How Alcohol Can Affect Our Mental Health

 5th Sep 2016

It’s safe to say the majority of us like to have a drink from time to time and I’d vouch that many would be more than happy not to limit their consumption to just one glass of wine.

However, it’s crucial to acknowledge the fact that alcohol is still a potentially poisonous substance and one which can entail a number of harmful side effects on a person’s health if not taken in moderation.

Sickness and the (for some) all-too-familiar ‘hangover’ feeling aren’t the only effects of excessive alcohol consumption though.

It’s easy to assume drinking too much only presents us with biological problems but there are also a number of mental health side effects which can occur as a result of over-consumption.

Alcohol is a Depressant

Despite being the go-to option for those looking to relax or socialise, drinking more than the body can tolerate can actually cause people to experience a number of depressant side effects.

Over-intoxication can lead to reductions in reaction time, impaired judgement and reasoning as well as difficulty with basic skills such as movement and conversation.

These are not only distressing, but can also lead to the person being harmed by falls and other accidents as a result of decreased motor skills.

Cases of alcohol-related incidents have caused a massive surge in A&E attendances in almost every age group and this is a problem which applies to both men and women.

How can alcohol impact our Mental Health

In extreme cases, alcohol can damage a person’s memory, making it much harder to remember ideas and events which previously posed no problem.

Furthermore, excessive alcohol consumption can also cause ‘visuospatial perception’ skills to deteriorate.

 ‘Visuospatial dysgnosia’ is a condition which affects a person’s ability to judge the relationship between themselves and their environment as well as visualising the distance of surrounding objects to each other.

Other mental health conditions which can arise as a result of long term alcohol abuse include:

  • Psychosis – symptoms include hearing voices, hallucinations and delusions
  • Alcohol-related dementia (ARD) – reduction in planning, thinking and judgement abilities
  • Wernicke-Korsakoff (sometimes referred to as ‘wet brain’) – a combination of Wenicke’s disease and Korsakoff’s syndrome

Drinking Culture

As mentioned previously, alcohol is frequently consumed for social occasions but it can also be used as means of trying to escape from one’s personal struggles.

People already living with mental health issues such as depression and anxiety are more likely to resort to drinking and this can even lead to alcohol addiction in more serious cases.

Addiction to any substance can be extremely harmful and alcohol dependency is known to both intensify existing symptoms and cause the development of new social and health-related issues.

For instance, addicts can find it difficult to maintain relationships with friends, family and partners and can even struggle to remain in employment which can incur serious financial implications too.

With more than 90% of people in the UK being exposed to alcohol consumption in one way or another, the issue of drinking and its effect on the mind is one which is pertinent to the vast majority of us.

Around one in three men and one in six women will develop some form of alcohol-related health condition at some point in their life.

If you feel drinking is becoming a problematic part of your life or you simply want to cut down on the amount you are consuming, make sure to speak with close friends and family to make them aware and if, necessary, seek support from a qualified  medical professional.

Encompass is a registered charity which works to improve the quality of life for people living with mental health illnesses and learning disabilities on a daily basis.

Find out how Encompass can help you or a loved one by clicking here.

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