The Relationship between addiction and anxiety

As is often the case with dual diagnosis conditions, it is common for addiction and anxiety to be present simultaneously within an individual. There’s often a relationship between substance addiction and anxiety – they very often make each other far, far worse due to their association.

The word “anxiety” is commonly used as a convenient self-diagnosis and is misused as a term for whenever someone feels nervous about a new experience, such as starting a new school or job or taking an exam. This kind of anxiety is perfectly normal and is human nature.

However, actual anxiety disorders can be a far more dangerous issue if not diagnosed and left untreated. Anxiety disorders are a trigger for someone to self-medicate, which in turn can begin the path to an addiction. Anxiety isn’t monolithic and there’s several different anxiety disorders.

Different kinds of anxiety disorders

Generalised Anxiety Disorder is diagnosed when someone suffers from anxiety via a constant level of stress in their normal life. This is often the case even if they don’t leave the house. This usually means that irrational fears and phobias develop, connected to whatever it is that triggers an individual’s disorder. You may experience constant fears of a house fire, a burglary or just a general sense of impending doom. Generalised Anxiety Disorder is a common reason people abuse substances in order to self-medicate.

Panic Disorder is found in individuals who suffer from severe recurring panic attacks that are so frequent, people are living in fear of the next one. Panic Disorder attacks cause a pounding heart, choking, sweating, shaking and a shortness of breath. A Panic Disorder attack can leave someone with a sense of impending doom which can make symptoms similar to that of a heart attack.

Social Anxiety Disorder is a chronic anxiety that manifests during a social setting. This isn’t shyness, as it is often misinterpreted as. Like other anxiety disorders, phobias often grow from anxiety. Agoraphobia for example, the feat of being trapped far from home, can occur as a result of someone being anxious of their social situation. This begins with an individual, imagining things that could go wrong if they can’t get home and escalates into other fears, such as being hated by other people.

All anxiety disorders have the potential to be dangerous, but some have become more commonly known. Both Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) are considered to be anxiety disorders. Phobias may be connected to and even trigger some of these disorders but are often an independent condition.

Anxiety and addiction to alcohol

As a disorder, anxiety prays on the central nervous system (CNS.) It pushes the brain into a frenzy, increases your blood flow and accelerates your heart rate. Cases of extreme anxiety leaves people needing medical assistance. In these cases, doctors will be able to prescribe benzodiazepines, which are CNS depressants. However, the effects that help benzodiazepines to treat anxiety are the same effects that many people experience when they drink alcohol.

When someone does not get any help or treatment for their Anxiety Disorder, people may turn to alcohol in order to get their anxiety problems under control. These cases can occur, for example, if a doctor does not think someone’s condition warrants the issue of prescription medication.

Unfortunately, this is a common issue with anxiety sufferers who are too embarrassed to ask for help or feel they cannot afford to do so. Alcohol may help to control your anxiety initially, but the help it gives is negligible and swift – and it usually ends with the enormous cost of becoming addicted.

Anxiety and addiction to alcohol statistics are stark. One in five people with anxiety have admitted to using alcohol to manage symptoms of their anxiety. Even more troubling is the fact that 20% of individuals diagnosed with a substance addiction also suffer with an anxiety or mood disorder.

Co-Occurring Disorders

It is far from unusual for someone to have a few drinks after a difficult day at work in order to ease the stress of the workplace. But when that individual suffers from an anxiety disorder, it’s easy for two drinks to turn into five, six, or seven as they try to silence their anxiety. This is self-medication, and it makes someone more likely to develop a dependence on alcohol and subsequently an addiction.

Alternatively, it’s far from uncommon for an alcohol addict to develop an anxiety disorder. This happens because of the effects that excessive and persistent alcohol consumption has on a person’s body, or from withdrawal symptoms should they go too long without having a drink. It’s hard for someone who suffers with a dual diagnosis to remember which illness came first but recalling which one did is an important step in your road to recovery.

Anxiety and addiction treatment

If you’re suffering from an addiction to alcohol alongside an anxiety disorder, finding the appropriate help can be difficult and intimidating. Many victims see alcohol addiction as the most pressing matter but without also treating an underlying anxiety disorder, a relapse is more likely to occur.

At Step One Recovery, we understand that dual diagnosis is important and that treating your anxiety disorder effectively is the difference between a relapse and your long-term recovery.

Are you concerned about the amount of alcohol that you’re drinking? Have friends or family members spoken to you about the issue? Do you feel unable to control your anxiety at all without the help of alcohol? Step One Recovery can help you to answer all these questions and help you to develop an understanding of your relationship with substance addiction and anxiety.

If you get in touch with us today, you can speak to our wide-ranging team of counsellors, psychiatrists and alcohol addiction therapists who will be able to guide you through this difficult time. Our services are affordable and accessible, and we can help you to understand your problems and diagnose the root cause of your anxiety or alcohol addiction.

Please call us today on 0330 107 2950 for immediate assistance. We can assure you that Step One recovery will treat your call with discretion, without judgement and with our treatment, you can regain control of your life.