If you or someone you know is in crisis, contact the Military Crisis Line at 988 and press 1, or Text 838255. You can also call 911.

What Alcohol Can Do to Your Mood and Mental Health

If you have ever been stressed and wanted to relax or unwind, you may have reached for an alcoholic drink as a pick me up. Alcohol can be a popular choice for people looking to manage their mood or deal with stress or anxiety. What you may not realize is that, in some cases, drinking alcohol may be part of what is negatively affecting your mood and mental health in the first place.

Mood and Mood Swings

Drinking alcohol impacts the parts of your brain responsible for managing your emotions. With your first few sips of a drink, alcohol is causing abrupt changes in dopamine and serotonin, two chemical messengers (called hormones) that affect your mood. An increase in these hormones can initially make you feel more calm, confident and relaxed, and because your brain feels good when you first drink, it wants you to repeat this action. After the alcohol travels from your stomach and intestine to your blood and brain, it begins to interact with other brain chemicals related to your mood and energy levels. This causes rapid and often unpredictable changes in your brain which can impact your mood and temperament. These alcohol-related mood swings can make you act in ways you normally wouldn’t when you’re sober and tend to get stronger the more you drink.

Depression and Overall Mental Health

Some common reasons why people drink alcohol are to help with the symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression, or to help manage the symptoms of other medical conditions. At first, you may start to feel better after you drink. However, regular, heavy drinking can be part of an unhealthy cycle of coping with these issues.

Alcohol is a depressant and can make a person’s depression, overall mental health and mood worse by:

  • Interrupting sleep and sleep patterns, leading to sleep problems, which can increase symptoms of depression like exhaustion and difficulty concentrating
  • Reducing the effectiveness of antidepressants and other medications, and increasing other side effects of medications like drowsiness
  • Lowering your inhibitions and making you more likely to act without thinking, which can put you in risky or dangerous situations that can impact your mental and physical health
  • Increasing suicidal thoughts and behaviors


If you need help finding other ways to manage your moods, a great place to start is by speaking with your health care provider. They can share resources with you to help you find better ways to manage stress. Talking with a licensed therapist may be one recommendation they provide. For resources to help you quit or limit your drinking, you can call the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357). SAMHSA’s National Helpline is a free and confidential treatment referral and information service (provided in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders and is available 24 hours a day, every day of the year. Check out additional resources for Service members here.

If you or someone you know is in crisis, contact the Military Crisis Line at 988 and press 1, or Text 838255. You can also call 911.