Can stopping drinking cause anxiety?

Quitting alcohol is a commendable decision that can lead to numerous physical and mental health benefits. However, it is important to acknowledge that the process of alcohol recovery can sometimes come with unexpected challenges. One such challenge is the potential triggering of anxiety. In this article, we will explore the link between quitting alcohol and anxiety, understand the effects of alcohol on the brain and body, and discuss coping strategies, seeking professional help, alternative therapies, and lifestyle changes to overcome anxiety during alcohol recovery.

Understanding the Link between Quitting Alcohol and Anxiety

Alcohol has a profound impact on the brain and body, and its sudden absence can disrupt the delicate balance that has been established over time. When we consume alcohol, it affects the neurotransmitters in our brain, such as gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which is responsible for calming our nervous system. Regular alcohol consumption can lead to a decrease in the brain’s natural production of GABA, resulting in heightened anxiety levels.

The Effects of Alcohol on the Brain and Body

Alcohol not only affects the brain but also has significant consequences on the body. It can disrupt the normal functioning of the central nervous system, leading to increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure, and changes in body temperature. These physical effects, combined with the emotional impact of alcohol, create a complex relationship between alcohol and anxiety.

How Quitting Alcohol Can Trigger Anxiety

When someone decides to quit alcohol, their body and brain go through a period of adjustment. As the brain attempts to reestablish its natural balance, it may struggle to produce adequate amounts of GABA, leading to a surge in anxiety symptoms. Additionally, the absence of alcohol can result in a sudden increase in stress hormones such as cortisol, further exacerbating anxiety levels. It is important to note that not everyone who quits alcohol will experience anxiety, but for those who do, it can be a challenging hurdle to overcome.

Common Symptoms of Anxiety after Quitting Alcohol

Anxiety symptoms can vary from person to person, but there are some common experiences reported by individuals who have quit alcohol. These symptoms may include restlessness, irritability, difficulty concentrating, racing thoughts, increased heart rate, trembling, and a sense of impending doom. It is essential to recognize and address these symptoms to prevent them from interfering with the alcohol recovery process.

Coping Strategies for Managing Anxiety during Alcohol Recovery

Managing anxiety during alcohol recovery requires a multi-faceted approach. Here are some coping strategies that can be helpful:

Deep Breathing and Relaxation Techniques: Deep breathing exercises and relaxation techniques such as meditation and yoga can help calm the mind and reduce anxiety symptoms.

Exercise: Engaging in regular physical exercise can release endorphins, which are natural mood boosters. Exercise also provides an outlet for stress and anxiety, promoting overall well-being.

Support Network: Surrounding yourself with a supportive network of friends, family, or a support group can provide encouragement and understanding during challenging times. Sharing your experiences and seeking advice from others who have been through similar situations can be invaluable.

Seeking Professional Help for Anxiety and Alcohol Recovery

If anxiety symptoms persist or become overwhelming, seeking professional help is crucial. Mental health professionals, such as therapists or counselors, can provide guidance, support, and evidence-based interventions to manage anxiety during alcohol recovery. They can help identify underlying causes of anxiety and develop personalized strategies for coping and preventing relapse.

Alternative Therapies for Anxiety during Alcohol Recovery

In addition to traditional therapy approaches, alternative therapies can also be beneficial in managing anxiety during alcohol recovery. Some alternative therapies that have shown promise in reducing anxiety include:

Acupuncture: This ancient Chinese practice involves the insertion of thin needles into specific points on the body and has been found to promote relaxation and reduce anxiety.

Herbal Supplements: Certain herbal supplements, such as kava, valerian root, and chamomile, have calming effects and can help alleviate anxiety symptoms. However, it is important to consult with a healthcare professional before incorporating any supplements into your routine.

Mindfulness and Meditation: Practicing mindfulness and meditation techniques can help individuals develop a greater awareness of their thoughts and emotions, leading to a reduction in anxiety levels.

Lifestyle Changes to Support Mental Health during Alcohol Recovery

Making positive lifestyle changes can significantly contribute to managing anxiety during alcohol recovery. Here are some suggestions:

Healthy Diet: Consuming a balanced diet rich in nutrients can support brain health and help regulate mood. Avoiding excessive caffeine and sugar can also help minimize anxiety symptoms.

Adequate Sleep: Prioritizing quality sleep is essential for overall well-being and mental health. Establishing a consistent sleep routine and creating a calming bedtime ritual can promote better sleep and reduce anxiety.

Stress Management: Engaging in stress-reducing activities such as journaling, practicing hobbies, or engaging in creative outlets can provide a healthy outlet for managing anxiety.


Quitting alcohol is a courageous step towards a healthier and happier life. However, it is important to be aware of the potential link between quitting alcohol and anxiety. By understanding the effects of alcohol on the brain and body, recognizing common anxiety symptoms, and implementing coping strategies, seeking professional help, exploring alternative therapies, and adopting lifestyle changes, individuals can overcome anxiety during alcohol recovery. Remember, you are not alone, and with the right support and strategies, you can successfully navigate this journey towards a brighter future. Call today at 614-705-0611.