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The Role of Anxiety in Addiction

People who struggle with addiction to drugs or alcohol also experience a great deal of anxiety in their lives. Treatment for one condition responds better when the other one also gets addressed. Working on addressing addiction and anxiety disorders helps people heal faster.

Which Came First: Anxiety or Addiction?

When someone feels incapable of becoming sober, their anxiety levels typically become elevated. The daily burden of being lost in addiction, along with the negative consequences in their lives, takes a toll. The person may develop an anxiety disorder in direct relationship to their substance use disorder. 

Conversely, a person may have developed an anxiety disorder before the addiction. A common reason given for drinking excessively or abusing drugs involves people making an attempt to try to combat their anxiety. They might not have realized they had a mental illness or they suspected they did but did not seek treatment for it. Too often, people think using and abusing substances will treat their anxiety and other mental health symptoms. 

Some people have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder but find they don’t get proper relief from treatment, causing them to develop an addiction. For many of these individuals, the opiates and benzodiazepine drugs they were prescribed to treat anxiety became part of the problem when an addiction developed.

Things That Provoke Anxiety in an Addiction

Just being addicted to drugs or alcohol causes most people to feel some level of anxiety. They worry about how much they consume and how dangerous it is. Many people experience medical symptoms related to their addiction, which can add stress to the life of someone already having difficulty achieving a sense of feeling calm.

Substance use disorders also cause havoc in a person’s personal life. Marriages and romantic relationships, as well as family relationships, often take a negative turn because of the impact of addiction. People may experience trouble in their friendships, social lives, and participating in hobbies they love. Addiction can cause a person’s career to stall out or they may lose their jobs. Educational goals can fall to the wayside, too. 

Harsh realities related to the legal system can happen to someone addicted to drugs or alcohol. These events can include getting arrested for DUI/DWI or possession of drugs. Going to court, paying for a lawyer and court fines, probation, and possible jail time all contribute to high levels of addiction and anxiety disorder combinations. 

Physical Symptoms of Addiction Can Cause Anxiety

Sometimes the side effects that come along with an addiction to drugs and alcohol can contribute to feeling anxiety. When a person remains unaware of this, they may redouble their efforts to use their substance of choice to combat their anxious feelings. This puts them in an endless loop of trying to stop something by using something that contributes to the problem itself.

One of the physical symptoms that can accompany substance use disorders is dehydration. People who drink a lot of alcohol often become dehydrated, particularly when they substitute alcoholic drinks for much-needed water. Dehydration can cause anxiety symptoms.

Another physical symptom involves sleep disturbances. Addiction can cause a person to sleep too much or develop insomnia. Stimulants and other drugs that cause a person to stay awake for inordinate amounts of time often cause the latter. Sleeping too much or too little disturbs the body’s natural circadian rhythm, which can increase a person’s anxiety levels a great deal.

Individuals who take prescription or over-the-counter medications for various conditions usually receive written and verbal warnings about how interactions with other medications can be damaging. Some drugs should not be taken along with other drugs. Often, a warning is issued to avoid alcohol when using certain medications. Unfortunately, a person’s addiction often overrules safety concerns like these, and they mix substances. One of the side effects of doing so can be elevated anxiety levels.

Can You Treat Anxiety and Addiction Together?

The medical and psychiatric community established a connection between addiction and anxiety disorders decades ago. Approximately half of all people with an addiction to drugs or alcohol also have at least one co-occurring mental health diagnosis. As well, about half of people who deal with a mental health issue also experience a substance use disorder.

Because of how often addiction and anxiety disorders co-exist, treatment for the two of them is quite common. Detoxification programs, residential facilities, and sober living houses often offer treatment for both the addiction and the anxiety. 

Both anxiety and addiction often respond well to various types of talk therapy. Sometimes supervised medications can be utilized, as well as holistic treatments. Some of those approaches include acupuncture, yoga, meditation, and experiential activities.

Drug and Alcohol Rehab in Southern California

Riviera Recovery offers comprehensive care for young adults who deal with both addiction and mental health issues. Our gender-specific, pet-friendly living houses help individuals who need help transitioning into learning to live as responsible, sober adults. We provide transportation to appointments, recovery meetings, and the grocery store, along with access to multiple types of therapy.

Reach out to us at Riviera Recovery now and let us help you or your loved one take charge of their lives.