Anxiety and Depression: Why You Feel Depressed During Alcohol Recovery

Do you feel anxious or depressed after quitting alcohol? You’re not alone. There are a lot of people who struggle with this during the alcoholism recovery process.

Addiction treatment programs are the best way to manage these emotions and get to the underlying causes of anxiety and depression. Trained counselors and medical professionals can guide you or someone you love through the stages of recovery.

Why Do I Feel Depressed or Anxious During Alcohol Recovery?

Studies have found that there’s a significant correlation between depression, anxiety, and alcohol abuse. It’s not uncommon for those in alcohol recovery to have symptoms of both depression and anxiety.

Though this can be hard, it’s very treatable and manageable under the right care.

The Cycle of Anxiety, Depression, and Alcohol Abuse

Anxiety, depression, and alcohol use disorders all have a causal effect on each other. The more depressed or anxious a person feels, the more alcohol they might drink to dull those emotions. And the more alcohol they consume, the more depressed and anxious they get. 

These three disorders can cycle over and over again, increasing the risk of developing or worsening any one of the disorders.

Not only this, but anxiety and depression are closely tied even without the presence of alcohol. One worldwide survey found that nearly half of people with lifetime major depressive disorder also had a lifetime history of one or more anxiety disorders.

Anxiety and Alcohol Recovery

There are two major connections between alcohol and anxiety:

  1. People may use alcohol to cope with their anxiety.
  2. People may develop anxiety as a result of alcohol use.

In alcohol recovery, you or someone you love might be feeling anxious because the coping mechanism of alcohol has been taken away. 

Anxiety might also be a direct result of chronic (long-term) alcohol abuse. So, while someone is in recovery, those feelings of anxiety will feel pretty strong.

This case study found a relationship between alcohol and panic disorders. Their findings suggest that quitting heavy alcohol consumption can lead to panic attacks. 

Depression and Alcohol Recovery

According to one study, 63.8% of alcohol-dependent people have major depression. The connection between alcohol addiction and depression has long been studied, and the two have been found to be strongly linked.

One of the major reasons that many people in alcohol addiction recovery have depression is the genetic and environmental factors that led them to that addiction. 

Things like financial stress, a chaotic home life, genetic predisposition to addiction, and more can all make a person more likely to turn to substances like alcohol in times of distress, loneliness, or intense sadness.

When someone enters alcohol recovery, they’re removing the coping mechanism that they’d been previously using to buffer the negative emotions associated with those environmental or genetic factors. 

It’s only natural that taking this buffer away will make those emotions more prevalent and harder to manage without other coping strategies in place.

Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

Heavy drinking can lead to more intense withdrawal symptoms. Both anxiety and depression are symptoms of alcohol withdrawal.

Drinking alcohol on a regular basis gets the body used to relaxing itself with alcohol. When a person is in recovery, their body will go through natural adjustments, making them feel more tense, worried, fearful, or hopeless. 

The good news is that this is usually temporary. Alcohol withdrawal lasts about 24 to 72 hours. Symptoms usually peak on the third day of withdrawal, which is when depression and anxiety will feel strongest. Most people can get over this initial hump and start feeling better after a few days. 

Tips for Coping With Anxiety and Depression During Alcohol Recovery

It can be challenging to deal with anxiety and depression on top of trying to recover from alcoholism.

Use some of these tips to manage symptoms of anxiety or depression during alcohol recovery:

  • Find an addiction treatment program, like inpatient rehab, outpatient rehab, or medical detox.
  • Start going to counseling to address the underlying causes of your anxiety and depression.
  • Do family therapy sessions.
  • Get involved with a community, such as a religious group, a circle of friends, or some other source of support.
  • Attend Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings.
  • Practice deep breathing exercises.
  • Set goals for yourself and determine what you’re looking forward to post-recovery.
  • Speak kind words over yourself, reminding yourself that this is the natural healing process and it’s only temporary.

Author bio: Hannah Bennett is a content specialist for, an informational content guide that provides resources for individuals who struggle with addiction and their loved ones, as well as information on mental health and substance abuse.