What is the Relationship Between Anxiety and Addiction?

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Anxiety is a mental health issue common among people struggling with addiction to drugs and alcohol.

In fact, according to Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), about 20 percent of people with anxiety disorders also have a substance use disorder. When anxiety or other mental health condition is accompanied by addiction, it is clinically known as a co-occurring disorder.

The cause of such a high percentage of anxiety and substance use disorders (SUD) co-occurring is most often fueled by individuals self-medicating with substances to manage their anxiety. However using drugs and alcohol to ease anxiety will only worsen your anxiety and potentially progress into a dangerous cycle.

Connecting Anxiety and Addiction

Substance abuse and mental health issues such as anxiety cause many people to self-medicate in an attempt to manage and cope with daily life. Over time, this behavior progresses into substance use disorder with co-occurring mental health disorders.

The connection can begin with common actions such as drinking alcohol to decrease panic symptoms, or to reduce social anxiety or stress. However, these choices actually intensify anxiety over time, and can progress into addiction.

Anxiety can also trigger addiction relapse after periods of sobriety if not properly managed.

Managing Anxiety without Addictive Substances

One of the safest and most beneficial ways to manage anxiety without relying on drugs and alcohol is to calm your mind with healthy coping skills.

Try the following measures to help keep your anxiety in check and prevent the need to rely on drugs and alcohol:

Coping Skills to Manage Anxiety

1. Learn to Meditate

Take control of your thoughts and emotions with a meditation practice. Even five minutes a day can make the difference. Meditation will calm your mind and enhance your spiritual health. There are several apps and podcasts that offer free guided meditations to help you build and expand your meditation practice.

2. Practice Self Care

Self care can include anything that you do for yourself that feels calming and relaxing. Whether it is a doctor’s visit, a hot bath, eating a nutritious meal, or shutting off electronics to read a book, self care applies to any actions you take to better your emotional, physical and mental health.

3. Get Enough Sleep

Make it a priority to get enough sleep each night. Develop a healthy sleep routine. And, beyond getting enough sleep, make sure you are resting your mind and body when necessary.

4. Exercise

Staying active and taking care of your physical health should always be a priority. Make time for a daily exercise routine that works for you. 

5. Be Creative

Engage in activities and hobbies that engage your mind and creativity to help reduce anxiety. Focusing on things you like to do to help relieve anxiety and serve as an outlet for any nervous energy.

6. Ask for Help

When you are feeling anxious or triggers compel thoughts if using drugs or alcohol, it is important to talk to someone. For people in recovery, it is critical to reach out to your sponsor, sober friends, a safe loved one, or attend a Twelve Step meeting. Your support network can help you determine the appropriate steps to take moving forward.

It is important to note that if anxiety is affecting your everyday life and impacting your ability to function normally, it is important to seek professional help before it progresses further or leads to substance abuse, and for people in recovery, relapse.

If an addiction relapse does occur, reach out for co-occurring clinical help immediately to prevent overdose or death. If you or someone you care about needs clinical help, Valley Hope offers a variety of co-occurring treatment options. 

Finding Help for Anxiety and Addiction

Clinical treatment can focus on addressing the causes of anxiety and other mental health disorders, life while also treating co-occurring addiction to substances. By addressing both issues concurrently, you will have a higher chance of recovery. 

Valley Hope’s customized care approach to treating co-occurring disorders involves tailoring a treatment plan based on your SUD diagnosis, medical condition, psychological needs and emotional state. Our compassionate care team works with you in a healing, respectful environment to ensure your treatment experience is successful.

We use evidence-based best practices throughout our full continuum of care to provide you with effective treatment. Valley Hope’s Master-level clinicians include dually licensed practitioners experienced in treating mental health and addiction at the same time. Each patient undergoes a comprehensive assessment that informs a personalized treatment plan designed to ensure both mental health and SUD needs are met. This comprehensive approach is vital in treating the whole person and ensuring successful recovery outcomes.

Valley Hope’s treatment methodologies are proven to be effective in treating co-occurring disorders, with a full continuum of care that provides the tools needed to reclaim your life from anxiety and addiction.

For immediate help 24/7, call our Local Admissions Team at (800) 544-5101.