One of the hardest aspects of quitting an addiction to alcohol is the way that your body will react to abstinence. Suddenly stopping the use of a substance you are physically and mentally addicted to can be uncomfortable and even painful at times.
Many people react in different ways and have their own experience with alcohol withdrawal. However there are certain common bodily responses that most people will find happening to them. Here are 10 ways that your body responds to alcohol withdrawal.
1. Shaking and Tremors– One of the first symptoms that people experience within the first day of abstinence or even several hours after their last drink is tremors. That means your hands or even your limbs are shaking involuntarily. The tremors may be more intense if you are especially anxious about detox and your body is responding to your anxiety.
Shaking occurs because your nervous system is suddenly flooded with more activity. People get accustomed to the depressant effects of alcohol which create less stimulation for the nervous system and the brain. Without any alcohol in your system your body responds by being hyperactive because the brain is experiencing more activity than it is used to.
2. Increased Heart Rate and Breathing – The sudden surge in activity in the central nervous system can create a number of other symptoms in the body. Many people will have a rapid heart rate or quick shallow breathing. As your nervous system goes into overdrive your heart may beat faster which can also be exacerbated by feelings of anxiety.
3. Excessive sweating – People going through withdrawal may find themselves sweating heavily especially at night. As their heart rate and breathing rate increase it can trigger perspiration as a result. It is important during detox to make sure that you stay well hydrated and replenish your electrolytes when you have severe sweating symptoms.
4. Trouble Sleeping – Most people going through detox will find it very difficult to sleep and will probably need some type of non-addictive medication to get through a full night. Issues with sleeping can begin the first day and persist for some time until the person’s body adjusts to living without alcohol. Sleep issues can be caused by a lack of dopamine in the system which can put the body into a panicked “fight or flight” state making it difficult to fall asleep.
5. Anxiety or Depression – Alcohol and other substances produce so much dopamine when they are consumed that your brain slows down its own production of natural dopamine. Dopamine is a chemical that helps regulate your mood and when you suddenly quit drinking alcohol your brain is producing a much smaller amount than you are used to. This sudden drop in dopamine can cause all kinds of problems including feelings of anxiety and depression.
Your brain will need time to start producing normal amounts of dopamine instead of the depressed levels it was creating when you were drinking alcohol. Without enough dopamine you will have much higher stress levels which will cause you to feel worried, anxious and depressed in addition to making it hard to sleep. It is important to find ways to handle this extra stress so that it does not become overwhelming.
6. Delirium Tremens – The most severe kind of alcohol withdrawal that people experience is delirium tremens or DTs which can be very intense. The symptoms can occur within 48 hours of your last drink and tend to include severe confusion, seizures and hallucinations. People usually only experience delirium tremens if they suddenly quit a very severe alcohol addiction.
7. Headaches and pain– Your body is adjust to drinking alcohol on a regular basis and when you suddenly quit it may respond by causing aches and pains throughout the body. Many people get a serious headache or a feeling of achiness throughout their whole body. This pain will eventually subside but taking over the counter aspirin can help minimize the discomfort.
8. Nausea and Vomiting– Within the first day or two of withdrawal your body is likely to respond with feelings of nausea and vomiting. The chemical dependency causes your body to react and many people feel queasy or uncomfortable in their stomach.
9. Fever or Increased Temperature – Along with an increased heart rate some people may also experience an increase in their body temperature as a reaction to abstinence. Taking fever reducing medicine may be necessary to keep their body temperature from rising.
10. Mood Swings – One of the most difficult reactions that people have to abstaining from alcohol is severe mood swings. Their body is used to using alcohol to relax and calm their emotional state. Without a drink they may feel agitated, angry or tearful and sad.
Alcohol withdrawal can be painful and uncomfortable for a period of time but ultimately you will experience positive benefits for your physical and mental health by abstaining from alcohol.