Anxiety or addiction can affect anyone. Unfortunately, anxiety and addiction affect a lot of people.

Nearly thirty percent of Americans with a serious mental illness have a substance use disorder. Yet very few Americans receive treatment for both. When they receive treatment for one, their other condition can cause them to relapse or hurt themselves.

It is essential to recognize the connections between anxiety and addiction. If you have symptoms of both, you should get diagnosed and treat both.


We help people with addictions and substance use disorders recover. Get mindfulness training and learn the 12 Steps for deeper healing. 

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The Connection Between Anxiety and Addiction

Anxiety and addiction have several connections with each other. For some people, their anxiety can cause them to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol.

People may use drugs in order to cope with their anxiety. When they drink alcohol or ingest an opiate, it relaxes them and gives them a sense of calm. They then become dependent on the substance in order to treat their fear.

For others, addiction can cause anxiety. Cocaine impacts the parts of the brain that correspond to stress. It increases stress hormones, encouraging dependency while facilitating anxiety disorders.

People with a history of trauma are more likely to develop anxiety and addiction. Genetics and chemical imbalances in the brain may cause both disorders.

Recognizing Anxiety

“Anxiety” is a catch-all term. There are several different anxiety disorders that a person can have. If you have anxiety, you need a formal diagnosis of your disorder in order to get full treatment.

Generalized anxiety disorder involves chronic anxiety. A person suffers from continuous dread, but there is no apparent source of their feelings. Besides excessive worry, symptoms can include restlessness and nausea.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) occurs after a traumatic event. A person has flashbacks to the episode, becoming anxious when they encounter something similar to it. Symptoms include irritability and insomnia.

Social anxiety disorder involves the fear of engaging with others. A person feels anxious when they are in crowded spaces or involved in social activities. Symptoms include difficulty speaking and neglecting work due to anxiety.

Panic disorders incorporate panic attacks, which are brief episodes of overpowering terror. A person may feel like they are about to die, suffering from physical symptoms akin to a heart attack.

Phobias are debilitating fears of specific things. A person may feel anxiety before speaking publicly. Their fear causes them to avoid important situations, hurting their career and personal life.

A person may have multiple anxiety disorders at once. The only way to know for sure is to go to a doctor.

Dual Diagnosis

Medical professionals can perform dual diagnoses, recognizing a mental disorder and substance use disorder at the same time. The process involves several medical exams.

Doctors begin with a physical exam. This determines if any physical symptoms may be causing anxiety or dependence on substances. This also helps with later treatments, as a person may need physical therapy or surgery to fix chronic pain.

Doctors conduct blood and urine tests if they notice underlying health problems. This gives them more information to determine a treatment plan.

A psychological assessment lies at the core of dual diagnosis. A psychiatrist asks a person questions.

These questions are personal, but they can get to the roots of anxiety and addiction. A psychiatrist can use their assessment to determine what anxiety disorder a person has. They can then use answers to craft a treatment plan specific to the individual.

Recovered From Addiction and Anxiety

There is no one path to addiction recovery. Nearly all psychiatrists recommend that a treatment plan be tailored to an individual. But there are several strategies for recovery that have worked for many people.

The 12 Steps program involves making several realizations about oneself. A person acknowledges the presence of addiction in their lives, then looks within themselves to find the causes of it. It involves working in a group setting, which may not be desirable for people with social anxiety.

Mindfulness strategies can work well with the 12 Steps. A person becomes aware of their thoughts through processes like meditation. This can allow them to identify thoughts and physical sensations that cause anxiety and addiction.

When people think of psychiatric treatment, they often think of leaning on a couch and talking to a psychiatrist. Talk therapy can help people with anxiety and addiction.

A psychiatrist can individualize their talk therapy. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is talk therapy that focuses on role-playing and facing fears. A person changes their thinking so they can change their behaviors from the current moment onward.

A person can also take medication. Anti-anxiety medication can impact neurotransmitters in the brain, reducing the effects of an anxiety disorder. Substances like methadone wean a person off of harmful drugs.

Addiction can harm family members. Family members may have misconceptions about what anxiety or addiction is.

Family support can educate them and give them assistance. If they encountered a traumatic episode, they can receive counseling for it.

The Best Way to Treat Anxiety and Addiction

Anxiety and addiction go hand-in-hand. The same can cause both. Both involve chemical processes in the brain.

Yet not all forms of anxiety come alike. You may have a generalized anxiety disorder or PTSD.

You need to recognize your symptoms, then turn to a doctor for help. They give you a dual diagnosis after running a few tests.

You can get a personalized treatment plan. You can practice mindfulness and participate in talk therapy. Your family can get support.

Turn to the treatment experts. The Renewal Lodge is Texas’ leading treatment clinic focused on mindfulness. Contact us today.