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The Connection Between Anxiety and Addiction

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.


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.

A Compassionate Approach to Helping a Loved One with Anxiety and Addiction

Helping a Loved One with Anxiety and Addiction

When a loved one is grappling with anxiety and addiction, it can be emotionally draining and challenging to know how to help. Being there for them requires empathy, understanding, and a commitment to walking alongside them on their journey to recovery. We will explore a more detailed and personable approach to supporting someone with anxiety and addiction by offering tips on effective communication, gaining insight into triggers, fostering a safe environment, and seeking professional assistance when needed.

Heartfelt Communication

Establishing open and sincere communication forms the basis of any strong relationship. When discussing anxiety and addiction with your loved one, initiate the conversation with authentic care and understanding. Let them know that you’re there for them and that sharing their feelings and experiences with you is safe.

Make a point to ask questions that show interest in their well-being, and actively listen without interrupting or jumping to conclusions. Validate their feelings by acknowledging their pain and expressing your desire to help them overcome their struggles. Remember, your loved one needs your support and understanding, not judgment or criticism.

Uncovering and Addressing Triggers

Anxiety and addiction often share common triggers, such as stress, social situations, or past trauma. Help your loved one identify these triggers by openly discussing what might cause distress or tempt them to use substances. Collaboratively, create a plan for managing these triggers, which may involve avoiding or minimizing exposure to specific situations and learning healthy coping mechanisms like deep breathing exercises, mindfulness, or journaling.

Cultivating a Safe Haven

Creating a nurturing and safe environment is essential for your loved one’s recovery. Work together to make their living space comfortable and free from potential triggers. This might involve removing substances from the home, offering a quiet and soothing atmosphere, and maintaining a predictable, stable routine.

Encouraging Self-Care and Healthy Habits

Support your loved one’s journey towards a healthier lifestyle by encouraging self-care and healthy habits. Suggest activities such as exercise, nature walks, or creative outlets like painting or writing to help alleviate anxiety and promote overall well-being. Encourage a balanced diet and proper sleep habits to create a strong foundation for recovery.

Practicing Boundaries with Love

While supporting your loved one is crucial, it’s equally important to establish and maintain healthy boundaries to protect your own emotional and mental well-being. Be firm but loving when enforcing these boundaries, such as refusing to provide financial assistance for substances or not tolerating substance use in your presence. Remember that boundaries are a way to promote healthier behavior and protect yourself, not a form of punishment.

Leaning on Professional Guidance

A point may be reached when your loved one requires the assistance of a professional to tackle their anxiety and addiction issues. Encourage them to seek therapy, join support groups, or consider inpatient rehabilitation if necessary. Offer to accompany them to appointments or meetings to provide emotional support and demonstrate your commitment to their recovery.

Helping a loved one with anxiety and addiction requires patience, understanding, and compassion. Be prepared to walk alongside them, offering support as they navigate the often-challenging road to recovery. 

It’s important to understand that setbacks are a natural part of the journey, and your unwavering support can truly make a difference in helping your loved one achieve a healthier, happier life. Stay devoted to learning and adapting your approach as needed, and remember that it’s okay to seek professional help for yourself or your loved one whenever it becomes necessary.


Learn More About Renewal Lodge’s Dual Diagnosis Treatment Program Today!


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

Best Way to Treat Anxiety and Addiction

When anxiety and addiction intertwine, finding the right path to recovery can seem like a daunting challenge. The journey toward healing requires patience, understanding, and a personalized approach that addresses the unique needs of each individual. This guide will delve deeper into the most effective ways to treat anxiety and addiction, sharing insights on evidence-based treatments, support networks, and lifestyle changes that can make a significant difference in one’s life.

Seeking Professional Assessment and Diagnosis

The journey toward healing starts with understanding the nature of the challenges. Contact a qualified mental health provider or addiction specialist for a professional assessment. This crucial step will help determine the severity of the issues, identify any underlying causes, and create a tailored treatment plan that addresses both anxiety and addiction.

