Why Alcohol Doesn’t Mix Well With Mental Illness

Hey friends! It’s currently 11:06pm as I begin today’s post. How are you all doing? I hope you’ve been having a rejuvenating weekend filled with the all the things/people you love.

So today’s topic: why drinking alcohol when you have a history of mental illness is a bad idea.

Disclaimer: I am not a licensed therapist (yet). So I am not fully aware of the research-based effects of alcohol on those with mental illness. I speak purely from personal experience, so take my ideas with a grain of salt! 

Ahh, alcohol… how much we love this precious juice. It relaxes us; makes us lose our inhibitions; makes everything seem just that much more fun. And it’s oh-so accessible in college, with most people reaching the legal age of drinking before graduation. Go to any frat party, and the alcohol is there, calling out to students of any and every age to drink. Even if you’re underage, you must certainly have at least one friend who’s of age, and can serve as an alcohol plug. Bottom line is, drinking is a part of university culture, all throughout the US.

Now, couple that with the fact that many, many college students suffer from mental illness, like depression and anxiety. Combine alcohol with mental illness, and you have a recipe for disaster.

If you’re depressed, you may use alcohol as a means to feel something… anything. Anything to fill the void within.

If you’re anxious, you may use alcohol as a means to relax. This is especially true for those with social anxiety. Many college students are at that age where they struggle with developing self-confidence. College is rife with situations that really push students beyond their social comfort zone. Class presentations, networking with professors and potential employers, meeting other students– all of these things can definitely be challenging for many people, especially introverts. The dangerous thing that happens is, many people end up using alcohol as a means to relax in these social situations. Alcohol, then, quickly becomes a crutch. It’s a very slippery slope when you start to rely on alcohol to get through day-to-day interactions.

Now, if you struggle with bipolar disorder, like I do, it is easy to use alcohol as a means to recapture the high-flying feelings of mania. There’s nothing else like feeling completely uninhibited and on top of the world, with the belief that you can handle any challenge thrown your way. But more often than not, people with bipolar spend most of their days in the depressive, rather than manic, phase. It’s understandable for them to wish to recapture that feeling of grandeur and invincibility, and many find a way to mimic those feelings, through alcohol. There’s a reason why people call alcohol “liquid courage”. It is a fact that people with bipolar II disorder are at a much higher risk for alcoholism than is the general population, which is why I must be very careful about monitoring my own relationship with alcohol, and drink in moderation, if at all.

Hopefully by now, you can see how dangerous it is for people with mental illness to experiment with alcohol. What may start as innocent fun may very well morph into full-on alcoholism.

I implore you all– especially those struggling with mental illness– to think it through, while clear of mind, before downing that shot of vodka.


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