Is Holiday Drinking Related to Stress or Celebration–or BOTH?
Special times of the year create a certain atmosphere among friends and families that can be both good and bad. The holiday season stands out from the rest of the year in ways that encourage and increase rates of alcohol consumption, especially for people who struggle with drinking problems.
While the holidays may be considered a joyous time, they create an unusual mix of stress and celebration, both of which can trigger unhealthy holiday drinking behaviors for those most vulnerable to alcohol’s effects.
Alcohol’s Primary Effects
Most casual or social drinkers drink to relax and wind down. Alcohol’s relaxing effects stem from it’s ability to slow brain and central nervous system functions, according to the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry.
After one or two drinks, a person starts to experience less inhibition, which seems to fit in nicely with a holiday celebration. For people who drink on a regular basis, holiday drinking can quickly turn into heavy drinking.
Family & the Holiday Effect
A person’s family upbringing plays a pivotal role in shaping his or her life outlook and overall ability to cope with everyday life in healthy ways. With dysfunctional family environments, there’s a higher risk of developing poor self-esteem and unhealthy coping behaviors.
For many drinkers, most anything having to do with family or close relationships in general can trigger heavy drinking patterns. These conditions set the stage for holiday drinking to take a bad turn.
Stress Effects on Holiday Drinking
The stress of the holiday season can have adverse effects on a drinker’s ability to manage his or her alcohol consumption. The pressure of buying gifts and planning get-togethers on top of going to work and running a household cause stress levels to increase considerably.
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse & Alcoholism, with frequent drinking, alcohol’s ability to interact with brain and central nervous system functioning soon starts to interfere with the brain’s stress response system. In effect, the brain “learns” to seek out alcohol’s effects when stress levels run high.
Not surprisingly, someone with alcohol abuse issues will have a really difficult time drinking in moderation during the holiday season.
More often than not, alcohol abuse tendencies develop out of unresolved emotional issues with alcohol being a means for coping with emotions of any kind. In the process, a drinker never really develops healthy communication skills or healthy coping behaviors.
Under these conditions, holiday drinking can easily spin out of control in the face of a dysfunctional family environment. Even when a family get-together has a celebratory atmosphere, the potential for heavy drinking runs high.
While it can be easy to overlook heavy drinking during the holidays considering all that’s going on, someone who already has problems with alcohol only stands to see his or her drinking problems get worse as a result. In effect, an alcohol problem only grows worse with time and stressful situations only speed up the process.