Alcohol and Mental Health

There is a delicate balance of chemicals and processes for normal functioning of our brain. Alcohol is however a depressant which can disrupt that balance, disturbing our thoughts, feelings and actions – and sometimes our mental health.

Alcohol is linked to depression and other mental problems

  • On drinking more, more of the brain starts to be affected. Alcohol can be linked to aggression and you could become angry, aggressive, anxious or depressed.
  • Alcohol can be linked to depression in either way:1
    • Alcohol upsets the chemistry of the brain, increasing the risk of depression.
    • Hangovers can create a cycle of feeling ill on waking up, anxious and guilty.
    • Life gets depressing – social conflicts with family or friends, trouble at work, violence.
  • Alcohol can make people lose their inhibitions and behave on impulse, so it can result in actions they might not otherwise have taken, including self-harm and suicide.
  • Self-harm and suicide are much more common in people with alcohol problems. The potential mechanism can be in two ways:1
    • One regularly drinks too much (including binge-drinking) which makes he or she feel depressed; or
    • One drinks to relieve anxiety or depression.
  • Long-term use of alcohol can lead to psychotic symptoms, for example hearing voices when there is nobody, and dementia.1

Alcohol cannot help with your stress

  • Binge drinking can contribute to feelings of depression and anxiety in the long run, and make stress harder to deal with. This is because regular, heavy drinking interferes with chemicals in your brain that are necessary for good mental health and functioning.
  • There are more effective ways to cope with stress other than drinking, such as exercise. Even a brisk walk can help clear your mind.
  • A hot bath or some gentle stretches can relieve tension from your body.
  • Talk to a trusted friend or colleague and come up some solutions with them
  • For more tips for keeping a good mood, please visit the “Joyful@HK” website.
  • Alcohol causes cancer and should not be used for improving health.
  • If you don’t drink, do not start drinking.
  • If you choose to drink, limit your drinking after knowing the risk to minimise alcohol harm:
  • Please note this is only a lower risk drinking, and there is no safety level for drinking.
  • For your health and lowering risk of cancers, you can reduce your drinking step by step. Staying sober is the best option.
  • Children, adolescents and pregnant women should not drink.


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1 Alcohol and Depression - Royal College of Psychiatrists