How to Cope With Anxiety After Quitting Alcohol

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If you find yourself feeling anxious after you quit drinking alcohol you are not alone. While you may be concerned about it, it is important to realize that anxiety is quite common in the early stages of sobriety. Given some time, patience, and the right support you can manage your anxiety and prevent relapse.

This article will explore how long anxiety lasts after quitting alcohol, and some reasons it occurs to begin with. We will also share some helpful tips on how to manage anxiety after quitting alcohol. Rest assured; you don’t have to struggle with anxiety in the long term and there are effective ways to cope with it as you work towards sobriety.

Why do You Feel Anxious when You Quit Drinking? 

There are a couple of explanations for feeling anxious after quitting alcohol. For one, perhaps you had anxiety prior to your alcohol use (pre-existing anxiety) and turned to drinking as a means to cope with or alleviate those feelings. Social anxiety is one common example. Many people rely on alcohol to take the edge off their discomfort or lack of confidence in social interactions.

However, alcohol only disguises itself as a coping mechanism because it helps you feel relaxed. But all it accomplishes is a numbing of emotions and once it wears off the anxiety resurfaces. So drinking is nothing more than a bandaid solution to your anxiety.

The second thing to consider is what happens to your brain when alcohol leaves your system after long-term use, or when you experience alcohol withdrawal. Anxiety is just one of the many withdrawal symptoms that can occur once alcohol leaves the body.

Alcohol elevates the “calming” neurochemicals in the brain so when your blood alcohol levels drop you can actually feel more anxious than prior to drinking. This uptick in anxiety can continue for a while as your brain adjusts to the absence of alcohol. 

How Long Does Anxiety Last After You Quit Drinking? 

It is essential to have realistic expectations about your anxiety after you stop drinking. It won’t happen overnight but your brain chemistry will stabilize in time as long as you maintain sobriety. The knowledge that you may feel anxious for a while can help you stay on track because you understand that it is temporary given the right support and strategies. 

For some individuals anxiety levels may improve within a few weeks. For others, it may take months. The latter will likely be the case for those experiencing post-acute withdrawal syndrome or PAWS. However, relief and healing can be achieved even with a slower recovery time.

If your anxiety continues after several months of sobriety, you may benefit from professional support. A therapist or mental health counselor can determine any underlying condition and identify the best course of treatment for you. Your anxiety can be managed to achieve an improved quality of life without alcohol. 

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Does Quitting Alcohol Improve Anxiety? 

Overall, yes, but it will take some time. As noted previously, early sobriety is all about your body adjusting to the absence of a substance that it has relied on. This re-stabilization time can vary depending on the duration and how heavily you drank. The encouraging news is that if you stick to your sobriety goals your anxiety can improve. Once healthier coping mechanisms are established relapse can also be prevented. 

How to Manage Anxiety after Quitting Alcohol

If reaching for a drink has been your antidote to anxiety you have likely found yourself in an unhealthy loop (the chicken and the egg dilemma comes to mind) –  drinking because you feel anxious, and then feeling anxious when the effects of drinking wear off. This unhealthy pattern can lead to addiction over time.

The good news is there are alternative strategies to help you break this cycle. The tips listed below can help with anxiety and overall health as you embark on your sobriety journey. And you can start doing many of these today!

Tips to Manage Anxiety During Alcohol Recovery

If anxiety is part of your sobriety journey, we know it can be uncomfortable and concerning to deal with. There are many things you can do while your body returns to a more balanced state to manage the anxiety you’re feeling. Here are a few things that can help:

  1. Practice mindfulness: The idea is to relax your nervous system by clearing your mind and focusing only on the present moment. Some great examples are breathing exercises, meditation, and yoga. There are many mindfulness apps available online.
  2. Understand your triggers: Observe what is happening when your anxiety creeps in. Are there certain people, places, memories, thoughts, or situations that cause those anxious feelings? This understanding is a great starting point for changing unhealthy patterns, routines, or faulty thinking.
  3. Exercise: Physical activity causes your body to release endorphins, those feel-good hormones. In other words, exercise gives us a natural high. Try to fit in some movement daily. Even a few minutes here and there can help. Consider a walk outdoors. The sights and sounds of nature can be rejuvenating. 
  4. Practice Positive Self-Talk: Think about the way you speak to a loved one when they are feeling low. You are deserving of the same compassion you show others! Instead of saying “I am such a loser” flip the script to “No one is perfect. I have grown from this experience.”
  5. Journaling: Releasing thoughts and emotions on paper can have quite a cathartic effect. Let your words flow freely without judgment and feel how the tension begins to lift. You can also use your journal to document your gratitude. This can include anything from your family and pets to a comfy bed, a delicious meal, or the flowers in your garden. 
  6. Seek Support: Support comes in many forms. Talking about your anxiety to a trusted friend or family member can be validating and reassuring. You may also reach out to a reputable telemedicine program, a therapist, or a peer support group. There are many private groups online as well geared to sobriety or mental issues.

Additional Support for Quitting Alcohol

If self-help strategies aren’t giving you the desired results, Ria Health can provide additional support. 

Ria offers a comprehensive online program to help you reduce your alcohol consumption or quit entirely. Our discreet telemedicine program is designed to help you achieve and maintain your personal sobriety goals.

The program provides access to anti-craving medications, weekly meetings with coaches, and tracking tools conveniently from your smartphone. Your recovery coach will partner with you to curate a personalized goal plan that fits seamlessly with your schedule. 

To learn more about our program schedule a consultation with a team member today.

Have questions about online alcohol treatment?

or call (800) 504-5360

Written By:
Lisa Keeley
Lisa Keeley is a freelance writer who believes in the uplifting power of words. She especially enjoys writing about health, relationships, employment, and living one’s best life. Lisa has a Master’s in Education and previously worked in vocational and educational services. Her articles can be found on Your Tango, Thrive Global, Heart to Heart, Medium, Muck Rack, and on various professional websites.
Reviewed By:
Ria Health Team
Ria Health’s editorial team is a group of experienced copywriters, researchers, and healthcare professionals dedicated to removing stigma and improving public knowledge around alcohol use disorder. Articles written by the “Ria Team” are collaborative works completed by several members of our writing team, fact-checked and edited to a high standard of empathy and accuracy.

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