Person sitting on couch and thinking about the connection between anxiety and addiction

How Are Anxiety and Addiction Linked?

Anxiety is one of the most common mental health conditions Americans experience today. It’s no surprise that anxiety and addiction often overlap. Untreated anxiety can be a root cause of substance abuse. Addiction can lead to increased anxiety. No matter which issue comes first, it is essential to address anxiety and addiction together. Failing to do so will only open someone to future troubles and relapses. Call 717.969.9126 to learn more about dual diagnosis treatment options at Recovery Ranch PA.

How Anxiety and Addiction Are Connected

Anxiety and addiction are connected in numerous ways. Perhaps the most common way that anxiety and addiction are linked is the concept of self-medication. This is when people who struggle with anxiety use substances to cope with difficult anxiety symptoms. While this may temporarily distract, it does not fix anything long-term. Even worse, using substances to self-medicate is a recipe for addiction because the underlying issue will only worsen, which demands more substance use. 

Anxiety and addiction are also connected in the other direction. Some addictions can lead to an anxiety disorder. For example, cocaine use interferes with brain parts dealing with stress. Regular cocaine use causes stress hormones to increase. That both encourages more substance use and leads to mental health issues like anxiety. 

Three of the most prominent anxiety-related conditions are:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) – Generalized anxiety disorder is a chronic form of anxiety. It involves pervasive worry, restlessness, and stress. While certain things can trigger heightened anxiety responses, people struggling with GAD tend not to have direct causes they can point to that are influencing their chronic anxiety. 
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – Post-traumatic stress disorder is a type of anxiety related to a traumatic event and its aftermath. Any number of things can qualify as a traumatic event. A few options include sexual or physical abuse, surviving a natural disaster, the death of a loved one, or combat experience. Insomnia, flashbacks, and irritability are all familiar to people struggling with PTSD.
  • Panic disorder – This is a type of anxiety-related condition marked by regular panic attacks. These attacks are brief yet involve overwhelming amounts of stress and fear. A person’s panic attacks may or may not have a direct trigger, making them unpredictable.

Anxiety is a broad term in the medical community. The reality is that there are multiple different types of anxiety-related conditions. Any of them can be found alongside a substance use disorder. 

Treating Anxiety and Addiction Together

The best way to treat anxiety and addiction is through dual diagnosis treatment. This form of therapy addresses both disorders simultaneously rather than trying to tackle them individually. Many different paths to recovery exist. Each person’s treatment plan is and deserves to be customized. Dual diagnosis treatment plans for anxiety and addiction tend to include the following:

  • Behavioral therapies
  • Anti-anxiety medications
  • Support groups
  • Mindfulness practices
  • 12-step facilitation

Our team will build your exact treatment plan specifically for you. The different elements also depend on the type of anxiety being treated. For instance, someone struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder could benefit significantly from family therapy and education if their trauma has its roots in the family unit. Meanwhile, someone struggling with generalized anxiety disorder may need to spend a lot of time practicing mindfulness and building other coping strategies to avoid self-medication down the road. 

Overcome Anxiety and Addiction at Recovery Ranch PA

Recovery Ranch PA is here to help you throughout your healing journey. Overcoming anxiety and addiction is possible. You have an entire life ahead of you that is unencumbered by anxiety and addiction. Contact Recovery Ranch PA today at 717.969.9126 to learn how we approach dual diagnosis treatment.

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