We need your help now

Support from readers like you keeps The Journal open.

You are visiting us because we have something you value. Independent, unbiased news that tells the truth. Advertising revenue goes some way to support our mission, but this year it has not been enough.

If you've seen value in our reporting, please contribute what you can, so we can continue to produce accurate and meaningful journalism. For everyone who needs it.


Tend to feel low after drinking? Here are 7 reasons why

You may not realise that alcohol could be impacting on your mental health.

shutterstock_293777093 Shutterstock / Photographee.eu Shutterstock / Photographee.eu / Photographee.eu

LOVE SATURDAY NIGHTS but feel pretty low by the time Sunday morning comes around?

Your alcohol use may explain this.

1. Alcohol is a depressant

shutterstock_407916451 Shutterstock / Balazs Kovacs Images Shutterstock / Balazs Kovacs Images / Balazs Kovacs Images

One of the times when alcohol’s impact on mental health is the most obvious is the morning after drinking, especially if you have drunk too much the previous day, whether that has been over a long or short period.

Why is this? Alcohol is a depressant which affects your brain’s natural level of happiness chemicals like serotonin and dopamine. This means that although you’ll feel an initial ‘boost’ the night before, the next day you will be deficient in these same chemicals, which may lead to feeling anxious, down or depressed.

2. Hangovers are really tough on your health

shutterstock_338707022 Shutterstock / PrinceOfLove Shutterstock / PrinceOfLove / PrinceOfLove

You can begin to feel low from the physical effect of a hangover, including tiredness, headache, sensitivity to light (caused by acetaldehyde, which makes the nervous system extra sensitive), thirst and bad breath.

It can also include trembling (caused by low blood sugar as alcohol impacts the liver) and sickness (alcohol increases acid in your stomach, making you feel sick or vomit), making the day after drinking particularly unpleasant.

3. It can cause anxiety (even if you’ve never had it before)

warren-wong-213794 Unsplash Unsplash

People tend to drink more when experiencing moderate to high levels of shyness or fear, and those who suffer from anxiety can be tempted to use alcohol to help cope with it. Initially you may feel like it provides relief to some symptoms as it depresses the central nervous system but it can worsen these symptoms in the long-run.

Drinking to relieve stress can in the long-term worsen that stress, intensifying anxiety and irritability after drinking. As it leaves the body, alcohol’s effects on brain chemistry can cause the symptoms of anxiety and panic attacks, even in people who never suffered anxiety.

4. It can intensify negative emotions

shutterstock_603404963 Shutterstock / Elnur Shutterstock / Elnur / Elnur

Alcohol can release pent-up emotions or make feelings of anger and frustration feel more intense, which can cause an impact on your health, friendships, family and work. It can bring about changes in our thinking and we can often experience frustration when we discover our “foggy brain” doesn’t allow us to think as clearly as normal.

Similar to its impact on anxiety, not only can alcohol worsen depression, it can actually cause it too. When the effects of alcohol wear off, it changes our brain chemistry for the worse. In fact, people who drink heavily are more likely to suffer from depression, and alcohol dependence is roughly three times more likely among people with depression.

5. It can negatively affect your sleep

benjamin-combs-28896 (1) Unsplash Unsplash

A good night’s sleep restores our body and minds and is vital to minding your mental health. Because alcohol is a depressant it makes you sleepy at times but the sleep you get after drinking is of a much lower quality than the sleep you get when you are not drinking.

This is because alcohol can reduce the amount of Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep you get, leaving you feeling drowsy, low in energy and you may find it harder to concentrate the next day.

6. It stops you from developing healthy coping mechanisms

alexis-brown-82988 Unsplash Unsplash

It is worthwhile to learn healthy coping mechanisms in response to emotions like stress, sadness and anger that do not involve or rely on alcohol. One of the most effective ways of doing this is to get the right support for your individual needs. In fact, a study by the HSE into alcohol-related harm found that, “those who were engaged in regular heavy drinking were less likely to use positive coping strategies when dealing with anxiety and depression.”

If a person repeatedly turns to alcohol when their mood deteriorates, they miss out on the opportunity of discovering the other, more effective, ways of dealing with unpleasant moods. learning new ways to cope can make us stronger, healthier and happier in the long term. If you want advice and tips on cutting down, see click here.

7. Blackouts can be an indicator of something more

shutterstock_546242338 Shutterstock / Africa Studio Shutterstock / Africa Studio / Africa Studio

Following a heavy drinking session, many people can experience blackouts especially if they have drunk quickly or on an empty stomach both of which can lead to a rapid rise in Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC). Blackouts are defined as loss of memory during which a person is capable of  participating in dialogue, emotionally charged events, as well as mundane events—that they later cannot remember.

Waking up and not remembering how you got home, what you said or how you behaved can result in intense fear and anxiety causing levels of distress lasting days. Blackouts are a sign of a drinking problem and if you’re experiencing them, the advice is to self-assess your drinking pattern or to seek professional help.

Alcohol is prevalent in Irish society and if we allow it drinking can become harmful.
Whatever you drink, find out what it’s doing to you healthwise at AskAboutAlcohol.ie, a new website from the HSE.

Your Voice
Readers Comments
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.