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The Connection Between Addiction and Anxiety

Addiction and anxiety often go hand-in-hand. While it’s common for addiction to occur alongside any mental health disorder, anxiety is one of the most common. Understanding the factors that lead to this connection can help you find long-term success in recovery.

Co-Occurring Disorders

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), “nearly one in three adults had either a substance use disorder or any mental illness in the past year.” For young adults aged 19-25, the number was 46%.

Even though many different mental health conditions can co-occur with addiction, anxiety is among the most prevalent. In fact, decades of psychiatry research have been dedicated to addiction and anxiety, finding a strong link between the two.

Addiction and Anxiety Statistics

Several studies over the last few decades have found addiction and anxiety co-occur more commonly together than they would alone. According to a 2008 study in Psychiatric Times, anxiety and substance use disorders (SUDs) are among “the most frequent psychiatric problems in the United States, with lifetime rates of 28.8 percent and 14.6 percent, respectively.” The presence of one disorder increases the risk factor for the other.

Social Work in Public Health mentions a recent study that found 17.7% of respondents with SUD also met the criteria for an independent anxiety disorder. Fifteen percent of people with any anxiety disorder also had at least one co-occurring SUD. These statistics do not represent anxiety occurring as a result of SUD. Instead, the numbers represent an independent occurrence.

Why Addiction and Anxiety Occur Together

It’s no secret that addiction and anxiety frequently occur together. The greater question is why this strong link exists in the first place. According to Psychiatric Times, there are three major pathways that lead to comorbidity between anxiety and addiction:

  • Self-medication: An individual will use substances to handle the pain of anxiety.
  • Substance-induced anxiety disorder: Anxiety arises because of the use of substances.
  • All other variables: Genetics, sensitivity, etc.

The first pathway, self-medication, appeared in at least 75% of cases studied. This shows that anxiety predates addiction, and people are using substances as a way to cope at a very high rate.

When almost half of the U.S. population has struggled with some form of anxiety in their lifetime, it’s no wonder such a serious drug epidemic exists. It’s more important than ever to have quality treatment that can heal both addiction and anxiety together.

Trauma, Anxiety, and Addiction

Struggles with SUD and mental health conditions like anxiety can often be traced back to trauma. Symptoms of anxiety and depression, specifically, are common in individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Unfortunately, many trauma survivors will also develop SUD as a means to cope.

It’s also common for trauma survivors to exhibit symptoms of anxiety without actually being diagnosed with a condition. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) 57 says that many trauma survivors “have difficulty regulating emotions such as anger, anxiety, sadness, and shame.” Traumatized people use substances to self-medicate in an attempt to regain emotional control. This only leads to worse emotional dysregulation in the end.

A Dangerous Cycle

The dangerous cycle of anxiety and addiction often begins with self-medication. Many people will turn to substances as a way to cope with anxious feelings, racing thoughts, and other symptoms.

Alcohol use, for example, is common in those with anxiety. We live in a culture that celebrates alcohol as a way to “wind down” at the end of a stressful day. Unfortunately, just a few drinks can exacerbate anxiety after alcohol’s effects have worn off.

A 2018 study in Wiley Depression and Anxiety found that self-medicating “affects a sizable proportion of the population.” Between 21.9 and 24.1% of the study population reported using alcohol and/or drugs to relieve anxiety and mood disorder symptoms.

Healing Addiction and Anxiety at The Guest House

Healing addiction and anxiety is a process that requires special attention, compassion, and care. At The Guest House, we specialize in helping you heal co-occurring disorders, as well as underlying trauma. We believe in a completely individualized approach to treatment. No one can fit inside the same treatment “box.” Instead, we work with each client to create a completely customizable plan that suits your needs best.

Co-Occurring Disorders

A dual diagnosis of anxiety and SUD needs treatment that integrates both addiction and mental health treatment. At The Guest House, you will find a combined, targeted approach that helps reduce relapse risk and set you up for long-term success.

Our highly-trained staff includes licensed mental health counselors who specialize in a wide range of disorders, including anxiety, trauma, and SUD. We encourage our guests to explore different methods of treatment so they can find what works best for their unique needs.

Integrated Treatment Modalities

Our founders were deeply impacted by the intersection of issues like trauma, mental health, and substance abuse. This is why we pride ourselves in offering experiential and integrated treatment. Here, you will find traditional talk therapies like one-on-one counseling and group sessions. You will also have a full range of holistic modalities at your fingertips.

When it comes to dual diagnosis, it’s important to have traditional therapies blended together with innovative treatments. Modalities like somatic therapy and conscious connected breathwork will help you process trauma and anxiety through the body as well as the mind.

No matter what issues you may be struggling with, you will find solace and support at The Guest House. Here, there is truly something for everyone to help them find long-term success.

There is a strong connection between addiction and anxiety. Unfortunately, many people will self-medicate with drugs or alcohol to cope with the difficult symptoms of anxiety. At The Guest House, we understand how important it is to have integrated care to treat co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders (SUDs). Trauma can also play a big role in co-occurring disorders, so our program is designed to help you get to the root of your struggles, where you can find long-term happiness and sobriety. We utilize a blend of innovative holistic modalities along with traditional talk therapies to help you heal your mind, body, and soul together as one. For more information, call us at (855) 483-7800.