Binge Drinking and Alcohol Problems – Hypnotherapy in Ely & Newmarket
I often work with people who struggle to control their binge drinking or who habitually drink too much. It may be one or two bottles of wine a night, or that struggle to leave a bottle unfinished. It may be that they can’t have alcohol in the house without finding themselves reaching for it and drinking the lot. And for others it may have become part of the end of day ‘wind-down’ ritual or the weekends have become the time to binge drink.
In all these cases and more, someone comes to me for help because they are struggling to control their drinking behaviours. And hypnotherapy is a very effective way of taking back control over your drinking.
Most people would probably agree that drinking alcohol, in the right circumstances, can be a pleasurable experience. Many people enjoy a glass of wine with a meal or a few social drinks with friends. Yet for others their drinking habits may have become problematic. They may rely on alcohol, look forward to it and have urges and cravings to drink. Your drinking may dominate social situations, lead to concern from others and impact upon your well-being. Yet, even the adverse consequences of your drinking may not mean you can stop it or curtail. The habits, patterns, thoughts and feelings around alcohol mean you feel like you are now out of control.
As I cover below, many people use alcohol to try to help them cope with stress, anxiety and depression (and for many, alcohol consumption increased during the pandemic). For others, the habits and behaviours around drinking and binges are the problem. Yet drinking has an impact upon your mental health and well-being and even binge drinking at a moderate overall level of consumption can be problematic.
The Pandemic, Stress, Anxiety and Alcohol
Whilst binge drinking and alcohol issues were prevalent before the pandemic, there is evidence that the coronavirus pandemic, and everything that was a part of it, contributed to an increase in alcohol consumption for many people.
Research examined if stress and anxiety were associated with changes in alcohol use during the Covid-19 pandemic (Avery et al, 2020) and found that about 14% of the respondents reported an increase in alcohol use. There was an association between both stress and anxiety and increased alcohol use, where those with higher levels of stress and anxiety were more likely to report an increase in alcohol consumption.
This is perhaps unsurprising given that alcohol is often been used as a coping strategy by people with anxiety and stress. Many of my clients report how a drink helps to quieten their mind for a while, ‘numb’ their feelings or help them sleep. Yet, of course, this short term coping mechanism can have longer term issues because persistent increased alcohol consumption may turn into problematic behaviours, such as alcohol dependence and/or abuse. That is, a few drinks may help with some stress and anxiety relief but it can turn into a more problematic habit or dependence that can cause many other issues in your life. Combined with that, relying on alcohol to try and mitigate how you feel denies you the opportunity to learn more constructive ways of dealing with challenges and your own thoughts and feelings.
It’s worth noting that some in the study, who reduced their drinking, also had higher levels of stress and anxiety, suggesting that any change in alcohol consumption are a response to mental health issues. And I’ve worked with many clients who have identified the link between their drinking and their mental health, perhaps through feeling more anxious and more depressed the next day, and who have been able to curtail their alcohol consumption whilst they work with me to overcome their stress and anxiety.
There’s more on this here: Stress, Anxiety, Alcohol and Coronavirus
The Next Day Impact of Heavy Drinking
Whilst binge drinking and alcohol may seem to help you in the short term with feeling relaxed and calmer, there can then be a next day impact from heavy drinking.
Alcohol is a depressant and so can lead to you feeling low the next day, which could exacerbate the worries and other thoughts and feelings that you had been using alcohol to try and deal with. Many people report feeling more anxious the day after drinking which can increase any anxiety symptoms that you may be generally experiencing.
Research has evaluated the impact of a heavy binge drinking session on your thinking and performance the next day. They found that if you are hungover after heavy drinking, it impacts on your memory, your attention and your psychomotor skills. Your cognitive functions may be impaired the next day, impacting on everyday tasks such as driving (Gunn et al, 2018).
Even after the alcohol has left your bloodstream, the day after an evening of heavy drinking you may struggle with poorer concentration and focus, decreased memory and reduced reaction times. Which could well be a big deal if you are driving and may impact on many other aspects such as your workplace performance. And all this without even mentioning the impact on your health from excessive drinking.
