Skip to main content

Warning notification:Warning

Unfortunately, you are using an outdated browser. Please, upgrade your browser to improve your experience with HSE. The list of supported browsers:

  1. Chrome
  2. Edge
  3. FireFox
  4. Opera
  5. Safari

Alcohol and trauma

Trauma is an emotional, psychological or physical response to a very negative or disturbing event.

For example:

  • abuse
  • loss
  • witnessing a death
  • a near-death experience
  • torture or captivity

How trauma feels

Everyone experiences trauma in their own way.

Some common experiences include:

  • feeling helpless
  • sleeplessness
  • feeling anxious and restless
  • fear
  • sadness
  • anger or violence
  • guilt

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is caused by very stressful, frightening or distressing events.

Someone with PTSD often relives the traumatic event through nightmares and flashbacks.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Alcohol and trauma

It's normal to want to avoid negative or unpleasant feelings.

Alcohol may give some temporary relief from the symptoms of trauma.

Over time, relying on alcohol in this way can reduce your ability to cope with stress and anxiety. It will not resolve the impact of the trauma.

In the long run, it can make things significantly worse. It may prevent you from getting the support you need to recover from your trauma.

Non-urgent advice: Get help with problem alcohol use

Freephone 1800 459 459 for confidential advice

You can also take our alcohol test to find out what type of drinker you are.

Dealing with trauma

Some healthy ways to deal with trauma include:

  • having counselling or therapy
  • sharing your feelings with a supportive listener
  • talking to people who have been through something similar
  • doing things that help you to relax

Connect counselling

Connect provides counselling for abuse, trauma or neglect in childhood. To speak to a counsellor freephone 1800 477 477 or 00800 477 477 77 from Northern Ireland.

Page last reviewed: 20 August 2022
Next review due: 20 August 2025