Symptomatic Drinking

Symptomatic drinking can be defined as the use of alcohol to relieve feelings of anxiety and tension. Symptomatic Drinking generally refers to the consumption of alcohol or drugs in response to certain physical or emotional symptoms. It usually occurs when individuals are attempting to self-medicate or alleviate discomfort caused by underlying issues such as anxiety, depression, trauma or physical pain.

In other words, it’s a way to temporarily escape or numb these distressing symptoms.

Early research on addiction and its underlying causes helped shed light on the relationship between substance abuse and symptoms experienced by individuals.

Several studies indicate that a key motivation for using drugs and alcohol is to suppress overactive brain stress systems, which in turn helps reduce negative emotions or feelings. Essentially, alcohol can temporarily calm the brain’s response to stress. However, this relief is fleeting and withdrawing from alcohol can lead to increasingly intense negative feelings each time an individual attempts to quit. Consequently, self-medicating with alcohol is not only ineffective in the long term but also dangerous, as it can exacerbate the problems it is used to alleviate.

Self Medicating With Alcohol

People drink alcohol for various reasons, including pleasure, peer pressure and association with social settings like parties. A significant reason for alcohol consumption is self-medication, where individuals use alcohol to cope with negative feelings such as sadness or anxiety. This pattern, while challenging to break, can be replaced with healthier coping methods.

Self-medicating with alcohol means using it to alleviate discomfort, often leading to temporary euphoria and relaxation. This behaviour is particularly prevalent among those with mental health disorders with studies indicating a notable percentage of individuals with mood or anxiety disorders turning to alcohol or drugs for self-medication.

Though self-medication may seem harmless, it carries risks, such as developing an alcohol use disorder, characterised by difficulty in controlling alcohol use, cravings, continued drinking despite conflicts and neglecting hobbies for alcohol. It’s important to note that self-medication is not the same as addiction but it does increase the risk of addiction.

Common reasons for self-medicating with alcohol include stress, anxiety, social pressure, depression, bipolar disorder, trauma and PTSD. Self-medication can occur in anyone using alcohol to cope with negative or uncomfortable feelings, not just those with mental health disorders. The problem arises when this behaviour leads to significant issues or escalates into an alcohol use disorder.

Moods and cravings significantly influence the decision to self-medicate. Cravings, often triggered by emotions like anxiety, sadness or stress, are intense urges to drink. Managing these cravings is key to avoid self-medicating and instead adopting healthier coping mechanisms.

Self  Medicating With Alcohol For Depression and Anxiety

Self-medicating depression involves individuals using drugs or alcohol to alleviate symptoms of depression, which include persistent sadness, emptiness, hopelessness, guilt, worthlessness, irritability, concentration difficulties, sleep disturbances (like insomnia or oversleeping), weight and appetite changes, increased physical pains and thoughts or attempts of suicide. While substances might temporarily dull the severity of these symptoms, they can also exacerbate the underlying depression, leading to a deeper and more complex mental health issue.

Self-medicating anxiety, much like depression, is a risky approach often adopted due to overlapping symptoms between the two conditions. Both anxiety and depression are linked to the stimulation of the amygdala, a brain region integral to emotional processing. Using alcohol and drugs can temporarily calm this stimulation, providing short-term relief. However, this calming effect is fleeting and the substances used carry their own set of side effects. Healthline provides a detailed list of various substances commonly used for self-medication, outlining their effects and associated risks. This highlights the complexities and dangers inherent in self-medicating mental health conditions like anxiety and depression.

Signs of a Drinking Problem

Signs of potential alcohol addiction can often be overlooked due to societal portrayals of drinking as fun and glamorous and part of day to day life normalising destructive behaviours. However, problematic drinking patterns can develop subtly. Key indicators include missing work or school/work due to drinking, a decline in family and friendship relationships, financial problems caused by alcohol consumption, feelings of guilt or depression post-drinking, using alcohol to ease social anxiety or boost confidence, drinking alone, consuming more alcohol than planned and drinking to the point of blackout and memory loss. Recognising these signs is key in identifying when casual drinking may be turning into an addiction.

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    Founded in 2008, WeDoRecover has evolved from an advisory service for addiction treatment into a comprehensive provider of care, following its 2019 merger with Changes Addiction Rehab in Johannesburg. Specialising in connecting patients to top-tier addiction treatment centers in the UK, South Africa and Thailand, WeDoRecover supports individuals globally, including those from the United Arab Emirates and Europe. Accepting both South African medical aid and international health insurance our organisation facilitates access to high-quality treatment for substance and alcohol use disorders, offering individualised care that addresses the physical, mental and social needs of patients.

    Our team, led by Gareth Carter, offers empathetic and professional support, guiding you through every step of the treatment process. Whether you're in South Africa or abroad, our acceptance of various insurance plans makes quality care accessible, providing a platform for lasting recovery and a healthier future.

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    Rehab care is a good option if you are at risk of experiencing strong withdrawal symptoms when you try stop a substance. This option would also be recommended if you have experienced recurrent relapses or if you have tried a less-intensive treatment without success.


    If you're committed to your sobriety but cannot take a break from your daily duties for an inpatient program. Outpatient rehab treatment might suit you well if you are looking for a less restricted format for addiction treatment or simply need help with mental health.


    Therapy can be good step towards healing and self-discovery. If you need support without disrupting your routine, therapy offers a flexible solution for anyone wishing to enhance their mental well-being or work through personal issues in a supportive, confidential environment.

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    Are you having persistent feelings of being swamped, sad or have sudden surges of anger or intense emotional outbursts? These are warning signs of unresolved trauma mental health. A simple assesment by a mental health expert could provide valuable insights into your recovery.

    Finding the right rehab close to you is simple with WeDoRecover. Our network includes the finest rehab centers, ensuring personalised, quality care for your recovery needs. Let Gareth Carter and our empathetic team help guide you to a center that feels right for you, offering expert care and support. Start your healing today by choosing a rehab that's not just close to you, but also that truly cares about your loved ones recovery.

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