For some people, insomnia caused by stopping drinking can be challenging, resulting in the urge to start drinking again ‘to help get off to sleep’. If you experience this, remember that your sleep patterns will almost certainly start to return to normal once your brain recovers its normal functions.
If you‘re experiencing withdrawal symptoms, it’s a sign that you are becoming physically dependent on alcohol. Alcohol dependence, sometimes known as ‘alcoholism’, is the most serious form of drinking problem and can lead to a whole range of serious health problems. People who are suffering from alcohol dependence may experience a strong, often uncontrollable, desire to drink and feel they’re unable to function without alcohol.
Withdrawal symptoms are caused by the way your brain reacts when you drink heavily. Alcohol affects the area of the brain responsible for what’s known as the ‘fight or flight’ function. This is the way in which our brains respond to danger, preparing us to either fight or run away.
Although severe withdrawal symptoms can take up to a year to fully recover from, most people feel better within 3-7 days of stopping drinking. The first 48 hours are likely to be the worst.
When you drink alcohol, the fight or flight response in your brain is suppressed, making you feel relaxed. And when you stop drinking, the alcohol gradually leaves your brain as your body processes it. But if you regularly drink excessively, the alcohol’s effect on your brain’s chemical balance can mean you go straight into fight or flight mode as the alcohol leaves your brain, even when there’s no danger present 1 .
Alcohol withdrawal symptoms.
Withdrawal symptoms – both the psychological ones (e.g. anxiety) and the physical ones (e.g. the shakes) are all caused by your brain going into fight or flight mode. The more you drink, the more you’re likely to be affected by withdrawal symptoms.
If you get any of the following after drinking heavily, it’s likely you’re experiencing alcohol withdrawal symptoms.