Everyone has anxiety, whether it's related to social gatherings, or simply the fear of cats. We all experience it, therefore, we all adapt our own ways of dealing with it. There is one way, in particular, that is more harmful than others and that is by drinking excessive amounts of alcohol. I understand that alcohol is a great excuse to catch up with friends down the local bar, yet we are all aware of the harm it causes when we abuse the substance.

Why do we use alcohol as a social lubricant?

It’s a well-known fact that alcohol is a substance with dangerous properties if used incorrectly.

On average, 3.3 million people die worldwide from alcohol poisoning a year, that’s 5.9% of our population. Although, when consumed in moderation, it can actually help us get through situations we may otherwise dread. When we consume alcohol, certain chemical reactions occur in our brain; the alcohol binds to a receptor in the brain which boosts the natural chemical called ‘GABA’. After this chemical has been ‘activated’, it boosts our dopamine levels, therefore creating that warm fuzzy feeling we get after a couple of drinks. All these factors help to ease social interactions, yet there’s also the Dark Side of alcohol that we all know and hate. Please feel free to view this article on living with anxiety in today's world.

Ever got home from a night out to find someone you don’t know lying next to you in bed, and you’re regretting every moment?

Well, chances are you’ve been affected by the dark side of alcohol known as ‘Beer Goggles’. This is when alcohol consumption lowers our standards for physical attractiveness. Basically, the part of the brain that makes good decisions is shut down by alcohol, and we become reckless humans with no moral compass. One of the many side effects we can experience after drinking an excessive amount of alcohol.

My experience

As an adolescent, I myself suffered from Social Anxiety and used alcohol as a way to calm myself when leaving the house for a night out with friends. After realizing the harm this excessive drinking was doing to my body, I went to my family doctor and asked for help, which was the best decision I could have ever made.

Having social anxiety does not just mean people are shy, they are constantly scrutinized by the thought of interacting with other people, and avoid situations where alcohol is not present. In many ways, alcohol can be identified as a drug due to its addicting properties. Many offer a solution to this, one being the use of anxiety toys.

How do you know when you're abusing alcohol?

The first stage of alcohol intoxication can be described as euphoria. It’s that wonderful feeling of excitement and pleasure. Most people forget that alcohol is a depressant – it is not a stimulant of any kind! Yet we use it to overcome anxiety, which is a form of depression in itself. Once we start to consume alcohol, it affects the brain functions and centers by slowly depressing them one by one.

The first phase of alcohol intoxication is actually the consequence of depression initiating in certain parts of our brain. As we continue to drink, this depression deepens and we start to feel aggressive, depressed and lost.

There are, however, some more harmless alternatives we can consume at social gatherings that can help anxiety, the most common being caffeine. If you find yourself getting to that point of the night where you just can’t go on, and need to find the nearest bed – try to have some caffeine. It gives a boost of energy which can help soothe your anxiety and gives that extra little bit of strength you may need to tolerate being around others for a little longer. That being said, caffeine may not work for everyone.

If you are aware of the food/drink item that really keeps you awake - use that as your caffeine substitute. This is a useful trick when you need to get through an important dinner or even if you’re just at a party and need perking up. You may be surprised at how well this can work for you in the short term.

Nonetheless, consuming alcohol as a way to overcome feelings of anxiety is extremely dangerous. This is due to the possibility of becoming dependent on alcohol. Studies have shown that socially anxious students turn into borderline alcoholics by their third year of university. One thing we need to understand is that most students/young people don’t drink just because it’s fun, or because they feel it’s a requirement to fit in, they drink so they can actually attend events without having to be constantly stressed.

I feel as though most people who are dependent on alcohol use it wisely, and don’t go overboard. Understandably, these people are not happy with having to rely on it, much like I was. This is when you need to seek help.

Next time you feel the need to drink before you head out somewhere, be responsible with it. Try to attend one social event without alcohol and see how that goes! Remember that alcohol is mostly an issue when drunk in excess. When consumed in reason, it can be a blessing and contributes to a great night out with friends.