This impact upon your attention, concentration and thinking may well form part of why your symptoms of depression, stress and anxiety feel worse the next day. With reduced mental and physical energy, and impairments to your cognitive functions, you may find it harder to handle, deal with and cope with negative overthinking and worrying.
There’s more on this here: Binge Drinking – the next day impact of heavy alcohol drinking
Whilst stress, anxiety and depression can be associated with your alcohol consumption, for many others, alcohol and binge drinking can just become unhealthy habits that you struggle to forgo. That drink when you get in to switch off from the business of the day, that bottle during the evening, that tendency once you start to keep going, and that reliance and urge for alcohol, can all become detrimental to your well-being (as well as having impacts on work, life and relationships).
I’ve helped many people who feel out of control with their drinking. Those habits and patterns have become seemingly ingrained and they struggle to stop, or even reduce, their drinking. This is true even where it is having adverse consequences in their life. Taking back control and ending that drinking habit is something that hypnotherapy can certainly help you with.
Binge Drinking and Alcohol Problems
If you have a binge drinking problem, then you already know that it has an adverse impact upon you, That could be the feeling of needing a drink or being out of control with alcohol. It may impact upon your work and other responsibilities, and you may have received comments and concern from others about your drinking or have needed to apologise for things you’ve said or done whilst binging. And, of course, your drinking may have had a negative impact upon your mental health and how you feel in yourself, or have led to worries about your future health. One of the things my clients hate the most is that sense that they are out of control and not able to limit their drinking, even when they are determined to do so.
Recently, a study examined the role of a binge pattern of drinking in predicting alcohol problems among moderate drinkers in a U.S. national sample of adults. As they note, a significant amount of binge drinking among adults escapes public health scrutiny because it occurs among individuals who drink at a moderate average level (Holahan, Holahan, and Moos, 2022). Most public health messages promote drinking at a moderate level but don’t consider your drinking pattern or occasions of high consumption (in contrast to your average alcohol consumption).
Based upon a sample of 1,229 current drinkers they found that, independent of the average level of drinking, binge drinking was linked with an almost three times increase in the number of concurrent alcohol problems and a 40% increase in the number of alcohol problems prospectively nine years later. Moderate average level drinkers accounted for most cases of binge drinking and multiple alcohol problems. Among moderate drinkers, binge drinking was linked with a nearly five times increase in concurrent multiple alcohol problems and an increase in multiple alcohol problems prospectively nine years later.
“In a U.S. national sample of adults, moderate drinkers accounted for most cases of both binge drinking and multiple alcohol problems. Among moderate drinkers, binge drinking was predictively linked to multiple alcohol problems“.
For both men and women, a pattern of binge drinking was associated with a vastly increased likelihood of alcohol problems and future alcohol problems, independent of the average level of drinking. The findings highlight that your average consumption of alcohol by itself does not sufficiently reflect your alcohol risk and that, even if you a moderate drinker, binge drinking significantly increases your risk of developing alcohol problems.
And if you do really want to take back control over your binge drinking and alcohol consumption then it is certainly possible to achieve this. Whether you drink to combat stress, anxiety and depression or out of habit and compulsion, and whether it is binging or drinking too much overall, you can change and take back control over your thoughts, feelings and behaviours around alcohol and put yourself back in control.
To your health and happiness,
Hypnotherapy in Ely & Newmarket
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Avery, A.R., Tsang, S., Seto, E.Y. and Duncan, G.E., 2020. Stress, anxiety and change in alcohol use during the COVID-19 pandemic: Findings among adult twin pairs. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 11, p.1030.
Gunn, C., Mackus, M., Griffin, C., Munafò, M. R., and Adams, S. (2018) A systematic review of the next‐day effects of heavy alcohol consumption on cognitive performance. Addiction, https://doi.org/10.1111/add.14404.
Holahan, C.J., Holahan, C.K. and Moos, R.H., 2022. Binge Drinking and Alcohol Problems Among Moderate Average-Level Drinkers. American Journal of Preventive Medicine.