About David Joel Miller

David Miller is a California Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Clinical Counselor, faculty member at a local college, certified trainer and writer.

Does drinking alcohol to cope help?

Bottles of alcohol.

Alcoholic Beverages.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Have you ever told yourself, “I need a drink?”

I’m sure you’ve heard the expression a million times, more or less. When someone has had a rough day and is feeling anxious or depressed, their first reaction is often to reach for a drink of alcohol to cope. Humans have been saying this and doing it ever since alcohol was first packaged so it could be saved for later use.

People who use alcohol to cope rarely ask themselves if the alcohol is really helping. Most people simply assume it is helpful. If you’ve developed a problem with alcohol or if you’re one of those who work in the counseling field, you probably have a strong opinion about the dangers of using alcohol to cope with stressful situations. But until recently, there’s been very little scientific research into when alcohol is helpful and for what problems.

Now we have evidence about drinking to relieve stress.

A recent study by Andrea M Wycoff at the University of Missouri-Columbia, US, looked at the use of alcohol for coping and concluded that not only is it not helpful, but it can also make your symptoms worse.

The study compared two populations, the group drawn from the general population and another group who had been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). People with borderline personality disorder are known to be more likely to develop drinking problems. Some of the people with BPD had also been diagnosed with an alcohol use disorder.

One problem with other research of this nature has been the strong tendency to exclude from the research anyone with a substance use disorder diagnosis. Some studies also exclude anyone with a previous mental health diagnosis. Eliminating people who have developed an alcohol use problem from a study on alcohol use problems results in a study that doesn’t inform us much about the connection between using alcohol and the subsequent development of problems.

How were the effects of alcohol on stress measured?

During this study, participants were given an electronic journal. They received periodic prompts to write down in their journal what they were doing, any alcohol consumption, and what they were feeling. They were specifically prompted to report on negative, sometimes called unhelpful feelings.

Whenever someone reported using alcohol, they were asked if they had done this to reduce negative feelings such as anxiety and depression or to increase positive feelings such as feeling calm or relaxed.

Did the alcohol help reduce anxiety and depression?

People who reported drinking to reduce their anxiety, depression, or both did report that they were doing it to reduce those negative emotions. In addition, after drinking, those people were more likely to report that they felt the drink had relieved their anxiety or depression. Initially, the researchers took this as confirmation that drinking alcohol did relieve the discomfort of anxiety and depression.

The facts didn’t confirm the feelings.

Feelings are difficult to measure. There aren’t medical instruments that can directly measure how anxious or how depressed someone is. What researchers resort to are paper and pencil questionnaires. These assessment instruments ask a series of questions about anxiety or depression. Using the same scale at different points in time helps measure increases or decreases in someone’s anxiety or depression.

While many people expected the drink to reduce their feelings of anxiety and or depression, that’s not what happened. Scores on an anxiety inventory did not decline. Instead, scores on depression inventories actually went up, meaning that people who drink to cope with depression end up more depressed, not less.

Drinking to relieve anxiety and depression affects alcoholics more than others.

Even more striking is that many people with an alcohol use disorder, especially those who would call themselves an alcoholic, found that their scores for depression rose even higher than the scores for those without an alcohol use disorder.

Some of the likely conclusions from this research are that repeatedly drinking to control anxiety and depression can result in an alcohol use disorder and that those people with that disorder will find drinking alcohol makes the problem worse, not better. The ability of alcohol to help you cope with anxiety, depression, and stress declines the more you use alcohol and eventually reaches a point where another drink will make your anxiety or depression worse.

An even more important conclusion is that using alcohol to cope with anxiety or depression increases the risk of becoming an alcoholic.

We need to know more about drinking when anxious or depressed.

There are some limitations of this study. It wasn’t a huge sample. It might be possible to find people who were an exception to these results. The sample also had a large percentage of women. Much of the literature about alcoholism and how it develops tells us that women are more likely to develop alcoholism and develop it more rapidly than men if they drink heavily.

