To understand if substance abuse causes anxiety, it is important to realize that the answer can be yes, and it can be no. One of the reasons that some people stay high or drunk is to relieve their anxiety. For many people in early recovery, they experience a lot of anxiety. Learning to cope with life clean and sober is a great accomplishment but it takes time to adjust. The difficulty of this transitional period into recovery depends on many things that can cause or relieve anxiety.
For some recovering addicts, when they consider how hard it is to stop drinking or drugging, a state of anxiety floods their psyche. When people are dependent on a substance to go to work, meet with family or friends, or to start their day, they are afraid of something. Addicts and alcoholics never intended to become that way. At some point in their lives, they became afflicted with fear. Nearly every alcoholic and addict have a history that caused them to fear something or someone. That fear, if left untreated, caused them to become addicted to drugs or alcohol or certain behaviors that they discovered provided relief from their fears.
Relationship Between Anxiety and Addiction
Anxiety is considered a mental health diagnoses. It is very common for alcoholics and addicts to struggle with co-occurring disorders. According to Stanford University, addiction and anxiety need to be treated simultaneously. Often, one is a result of the other and therefore getting help for both is critical. If a person has not been diagnosed with anxiety but receives treatment for their substance abuse, it is likely that they could relapse in order to stop feeling anxious.
It is also possible that people use alcohol or drugs to self-medicate the depressive/anxious state, and that early drug use led to neurobiological changes that increase the risk of depression or anxiety. It is very important to understand that if a person has both mental health and a substance use disorder, then both disorders need to be treated at the same time. The thought used to be to treat one first and then the other, but it is most effective to treat both at the same time, likely with a combination of medication and therapy or counseling. It is also very important that if a person is seeing multiple health care professionals for treatment, such as a psychiatrist for depression/anxiety medication and an addiction counselor, that the professionals collaborate and are in contact about treatment. (Stanford)
For successful recovering addicts and alcoholics, the tools they use to cope with anxiety include counseling, twelve-step meetings, non-addictive psychiatric medication, support from family and friends, gainful employment, and willing to work on how to change their behaviors and perspectives about people and the world. For many people in recovery, their anxiety subsided once they worked the twelve steps with a sponsor. For others, ongoing evidence-based counseling gave them relief from the things that caused them to feel anxious.
Does Anxiety Fuel My Addiction?
The best way to determine if you are experiencing a mental health diagnosis of anxiety as well as having substance abuse problems requires an assessment form a professional who specializes in mental health and addiction. The methods that have proved most helpful for people who are dually diagnosed with substance abuse and anxiety is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. CBT is extremely beneficial to people with anxiety and addiction issues. CBT is a type of psychotherapy in which negative patterns of thought about the self and the world are challenged to alter unwanted behavior patterns or treat mood disorders such as anxiety. CBT also focuses on improving emotional regulation and developing better-coping strategies that address solving current problems. Dual diagnosis treatment programs are available to help those struggling with this co-occurring disorder.
To heal the disease of addiction and or alcoholism requires professional help that includes therapy for anxiety, substance abuse, and other mental health concerns. Anxiety is often the reason many people cannot stop drinking or doing drugs. For others, their history of drug and alcohol abuse caused their anxiety. In either case, the solution is to receive help for both from a professional substance abuse treatment center.