Stress and alcoholism are irrevocably linked and the prevalence of one triggers the onset of the other. It is imperative for people to understand the deeper link between the two so that both stress and alcoholism can be avoided.
People often take to alcohol as a coping mechanism for stress, without realizing that alcoholism also induces stress. Servicemen, women, and civilians alike, resort to alcohol for a quick reprieve from life’s miseries. Though alcohol provides instant relaxation and positive feelings, but in the long-run, it can work against drinkers in ways far from calming their nerves.
Drinking continuously can cause a host of medical and psychological problems and further increase the risk for alcohol dependence. Hence, it is important to understand the relationship between alcohol and stress, the various stressors in life, and how the body responds to stressful situations so that it becomes easier to avoid any such conundrum in life.
Common stressful situations
Most causes of stress can be grouped into four categories: general life stress, catastrophic events, childhood stress, and racial/ethnic minority stress, as per a report by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).
The presence of any of these stressors can create a turmoil in one’s life and push a person to seek solace in alcohol. However, these situations vary and depend on an array of other factors, like severity, duration, and an individual’s mental health status.
Responding to stressful situations
An individual’s ability to cope with stress has a lot to do with him or her turning alcoholic. “The ability to cope with stress (known as resilience) reflects how well someone is able to adapt to the psychological and physiological responses involved in the stress response,” says an NIAAA report.
The method of handling stress can depend on one’s personality, heredity and lifestyle. But optimistic people remain positive and use various constructive methods to solve the problem. Those who are resilient have qualities that are in sharp contrast to those possessed by people who have an inclination for substance abuse. People with a substance abuse problem are likely to have traits like impulsivity, novelty seeking, negative emotionality and anxiety.
It has been found that it is more difficult for a person with a history of alcoholism in the family to deal with stress factors which can lead to alcohol abuse. The risk increases in certain conditions, such as a pregnant woman consuming alcohol, a person who has suffered childhood neglect or abuse, and a person suffering from other mental health problems like depression, as such people find it difficult to deal with stress and tend to get inclined toward alcoholism.
A number of studies have found that people who had stress were more prone to drinking alcohol than others. And men, in particular, are more prone to drinking than women in stressful situations.
Available treatment options
A treatment program has to be specifically designed to address alcoholism which is induced by stress. It has been observed that even after a person stops drinking, the impact of stress persists. Relapse is a grave problem during recovery and the withdrawal symptoms during this time can cause alcohol craving, anxiety, and difficulty in sleeping. Hence, interventions should be designed in such a way that both stress and alcohol dependence are targeted simultaneously.