afghanistan or Iraq, since September 11, 2001, PTSD has been called an “epidemic” among veterans. The implications are devastating: according to the UNC School of Medicine Institute for Trauma Recovery, “1 veteran commits suicide in the U.S. every 80 minutes.”

Alcoholism VA Ratings

The VA uses a system of ratings to classify combat-related disabilities. They are expressed as percentages, with higher values indicating a higher level of disability (and possible compensation).

Some of us might be wondering, what is the “PTSD with alcohol use disorder” VA rating? And is alcoholism a VA disability in the first place? 

While alcoholism doesn’t “count” as a primary VA disability, its aftereffects (as well as the PTSD that might have led up to it) do. For example, if a veteran receives a 50% disability rating for PTSD, that number could go up to 70% as a result of AUD-related health effects. 

The Link Between Alcohol Misuse and PTSD

Research has shown a strong association between PTSD and alcoholism in veterans. According to studies, veterans with PTSD are more likely to develop alcohol use disorder compared to those without PTSD. 

The relationship between PTSD and alcoholism is complex and multifaceted, with several factors coming into play:

1. Impaired Coping Skills

There’s a lot of guilt that comes with combat-related PTSD. As Brooks writes in “The Moral Injury,” 

“Many veterans feel guilty because they lived while others died. Some feel ashamed because they didn’t bring all their men home and wonder what they could have done differently to save them. When they get home they wonder if there’s something wrong with them because they find war repugnant but also thrilling. They hate it and miss it. Many of their self-judgments go to extremes … The self-condemnation can be crippling.”

Added to the guilt are many other emotions, including fear, anger, and hopelessness. Intrusive memories, nightmares, and hyperarousal can make the challenge of dealing with these difficult feelings appear insurmountable. 

We need coping strategies to overcome challenges as heavy as PTSD and AUD, but it’s not always obvious what we should do. Without adequate resources or access to psychological help, alcohol or drugs might seem like the easiest “quick fix.” 

As a central nervous system depressant, alcohol temporarily slows down our thinking and dulls our reflexes, creating an illusion of relaxation. However, the effect is only temporary: the emotional pain and psychological distress might fade into the background for some time, but usually come back stronger once the boozy haze wears off.

2. Neurobiological Factors

As veteran Jake Wood writes in Among You: The Extraordinary True Story of a Soldier Broken By War, experiencing combat and PTSD changes something in the very biology of our emotional landscape:

“You are no longer human, with all those depths and highs and nuances of emotion that define you as a person. There is no feeling anymore, because to feel any emotion would also be to beckon the overwhelming blackness from you. My mind has now locked all this down. And without any control of this self-defense mechanism my subconscious has operated. I do not feel anymore.”

This emotional “dullness” is a classic sign of dopamine depletion, which can be a symptom of PTSD and alcoholism alike. The “feel-good chemical” is part of the brain’s reward system, which normally makes activities such as socializing, eating, or pursuing romantic interests enjoyable. 

Traumatic experiences can cause neurological shifts in our reward system (as well as in our natural endorphin levels) that make it hard for us to experience joy. It makes all the more sense why alcohol — which boosts dopamine and endorphins in the short term — seems like a solution. However, over time the brain produces less of the neurochemical to rebalance itself, leading to dependence and addiction. The result? Both PTSD and alcohol misuse become further entrenched and more difficult to overcome.

3. Social Isolation 

Last but not least, one of the most crippling effects of living with the memories of active combat is the fact that it can be an incredibly lonely experience. Most of us haven’t experienced it directly, and while we might be able to empathize at a human level, it’s not the same. Heartbreaking as it is, our gestures of empathy are simply not enough. As veteran Jake Wood writes in Among You: The Extraordinary True Story of a Soldier Broken By War, “I feel no emotional connection to these outwardly human gestures. I am not there, because I never left Afghanistan.”

As a result, veterans can fall into a downward spiral of isolation, retreating from life rather than trying to find connection and meaning. Once alcohol is in the picture, the spiral turns into a vortex: drinking to cope with the trauma only increases the isolation, fueling addictive behavior as time goes on. (To find out more, take a look at “How Do Loneliness and Alcohol Fuel Each Other.”)

The Way Out of PTSD and AUD

While PTSD and AUD alike can seem like an impossible trap, there’s light at the end of the tunnel. Many have made it out to the other side. That said, it takes some hard work — but it can absolutely be done! Here are some ideas to start with.

  1. Seek help. There’s no shame in asking for help — in fact, it’s a sign of strength. As Joan Beder writes in Advances in Social Work Practice with the Military, “The key to reducing stigma is to present mental health care as a routine aspect of health care, similar to getting a checkup or an X-ray.” Getting help should be the norm, not the exception, and it should always be actively encouraged. After all, there are lives at stake — lives that were so bravely put on the line on the battlefield.
  2. Find a community. There’s strength in numbers, and battling PTSD and AUD is no exception. Both conditions can be extremely isolating, so getting support from others can make a world of difference, providing that crucial bit of hope that recovery is possible. 

    There are many support groups for veterans out there, including organizations such as the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) and Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), which can provide valuable resources for PTSD and AUD while fostering a sense of community. You’re not alone!
  3. Build a new life, step by step. While it’s certainly easier said than done, it’s possible to find peace, joy, and a source of meaning after a struggle with PTSD and AUD. The key is taking small steps: rediscover old hobbies, take classes in subjects you’re interested in, and listen to podcasts or audiobooks to spark curiosity. 

    Start with a few minutes a day devoted to activities that enrich your life and help you tap into new sources of meaning. It might feel awkward at first, but don’t worry! Any step in the right direction is a victory worth celebrating.

With these steps, you can start your journey to rediscovering life and redefining your place in it. And remember, Reframe is here to support you every step of the way!

PTSD, AUD, and Hope

In the end, it’s crucial to remember that both PTSD and AUD are medical conditions. And while it’s our responsibility to address them, it’s never our fault if we find ourselves struggling. We should never feel alone in the process — let’s not lose sight of the fact that recovery is possible, and there’s so much hope and joy waiting for us.

Alcohol and Mental Health