The authors note that previous studies limited to men tell us that men are more likely to drink to cope with negative emotions and more likely to develop alcohol problems than women. Presumably, a study of men only would have resulted in an even stronger connection between using alcohol to cope with negative emotions and a subsequent increase in anxiety, depression, and an alcohol use disorder.

What about alcohol and the mentally ill?

The sample had a large number of participants who had been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, which should underscore an extra warning for those people with BPD to avoid the use of alcohol to regulate their emotions. It’s extremely likely that people with other specific mental health diagnoses would see a similar or an even larger effect.

I’ll be on the lookout for research that studies the effects of using alcohol to cope on subjects who have other diagnoses. From my experiences working in the drug and alcohol counseling field, I would expect to see very similar results among clients diagnosed with mood disorders, anxiety, PTSD, and those suffering from the aftereffects of early childhood trauma. All of this tells me that the more someone believes they need to have a drink to cope with negative emotions, the more likely it is that drinking will lead to more severe and longer-lasting problems.

The takeaway from all this?

Drinking alcohol to cope with negative emotions and stress may feel like it’s working in the moment, but it is likely to make your problems worse.

For more on this topic, please see:

Wycoff, A. M., Carpenter, R. W., Hepp, J., Piasecki, T. M., & Trull, T. J. (2021). Real-time reports of drinking to cope: Associations with subjective relief from alcohol and changes in negative affect. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 130(6), 641–650. https://doi.org/10.1037/abn0000684

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Seven David Joel Miller Books are available now! And more are on the way.

For these and my upcoming books, please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

For videos, see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel

Alive.

Alive.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

Alive.

Sunday Inspiration.     Post by David Joel Miller.

“Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.”

― Dr. Seuss, Happy Birthday to You!

“I like living. I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable, racked with sorrow; but through it all I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing.”

― Agatha Christie

“You’re alive only once, as far as we know, and what could be worse than getting to the end of your life and realizing you hadn’t lived it?”

― Edward Albee

Wanted to share some inspirational quotes with you.  Today seemed like a good time to do this. There are an estimated 100,000 words in the English language that are feelings related. Some emotions are pleasant, and some are unpleasant, but all feelings can provide useful information. If any of these quotes strike a chord with you, please share them.

Look at these related posts for more on this topic and other feelings.

Emotions and Feelings.

Inspiration

Thanksgiving Day.

Thanksgiving Day.

Post by David Joel Miller.

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Today is the traditional Thanksgiving Day celebration here in America. Mostly it is celebrated with lots of food, some family, and assorted other traditions.

For some people, this is a time to eat a lot and watch sports. Other people are planning their “Black Friday” Christmas shopping for tomorrow. A few of us old dinosaurs are remembering that today was created to think about all the things that we have to be grateful for and how this country almost didn’t make it, a couple of times.

Below are a few quotes that remind me of things to think about today.

“After a good dinner, one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relations.”

― Oscar Wilde, A Woman of No Importance

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them. ~John Fitzgerald Kennedy

An optimist is a person who starts a new diet on Thanksgiving Day. ~Irv Kupcinet

We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures. ~Thornton Wilder

None is more impoverished than the one who has no gratitude. Gratitude is a currency that we can mint for ourselves, and spend without fear of bankruptcy. ~Fred De Witt Van Amburgh

Thanksgiving is an emotional holiday. People travel thousands of miles to be with people they only see once a year. And then discover once a year is way too often. ~Johnny Carson

Wanted to share some inspirational quotes with you. But these were all I could find. Today seemed like a good time to do this. If any of these quotes strike a chord with you please share them.

Do you have zoom fatigue?

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Zoom fatigue.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

 

What is zoom fatigue?

If you have been engaged in much of anything during the pandemic, you probably have experienced episodes of zoom fatigue. Ever-increasing amounts of time spent both online and on-camera can be incredibly draining. Like other kinds of work fatigue, there’s a need for finding ways to reduce the impact of too much time on zoom.

