‘Tis the season to be jolly, right? Well, not exactly: 80 percent of us anticipate stress during the holiday season, according to a poll by the American Psychological Association. And this stress can cause individuals struggling with alcohol addiction to find reasons to continue their alcohol misuse.
“Social expectations during the holidays create anxiety,” explains Dr. Philip Hemphill, Chief Clinical Officer at Lakeview Health. “At Thanksgiving for example, people feel they have to perform in a family environment, demonstrate that they are good family members and make sure their performances are acceptable. Or they might be expected to summarize their lives for relatives and maybe they are proud of what’s been going on in their lives or maybe they are not.”
And if they are suffering from an alcohol use disorder that kind of pressure to perform can be perilous. There might be worries about money as well, pressure to come up with a Christmas gift you can’t really afford. The resulting anxiety and depression can seriously interfere with an addict’s recovery. And then there’s increase access and opportunity during the holidays. “Alcohol is used much more frequently and there are all these special drinks, a potentially dangerous reinforcement of addiction,” says Hemphill.
Tolerance, or the ability to drink more alcohol before intoxication is achieved. Do you have to drink more than in previous years to overcome the anxiety caused by holiday stress? Or maybe you’re finding that the usual number of drinks are having much less of an effect than they used to.
Driving under the influence. Are you or a family member getting behind the wheel intoxicated? Beware, engaging in such risky, physically hazardous behavior is one of the symptoms for an alcohol use disorder.
Frequent drinking to deal with holiday stress. Is that Christmas list bearing down on you? Have you noticed a loved one who has more drinks and more often than is good for him or her? The CDC uses these definitions for alcohol abuse: more than 8 drinks per week for women and more than 15 per week for men.
Putting your marriage, friendships, or job at risk as a result of alcohol-related behavior. Have family members been telling you to drink less? Is your partner frequently upset with you because of your drinking? Are you showing up late for work because of your alcohol use? Are friends avoiding you after they have seen you drunk?
Frequently drinking to excess at holiday gatherings. This is where the anxiety about social pressures and the increased access converge. Are you looking forward to drinking at the event because you don’t want to be there in the first place? Do you feel tempted to drink because people encourage you to drink or because you feel social custom requires it?
If you believe that you or a loved one exhibit addictive behaviors we encourage you to call our confidential toll free number at 866.704.7692 .
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