Alcohol & Stress

Special concerns for recovering alcoholics  | How to avoid abusing alcohol when stressed

What’s the connection between alcohol and stress?

  • Coping psychologically and emotionally with the stresses of our busy lives is a challenge.
  • Chronic stress can trigger or exacerbate alcohol abuse problems.
  • Its important not to use alcohol in response to a stressful situation or event.
  • Research indicates that stressful events may profoundly influence the use of alcohol.

People may drink as a means of coping with certain stressful feelings such as

  • financial problems
  • job stress
  • marital problems.

It is important to be aware that using alcohol in reaction to a stressful event or feelings may increase the risk of alcohol abuse.

There are several risk factors for abuse of alcohol in reaction to stress

  • Using alcohol to cope.
  • Experiencing the stressful event of feeling as severe, chronic, intense, or unavoidable.
  • Lack of social support or other resources for helping to cope with stressful events
    or feelings.
  • Having a family history of drinking in response to stress.
  • Believing that alcohol will help to reduce stress.
  • Having unhealthy or other problematic drinking behavior preceding the stressful event or feeling.
  • Feeling or having no control over the stressful event or feeling.
  • Trying to avoid or numb feelings in reaction to the stressful event.

Special concerns for recovering alcoholics include

  • Among abstinent alcoholics, personally threatening, severe, and chronic life
    stressors may lead to alcohol relapse.
  • An alcoholic may resume the use of alcohol after a lengthy period of abstinence
    to try to lessen the stressful feelings.
  • Those most vulnerable to relapse tend to be alcoholic persons who have low levels
    of coping skills, self-efficacy, and social support.

Avoid risky alcohol use when stressed

Here’s what might help:

YellowMeadowGet screened and/or evaluated for an alcohol problem, online at services like Alcohol Screening, or in our office.

Learn what constitutes at-risk levels of drinking.

  • For a man, less than 14 standard drinks a week or 2 per day on average. No more than four during any single event.
  • For a woman, less than 7 standard drinks a week or 1 drink a day, on average. No more than two during any single event.

Incorporate alternative ways of coping with stress, other than consuming alcohol