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Managing Anxiety in Recovery

You may think that you can achieve recovery simply by removing substances from your life. However, effective recovery involves more than eliminating substance use. Your emotional and mental health plays an important role in the recovery process. When you do not address the impact that mental health disorders, like anxiety or depression, play on your substance use, you increase your risk of relapse.

Co-Occurring Substance Use Disorder and Anxiety

According to an article from The Psychiatric Times, there is a greater rate of co-occurrence between substance use disorder (SUD) and anxiety disorders. In particular, anxiety disorders like generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and panic disorder (PD) show the highest correlation with SUD.

There are three primary possibilities that highlight the relationship between SUD and anxiety:

  • The theory of self-medication, such as attempting to alleviate symptoms of anxiety with the use of alcohol and other drugs
  • Potential genetic predisposition or sensitivity to both anxiety disorders and SUD
  • The use of alcohol and other drugs can inform the development of anxiety disorders

As you can see, SUD and anxiety are deeply intertwined as the development and maintenance of both disorders maintain each other. Similarly, there is a deeply intertwined relationship between anxiety and stress.

The Relationship Between Anxiety and Stress

As noted in an article from Neurobiology of Stress, anxiety is broken into two types based on duration:

  1. State anxiety:
    • Acute response to a potential threat
    • Hypervigilance anticipating a threat
    • Avoiding dangerous situations
    • Triggered by acute stress
  2. Trait anxiety:
    • Expressed constantly across your life
    • Increases state anxiety in potentially dangerous situations

Therefore, the trigger-based relationship between stress and anxiety, along with the high co-occurrence with SUD, highlights how poorly managed stress can increase your risk for relapse.

Building Coping Skills in Recovery

Stress management can be beneficial in relapse prevention as reduced stress can support your ability to manage SUD triggers and cravings. Moreover, when you feel less stressed, there is more space to process your anxieties. If you are not in fight-or-flight mode, you can more clearly recognize negative thoughts and feelings that have contributed to your self-defeating behaviors with substances.

Listed below are some ways that you can practice stress management skills for your recovery:

  • Engage in physical activity, such as walking, dancing, or practicing yoga
  • Practice meditation
  • Use muscle relaxation techniques
  • Spend time in nature
  • Eat well
  • Get plenty of sleep
  • Utilize your social support system
  • Eliminate stressors if possible
  • Do things you enjoy, such as reading, listening to music, and engaging in self-care

At The Guest House, we know how important it is to acknowledge and treat co-occurring disorders to support your long-term healing. To support you in your recovery, we have dedicated ourselves to creating a stress-free environment where you can put all your energy into healing. One of the many ways we can support your recovery and prevent relapse is with a variety of specialized approaches to treat your specific needs. Our treatment plans are designed to support a wide range of mental health disorders and SUD, with particular care for those dealing with stress, trauma, and grief.

Untreated anxiety and stress can increase the chances of SUD relapse. Feelings of stress or anxiety can trigger each other, and difficulties regulating your emotions can lead to self-medicating with substances. However, relapse risks can be lowered with treatment that considers the whole person in body, mind, and spirit. At The Guest House, we can support your long-term healing with evidence-based and holistic care that acknowledges and addresses the intersecting relationship between co-occurring mental health disorders and SUD. Call us today at (855) 483-7800 to learn more.