My sympathies to Zoom, the company. I suspect that in the future, they’re going to have to do some things to protect their trademark. Just as googling-it has become an expression for using a search engine, zoom is starting to become a synonym for using any interactive online audiovisual program. By way of historical perspective, both Coke and Kleenex have had to fight this same battle. While I will refer to Zoom throughout this article, what I’m saying applies equally to similar online conferencing platforms.

I personally am on Zoom a great deal. I have my own Zoom subscription and a dedicated meeting room that I use for clients in my counseling and coaching practices. But I also see clients using several other online video conferencing platforms. Closely related to zoom sessions is also a massive increase in using videos for the classes I teach. It’s important to ask why students can spend all afternoon watching videos on YouTube but have difficulty sustaining attention when watching videos related to their class.

I have a suspicion that in addition to the people experiencing fatigue from using Zoom or another platform, many people are also experiencing a great deal of boredom and fatigue because of the content of those ever-increasing distance meetings.

I was a relatively early adopter of both distance education and distance counseling. Both have their advantages, and I expect to do a great deal of both in the future. But like eyestrain from the early computers and carpal tunnel syndrome from too much typing on first typewriters and later computers, each new technology comes with some challenges. For example, prolonged sessions on videoconferencing or video chat programs are not without their problems.

Zoom fatigue does not affect everyone equally.

A new study in the Journal of Applied Psychology discussed how zoom fatigue affects certain groups in the workforce more than others. First, that study, and then I’ll talk a little bit about some similar problems in counseling and education.

More time on zoom increases the risk of zoom fatigue.

This certainly makes sense. More time doing anything is likely to lead to fatigue for that particular activity. I read that some employers are now creating zoom-free Fridays or afternoons on certain days which are without teleconference meetings. Changing activities certainly is one approach to reducing the impact of fatigue and loss of interest. But if cutting back on zoom time is the answer, why aren’t video game manufacturers limiting the minutes their users can play their products so that gamers will avoid developing gamers-fatigue and stop playing?

One solution which online education has moved towards is gamifying their educational content. Make learning fun, and students don’t get bored and lose interest.

Having your camera on can increase the stress.

When having the cameras on or off is optional, meeting participants who had their cameras on are more likely to report feeling zoom fatigue. The on-camera fact was more pronounced for women and people new to an organization or recurring meeting such as a class. Furthermore, people are more likely to share at the beginning or end of the meeting when their cameras are turned off, and they’re not on display.

Not part of this study but worth noting is that the interns I supervised have reported that people who suffer from anxiety disorders or have social phobia are extremely stressed by being on camera. I hear the same thing from faculty who are trying to make students keep the cameras on. Students who in a classroom situation would sit in the back because they are self-conscious when others are looking at them can avoid that feeling of being stared at during zoom classes. The result is that people with low self-esteem or body dysmorphic disorders become especially fatigued during zoom meetings, may leave early, and look for any possible excuse to turn off the camera.

Gender and length of time at work matter.

In general, women report being more fatigued by their time on zoom than men. Also, people who were new to an organization are more likely to experience zoom fatigue. We need to be careful about drawing conclusions here, but in most mental health settings, women are much more likely to be diagnosed with anxiety disorders. Since society so often evaluates women based on their appearance putting female employees on camera front and center adds to their stress level and may make the meeting incredibly fatiguing.

Here is the study on the impact of cameras on zoom fatigue.

I tried doing several literature searches for research studies on zoom fatigue and how to cope with it. Three different search terms yielded minimal results. The term zoom fatigue returned exactly 163 results. I read through the abstracts for these studies and found primarily studies about using video platforms and techniques to study various forms of fatigue rather than studies that were focused on becoming fatigued as a result of using an online video platform. I have saved a number of these studies, which I thought might be informative, and as I have time to read them, I will try to get back to you on them.

Two other elements of remote counseling and education which may be adding to the zoom fatigue syndrome I would describe as:

Connection frustration.

Not all devices connect to all platforms, and often Internet or Wi-Fi connections don’t work well with some video platforms. Personally, I’ve had good results with Zoom, but other platforms don’t always work well. For best results, don’t get too far away from your modem, or better yet, only use devices that are plugged in directly using the ethernet cable. Walking around while teleconferencing is not recommended.