Exploring Evidence-Based Therapies

Several therapies have been proven effective in treating anxiety and addiction. Each person’s needs are unique, so finding the right fit is essential. Consider exploring the following:

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT helps individuals recognize and challenge negative thought patterns, learn coping skills, and develop healthier behaviors.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT): DBT combines CBT principles with mindfulness techniques, assisting individuals in better managing their emotions, tolerating distress, and improving interpersonal relationships.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR): EMDR is particularly useful for those with trauma-related anxiety and addiction, as it aids in processing and releasing traumatic memories.

Medication Management: A Collaborative Effort

For some individuals, medications may be prescribed to help manage anxiety or support addiction recovery. Work closely with a healthcare provider to find the most suitable medication and monitor its effectiveness. This collaborative approach ensures that your unique needs are met while prioritizing your well-being.

Finding Strength in Support Groups

Support groups, such as the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) or Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), provide a sense of community and understanding. Participating in these groups can alleviate feelings of isolation, and you can learn valuable coping strategies from others who have faced similar challenges.

Embracing Holistic Therapies

Holistic therapies like mindfulness meditation, yoga, and acupuncture can complement traditional treatments by reducing anxiety and promoting overall well-being. These approaches may also help individuals develop healthier coping mechanisms, reducing the risk of relapse.

Adopting Healthy Lifestyle Changes

Incorporating healthy lifestyle changes, such as a balanced diet, regular exercise and adequate sleep, can significantly impact anxiety and addiction recovery. These practices improve mental and physical well-being, providing a strong foundation for lasting recovery.

Nurturing Family Involvement and Support

The support of friends and family can be instrumental in one’s journey to overcome anxiety and addiction. Encourage open communication, educate yourself about the challenges your loved one is facing, and participate in family therapy sessions if recommended by a professional.

Treating anxiety and addiction requires a detailed, personable, and comprehensive approach that embraces each individual’s unique journey. Combining evidence-based therapies, medication management, support networks, holistic treatments, and healthy lifestyle changes can make a world of difference. Keep in mind that recovery is an ongoing process throughout life, and it’s natural for setbacks to happen along the way. Remain patient, compassionate, and supportive throughout the process, knowing that each step brings you or your loved one closer to a healthier, more fulfilling life.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment at Renewal Lodge

Renewal Lodge offers a compassionate and comprehensive approach to addressing the complex challenges of co-occurring anxiety and addiction. By utilizing evidence-based therapies, personalized care, and a supportive environment, Renewal Lodge empowers individuals to confront their struggles and build a strong foundation for lifelong recovery. With a dedicated team of dual diagnosis professionals and a focus on holistic wellness, individuals can experience transformative healing and rediscover a life of balance, hope, and fulfillment.

Take the first step towards healing today; contact us to learn more about our personalized dual diagnosis treatment plans, and let’s work together to support you or your loved one on the journey to recovery.

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Dear Renewal Lodge Visitors,

My name is John Bruna, co-founder of the Mindfulness in Recovery® Institute, and more importantly, a grateful member of the recovery community. I am incredibly fortunate to have found my recovery in 1984. Of course, I did not achieve continuous recovery through willpower or my own efforts, but through the guidance and caring support of countless others that selflessly taught me how to live through the 12 Steps.

My journey of recovery brought this once homeless, shame-based, traumatized, insecure young man to a life far beyond anything I could have ever imagined. I discovered self-worth, the joy of helping others, the gifts of parenting and grandparenting, and most importantly the ability to live a meaningful and purposeful life with integrity.

One of the greatest gifts of recovery is that I have the opportunity to give back and help others discover their self-worth, dignity, and the skills to fully live lives that they find truly meaningful. This is the inspiration for developing the skills of Mindfulness in Recovery® (MIR) to meet the needs of new generations struggling with alcohol and other substance use disorders. MIR is a set of evidence-based skills designed to help people fully integrate their tools of recovery in ways that are personalized, practical, and in alignment with their deepest values.

While we train counselors and therapists throughout the United States and abroad, I personally have chosen to work directly with the amazing team and clients at Renewal Lodge to develop the model MIR 12-step program for the nation. I choose Renewal Lodge because of the vision of its mission and the dedication of its team. Renewal Lodge is an extremely rare environment in which the staff embodies the very mindfulness and 12-step practices and skills they offer their clients. The results have been beyond my expectations. It is an honor to be here and I treasure my personal time with every client I meet.

With Gratitude,

John Bruna
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John Bruna
Director of Mindfulness
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