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Could anxiety affect your performance on sobriety tests?

On Behalf of | Oct 15, 2020 | Drunk Driving |

Millions of Americans struggle with anxiety disorders. These disorders can dramatically impact their lives, whether someone is in social situations, taking tests, dealing with stress, or making health-related decisions.

With that in mind, consider someone with anxiety getting pulled over in Portland for suspected drunk driving. Such a scenario can trigger any person’s mental and physical reaction to stress, but if a person has an anxiety disorder, the response can be far more pronounced. In fact, anxiety could adversely affect a person’s performance of field sobriety tests.

Alcohol and its effect on anxiety

Alcohol affects anxiety in several ways, depending on the amount someone drinks and factors like a medication a person may be on.

As this Healthline article explains, alcohol can worsen a person’s anxiety as it wears off; it can make a person dependent in social situations; it can interact poorly with anti-anxiety medication. Thus, a person could wind up feeling increased anxiety after a single drink and after a night of heavy drinking.

Anxiety and its effect on test-taking

Increased anxiety can make it very difficult to perform specific tasks. This reaction to stress can lead to:

  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Nausea
  • Increased heart rate

These physical responses can look a lot like impairment or nervousness to a police officer who suspects a person is driving drunk. They can also affect how a person speaks, balances, follows directions and divides attention, all of which are factors that officers observe during field sobriety tests.

Add in the fact that having a single drink or recovering from a hangover can exacerbate anxiety, and this creates a situation where a sober person could fail sobriety tests and get arrested for DUI.

Anxiety is just one condition that can affect people in ways that might look like intoxication, and it is one that millions of people experience. Understanding how and why it might affect you could be crucial in defending against wrongful drunk driving charges.