Understanding the Link Between Anxiety and Addiction

Life can be a daily struggle for many people who struggle with anxiety. Symptoms are often unpleasant and can cause disturbances in day-to-day functions. Some individuals don’t even realize that they have anxiety and therefore assume the symptoms are normal, and that’s how their life just is. Due to the unpleasantness of symptoms, many individuals who struggle with anxiety often turn to drugs and alcohol to cope. Even in recovery, anxiety can cause problems and potentially put your sobriety at risk. By understanding the link between anxiety and addiction, those currently struggling or in recovery can get the help they need and know they are not alone. Paying attention to anxiety symptoms can help you learn to manage them in healthy ways and recover from addiction.

Anxiety and Its Effects

Many types of anxiety disorders can wreak havoc on a person’s life through different symptoms. Generalized anxiety disorder -- the most common type of anxiety -- is an anxiety disorder that can cause individuals to constantly stress over everyday situations, causing unnecessary strain on their mental, physical, and emotional health. However, all anxiety disorders often cause people to worry about things without having a reason to. There is no prompting for the worrying, and yet the individual still stresses about the situation. Depending on the disorder, the person may experience various other symptoms. 

Other common anxiety disorders include:

  • Social anxiety disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Panic disorder
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Separation anxiety disorder

These disorders are each characterized by different symptoms and affect people’s lives in different ways. While some symptoms may be similar, it is essential to note the differences between each. Each disorder’s symptoms can have a mild to severe impact on a person’s life that can potentially lead to addiction.

Impact of Anxiety on Daily Life

Anxiety can severely impact a person’s daily life, specifically their ability to function and complete specific tasks. While impact can range from mild to severe, it can still cause trouble in a person’s life if they are unsure how to cope with the symptoms appropriately. If the person tries to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol to find relief from their symptoms, they are more likely to experience disturbances in daily life. By understanding how anxiety affects everyday life, you can recognize if it impacts your life and begin to take steps to manage it. 

Common ways that anxiety may affect your daily life include:

  • Avoiding social interactions
  • Inability to take risks or break routine
  • Feeling embarrassed
  • Fatigue
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Being late due to completing OCD rituals
  • Physical symptoms such as high blood pressure, rapid heart rate, chest pain, or excessive sweating
  • Constant rumination

The Link Between Anxiety and Addiction

Mood disorders such as anxiety and depression are among the most common co-occurring disorders in addiction. In fact, “anxiety and substance use disorders are among the most frequent psychiatric problems in the United States.” When people struggle with anxiety, they are more likely to attempt to relieve their symptoms with drugs and alcohol. Substance use may make them feel more at ease and comfortable in social situations. However, this can lead to dependence and addiction. 

There are typically three reasons that a person with anxiety or addiction may develop both, including self-medication, an anxiety disorder caused by substance abuse, or a genetic predisposition. It is essential to understand that anxiety does not cause addiction, and addiction does not cause anxiety, but rather the two are intertwined and can worsen the other’s symptoms. Using excessive amounts of drugs and alcohol can worsen anxiety symptoms, and worsening anxiety symptoms can cause a person to use more drugs and alcohol. The cycle can become dangerous when the person can no longer function without the presence of drugs and alcohol in their system as their bodies become dependent on the substances. From this point, treatment is the next best step.

Treating Anxiety and Addiction

Co-occurring disorder treatment is common in the United States due to the higher rates of mood disorders and addiction. Care for co-occurring disorders includes treating both disorders simultaneously, offering the patient the best chance at recovery. By only treating addiction and not addressing the underlying issue of anxiety, the person will have a higher risk of relapse in the future -- treating both is crucial to long-lasting recovery. Treatment will usually consist of a combination of detox, therapy, experiential therapies, and medication-assisted treatment (MAT). It is through these methods that patients are set up for success in recovery. Look for facilities that offer this care and take the first step today.

Anxiety disorders can cause severe discomfort in a person’s daily life when symptoms can inhibit a person from taking care of their responsibilities. Anxiety can be exacerbated by addiction, which often co-occurs with the disorder in a variety of cases. Individuals that struggle with both will benefit significantly from treatment programs such as NorthStar Transitions. NorthStar offers co-occurring disorder care for our patients to allow them the opportunity for the most success in our programs. We offer a variety of treatment modalities, including individual and group therapy, holistic therapy, experiential therapy, medication-assisted treatment, and more. Our facility is located amongst the beautiful mountains of Colorado to give you a peaceful place to heal. If you are currently struggling, don’t wait to get help. NorthStar is waiting for you to find real-life recovery. Call us today at (303) 558-6400 to learn more and take the first step towards healing and recovery.

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