Calgary Dream Centre
4510 Macleod Trail SW Calgary AB T2G 0A4 (403) 243-5598

The Connection Between Anxiety & Addiction

For people living with addiction, anxiety can be both a cause and an effect, a frequent companion through the highs and lows of substance abuse. Understanding this connection is not just about tracing the path of the problem but also about illuminating a path to recovery.

To successfully recover from addiction while grappling with a mental health issue such as anxiety, it’s essential to make your mental health a priority. The path to managing anxiety mirrors the road to recovery in many ways—both are unpredictable journeys with their own sets of challenges, victories, and setbacks. Recognizing and understanding your emotions plays a critical role in this process, as does having a reliable support system in place. 

Understanding Anxiety & Addiction

At its core, anxiety is a natural response to stress and can be a constructive emotion, prompting us to take action in response to a perceived threat. However, when this response becomes chronic and disproportionate to the stressor, it can morph into a disorder—generally characterized by excessive and persistent worry that disrupts daily life. 

Anxiety can express itself in various forms, such as:

Does Anxiety Ever Go Away?

Anxiety, especially when it’s a disorder, can feel inescapable. However, with the right treatment and support, individuals can learn to manage and reduce their anxiety symptoms. 

Understanding Addiction

Addiction is a chronic, relapsing disorder characterized by compulsive substance seeking, continued use despite harmful consequences, and long-lasting changes in the brain. It is considered a brain disease because substances can change the brain’s structure and how it works. These brain changes can be long-lasting and can lead to the harmful behaviours seen in people who abuse substances like drugs and alcohol.

Common Symptoms & Effects

The symptoms of anxiety and addiction can be difficult to untangle because they often overlap. Common physical symptoms include: 

  • Increased heart rate
  • Sweating
  • Trembling 

These symptoms and emotional symptoms like irritability and restlessness can occur in both anxiety and addiction. This can cause a vicious cycle, with anxiety driving addictive behaviours and addiction leading to increased anxiety due to withdrawal and other psychosocial factors.

The Link Between Anxiety & Addiction

Anxiety can lead to addiction in various ways. Recent studies tell us that approximately 20% of individuals diagnosed with an anxiety disorder are also grappling with a substance use disorder. 

Some individuals may initially use substances as a way to self-medicate the distressing symptoms of anxiety, helping them find temporary relief. Others might use substances to cope with anxiety-inducing situations, such as social gatherings or work-related stress, which can spiral into a pattern of abuse and dependence.

How Addiction Can Worsen Anxiety

Conversely, addiction can also worsen anxiety. Substance abuse can alter the brain chemistry, leading to increased baseline levels of anxiety. Additionally, the lifestyle and consequences of addiction, such as strained relationships, financial difficulties, and legal troubles, can become significant sources of anxiety.

Is There a Link Between Trauma & Addiction?

Trauma can significantly increase the risk of developing both anxiety and addiction. The adverse childhood experiences (ACE) study has shown a clear correlation between childhood trauma and the likelihood of developing a substance use disorder in adulthood. Traumatic experiences can lead to a lifetime of anxiety, and individuals might try to self-medicate with substances, inadvertently leading to addiction.

Impact on Recovery

 Understanding and treating anxiety within the context of addiction is essential for recovery. An improperly treated anxiety disorder can lead to relapse, as an individual may return to substance use as a means of coping with the persistent symptoms of anxiety.

Overcoming Anxiety & Addiction Simultaneously

Overcoming an addiction is inherently challenging, and when you add a co-occurring anxiety disorder to the challenge, the complexity increases. The treatment needs to be specialized, addressing the unique interaction between the 2 conditions. Often, individuals must confront and work through anxiety without the crutch of substances, which can be daunting even with professional support.

Strategies for Managing Anxiety & Addiction

Navigating the intricate relationship between anxiety and addiction requires a multifaceted approach, focusing on both prevention and intervention strategies.

Therapy Options

Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT), dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT), and exposure therapy can all be effective in treating anxiety. When used in the context of addiction treatment, these therapies can help individuals understand their patterns of use, develop healthier responses to anxiety, and prevent relapse. Therapy can be individual or group-based, providing both personal support and peer understanding.

Lifestyle Changes & Coping Mechanisms

Implementing lifestyle changes can be a potent tool against both anxiety and addiction. 

Changes that can significantly reduce anxiety symptoms include:

  • Regular exercise
  • Proper nutrition
  • Getting enough sleep

Engaging in activities that bring joy and relaxation can alleviate stress and reduce the urge to use substances.

Support Groups & Resources

Attending support groups specific to addiction, anxiety, or co-occurring disorders can offer invaluable support and understanding. They provide a space to learn from other people’s experiences, share your own, and build an ongoing network of support. 

Hotlines and crisis intervention services can offer immediate support when anxiety becomes overwhelming.

A psychologist giving advice to a person struggling with addiction

Find Support at Calgary Dream Centre

If you are struggling, help is available. Organizations like Calgary Dream Centre offer a holistic approach to recovery, recognizing the interconnectedness of mental health and addiction and providing the necessary tools and support to reclaim a fulfilling life.Contact Calgary Dream Centre today and take the first step on your journey of recovery and resilience. With a compassionate community of people supporting you, you can find the help you need to address both anxiety and addiction and discover a future filled with hope and possibilities.

Other Categories:

  • Categories
  • Written by Craig Hill

    Craig Hill has been involved with the Calgary Dream Centre (CDC) since its inception. Starting with trips to the LA Dream Centre where seeds were planted in him that were never forgotten. After years of working in business, real estate, and church ministry, Craig returned to the CDC to step in as the CEO. Craig has a deep appreciation for the life change that happens here, the incredible team, and seeing the redemptive work that God is doing. Outside of work, Craig is a family man who loves nothing more than being with his wife and kids at the lake.

    More Articles by Craig Hill

    Receive Our Email Updates

    calendar1 clock instagram facebook twitter linkedin2 youtube quote-right quote-left heartbeat handshake-o birthday-cake home wrench refresh group list-alt forkandknife hand-pointer-o t-shirt bed x plus-circle minus-circle