Health | Sobriety

9 Emotional Effects of Alcohol

As I write this blog post, I am just shy of one year sober and I can’t believe it. My journey all started with my rock-bottom visit to the hospital. Up until that point, I think I had no idea just how much alcohol and binge drinking affected almost every part of my life. It had a negative impact on my general health. Alcohol put a strain on my relationship. It affected my career and basically ruined every Saturday for me. It’s not until you actually quit drinking for a little while that you really start to see the emotional effects of alcohol. 

Alcoholism is one of the most common addictions in the country, and so many of us have abused alcohol for so long. It’s just become normalized and even glorified. “I can drink you under the table” is a brag I have heard one too many times. 

Emotional Effects of Alcohol

That being said, I’m not here to shame anyone for their drinking habits. If drinking doesn’t really negatively affect your life in any way, I don’t see the point in quitting the booze or shaming yourself for drinking alcohol. However, if you do choose to cut back on drinking, you might realize that the emotional effects of alcohol are bigger than you ever realized. There is no question that, in my experience, there are so many benefits to sobriety

One of the best books that really shifted my perspective around alcohol is “This Naked Mind: Control Alcohol, Find Freedom, Discover Happiness, and Change Your Life” by Annie Grace ($11, It is a completely non-judgmental approach to changing your mindset around alcohol, and it was the beginning step in my quest to try to quit alcohol for good. 

Plus, it also helped me realize that long-term alcohol use had some pretty severe mental effects on me. Below, we talk about some of the emotional side effects of alcohol.

9 Emotional Effects of Alcohol

I suggest reading that book if you’ve had any thoughts about cutting back on your alcohol intake.

As hard as it may be to come to terms with it, alcohol use disorder (AUD) is very real. And one of our most powerful weapons in fighting AUD is realizing when we should cut back. Noticing that you’re suffering the below symptoms due to your alcohol misuse is a pretty good sign that that’s what you should do.

Below, I’ve listed the short-term and long-term emotional effects of alcohol that might surprise you.  

Short-Term Emotional Effects of Alcohol


There are tons of mental health conditions that are directly linked to consuming copious amounts of alcohol. Anxiety was one of the biggest factors for me in quitting alcohol. My anxiety was pretty high most of the time during the week. And then when I would crash from a hangover on Saturday, I, too often, felt a panic attack coming on. Alcohol can really affect your stress levels and can inhibit your body from actually relaxing. 


More than half of the time I drank, I would end up crying. About some of the dumbest things, too. Alcohol is a depressant, and boy did it depress me every time I drank it. It made me more sad when I was drinking it, and also made me more sad when I was suffering from a hangover. I guess that’s what happens when you practice excessive alcohol consumption.

Emotional Effects of Alcohol

Difficulty focusing

Obviously, drinking alcohol can affect your brain and your focus. It’s easy to have a hard time focusing on specific things when you’ve had a glass or two of wine. It also makes it much harder to focus on anything when you are bedridden in pain from a late night out. 

Lack of inhibitions

This is a reason that many people stop drinking. They make big mistakes while they’re drunk because of their lack of inhibitions. It can also lead you into some really dangerous situations, too. 

Long-Term Emotional Effects of Alcohol

Long-term depression and anxiety

Not only can alcohol affect your anxiety levels the day after you’ve consumed it, but it can also increase your levels of depression and anxiety over the long run, too. What’s worse is that wen you’re drinking long-term, it can become difficult to access your more positive emotions at all.

Brain shrinkage

Studies have shown that folks with severe alcohol use disorder have smaller and lighter brains than those who do not abuse alcohol. Unfortunately, alcohol can cause serious long-term problems in your brain with continued use.


If you drink alcohol often, your body can become dependent on the substance to be able to function daily. Alcohol is an addictive substance that can create very strong cravings. For some folks, this dependency can ruin (or end) their life. 

depressed woman

Impaired memory and learning capacity

Alcohol can affect your brain in so many ways, including your memory and learning capacity. Too much alcohol over too long of a time can really make you forget things pretty easily. There are long-term and short-term effects of memory when using alcohol. 

Being held back

This is an effect that I’ve really noticed over the last year I’ve been alcohol-free. The best way for me to describe it is that alcohol had formed a wall in front of me, and I couldn’t get through the wall to be able to move forward in my life. Once I was able to knock down the wall, I have been able to flourish in so many different areas of my life—from my career, to my relationship, to my friendships and even my spirituality. Alcohol had held me back emotionally in so many ways.  

Can You Reverse The Effects Of Alcohol

Yes, you can reverse some of the effects of drinking alcohol. Typically, a reversal of damage occurs in the first month to the first year of abstinence. The effects of alcohol abuse can be long-term, but if you take it into your own hands, you can take a lot of your health and power back. But, when you take steps to stop drinking, there are things that can be recovered so that you are no longer dependent on alcohol and can nurse yourself back to better well-being.

  • Heavy drinking can cause liver damage. But, upon the halt of consuming alcohol, new cells can develop in the liver. 

  • Often, ulcers are caused by alcohol abuse, but when someone stops drinking, the condition can resolve. Some scar tissue can be left behind.

woman smiling in front of the mirror

  • While many of these effects are physical, there are a lot of emotional effects that can evolve from heavy drinking. Alcohol is a depressant. There are many health issues that can arise from consuming alcohol that are not just physical. When we put down the drink, and prioritize our well-being and mental health, we are then able to often feel an improvement in our mental health. That gray cloud might not be completely gone, but it’s likely it will be lifted.

    • It’s important to note that when we step away from substances, many things will improve with not just ourselves but others. The emotional effects of alcohol are extremely reversible and sobriety can help with that. 

  • Inflammation of your stomach lining is very common when abusing alcohol. Upon abstinence from drinking, this can quickly go away and there is no longer pain caused by gastritis, which is an irritation caused by drinking. 

How To Reverse The Effects Of Alcohol

Increased exercise 

Moving our bodies and exercising is good for our brains. Exercise is associated with brain health, and yes, believe it or not, alcohol is not. The physical act of moving our bodies with exercise benefits the brain directly and counteracts damages of what alcohol does or has done. 

group outdoor activity

Intentional and increased social activities

Proper socialization can improve your mood and create connections. It’s not uncommon for people to use alcohol to gain the courage to be social, but when we put the drink down and do intentional activities that we might find enjoyable, it allows our brain to rewire and take care of itself. At the end of the day, everyone is seeking connection. And when we connect with ourselves and others, our mood is enhanced. 

Change in nutrition

What we put into our bodies matters. Alcoholism is often not paired with a healthy, balanced, and nutritious diet. Unfortunately, when under the influence, it’s not uncommon to turn to food that is not so good for us. In order for recovery and abstinence to be effective and sustainable, the body needs nutrients, vitamins, and healthy fats to function efficiently. Every diet and nutrition is different depending on the person. But a great solution to reverse the effects of alcohol is thoughtful and intentional nutrition.

Proper rest

Using substances can greatly interrupt your sleep and rest. A great way to take care of ourselves is to get sober sleep. You should be getting 7-9 hours of sleep a night. People might say that alcohol helps them fall asleep, but this outweighs the negative effect on the quality of sleep you have when sober.​​ When you get proper rest, you can expect to wake up feeling less sluggish and more present.

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