Multiple platform frustration.

I teach adjunct at two different colleges. Parts of their systems are not identical, and they keep changing. While I use Zoom for my private practice counseling and coaching clients, when I see clients for another telehealth provider, I have to switch to their platform. All this platform movement gets frustrating. Frequently when I switch from one platform to another, I get a message that the new platform can’t detect my camera or microphone. I then have to unplug the camera, microphone, or both and then plug them both back into my computer, at which point the new platform can detect them.

In the meantime, my suggestion is to try to cope with zoom fatigue in the same way that you might cope with any other form of educational or work fatigue. If anyone comes across additional information on this topic, please leave the reference in the comments section below or send it to me using the contact me form on the counselorssoapbox.com blog.

Thanks for reading.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Seven David Joel Miller Books are available now! And more are on the way.

For these and my upcoming books, please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

For videos, see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel

Clever.

Clever. Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

Sunday Inspiration.     Post by David Joel Miller.

“I am so clever that sometimes I don’t understand a single word of what I am saying.”

― Oscar Wilde, The Happy Prince and Other Stories

“A clever person solves a problem. A wise person avoids it.”

― Albert Einstein

“Education without values, as useful as it is, seems rather to make man a more clever devil.”

― C.S. Lewis

Wanted to share some inspirational quotes with you.  Today seemed like a good time to do this. There are an estimated 100,000 words in the English language that are feelings related. Some emotions are pleasant, and some are unpleasant, but all feelings can provide useful information. If any of these quotes strike a chord with you, please share them.

Look at these related posts for more on this topic and other feelings.

Emotions and Feelings.

Inspiration

Retirement

Retirement. Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

Sunday Inspiration.     Post by David Joel Miller.

“I didn’t know that painters and writers retired. They’re like soldiers – they just fade away.”

― Lawrence Ferlinghetti

 “If you truly feel that self-esteem and motivation have to happen first before you can make changes in your life, then we’ll probably be sharing walkers at a retirement home as we talk over what might have been.”

― Shannon Alder

“There’s no retirement for an artist, its your way of living so there’s no end to it.”

― Bono

Wanted to share some inspirational quotes with you.  Today seemed like a good time to do this. There are an estimated 100,000 words in the English language that are feelings related. Some emotions are pleasant, and some are unpleasant, but all feelings can provide useful information. If any of these quotes strike a chord with you, please share them.

Look at these related posts for more on this topic and other feelings.

Emotions and Feelings.

Inspiration

Daylight Savings.

Sunday Inspiration.     Post by David Joel Miller.

Daylight Savings.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

My calendar tells me today is the day we enter daylight savings time. Hopefully, you’ve already changed your clocks. With all the years of my life, I’ve saved this time; I wonder what happened all those extra hours. Here are some thoughts about daylight savings time. While this is not exactly a feeling, the change is sure to create feelings in most of us.

“Out of the effort to cut back on civilian use of fuel, it was the Federal Fuel Administration that first introduced daylight saving time a year later, in 1918.”

― Arthur Herman, 1917: Vladimir Lenin, Woodrow Wilson, and the Year That Created the Modern Age

“There are very few things in the world I hate more than Daylight Savings Time. It is the grand lie of time, the scourge of science, the blight on biological understanding.”

― Michelle Franklin

“I object to being told that I am saving daylight when my reason tells me that I am doing nothing of the kind… At the back of the Daylight Saving scheme, I detect the bony, blue-fingered hand of Puritanism, eager to push people into bed earlier, and get them up earlier, to make them healthy, wealthy, and wise in spite of themselves.”

― Robertson Davies, The Papers of Samuel Marchbanks

I wanted to share some inspirational quotes with you.  Today seemed like a good time to do this. There are an estimated 100,000 words in the English language that are feelings related. Some emotions are pleasant, and some are unpleasant, but all feelings can provide useful information. If any of these quotes strike a chord with you, please share them.

Look at these related posts for more on this topic and other feelings.

Emotions and Feelings.

Inspiration