The relationship between alcohol and mental wellbeing
The relationship between alcohol and mental wellbeing is complex. People who drink alcohol do so for a range of reasons.
Sometimes people drink alcohol simply because they enjoy it, to celebrate an occasion or unwind.
Sometimes people drink alcohol to help manage common mental health problems such as anxiety, depression or to cope with difficult feelings, such as stress, loneliness or low mood. This is called ‘self-medicating’ with alcohol.
Alcohol is a depressant. Although the chemical changes it makes to your brain are initially positive; such as feeling relaxed, once these changes wear off, they can leave you with feelings of depression and anxiety. People find that although alcohol can help with difficult feelings initially, the effects are short-lived and can lead to feeling worse after the effects of alcohol have worn off.
Drinking too much alcohol over a long period of time can worsen symptoms of many common mental health problems. And using alcohol to ‘self-medicate’ can also mean that common mental health problems aren’t addressed.
If you do drink, by following some simple expert advice (see self-help advice below), you can reduce the risk of harms to your health and wellbeing from alcohol.
If you think you might be dependant on alcohol and want to cut down, there is free special support and advice available (see helplines and services below). If you think you are alcohol dependant and you want to stop drinking, it is important not to stop drinking suddenly and instead seek advice on how you can cut down safely.
To find out more about alcohol and how it affects your mood and how to keep your risks low, see the information below.
To keep the risks of drinking alcohol low it is best not to drink more than 14 units of alcohol a week. This is about six pints of 4% strength beer OR four 250ml glasses of wine a week. If you regularly drink as much as 14 units a week, it is best to spread your drinking out over the week and have some alcohol-free days.
For more information and advice on keeping your risks from drinking alcohol low, including a free App to help you track your drinking, see our self-help resources below.
We also have free self-help courses which can help you reflect on your drinking and help you determine whether you want to reduce your drinking or stop drinking alcohol altogether.
If you find that you are drinking alcohol to manage difficult feelings, such as loneliness, you may find it helpful to get involved in activities going on in your local area instead. Find out what’s going on in your area by visiting our ‘in your area’ page.
There are simple things we can all do to help look after our mental health. Some people find that taking part in more positive health behaviours, such as physical activity, can help them manage an unhealthy relationship with alcohol. Visit our ‘looking after yourself’ section for more information and advice.
If you need further help
Relying on alcohol to manage life’s problems is not a long-term solution. There is free, non-judgemental help and support available for people who are worried about their drinking and/or the drinking of others see our ‘helplines’ and services section below.
Last updated: 03.07.2023
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Worried about your drinking or someone’s drinking?
See below for helplines relevant to alcohol. To see our full list of helplines, visit our helplines page or visit your GP.
GDAS – Gwent Drug & Alcohol Service
GDAS provides free, safe and confidential drug and alcohol services. GDAS operates from a wide variety of local bases throughout Gwent. GDAS operates within community venues and offers an outreach service.
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