The use of addictive substances — from alcohol to cocaine, methamphetamines, marijuana, and more — is intimately tied to mental health struggles, with anxiety being a common and debilitating feeling. Those who suffer from an anxiety disorder can also find themselves at an increased risk of developing a substance use disorder (SUD). 

However, even those who have never suffered from anxiety can find that the feeling is a significant part of the addiction recovery process. Anxiety and substance abuse create a dangerous cycle that continues to perpetuate itself, and breaking this cycle begins with understanding the unique ways in which anxiety continues to fuel the use of addictive substances.

Understanding Anxiety

Anxiety is a normal experience, and it can be impossible to completely escape anxious feelings throughout one’s life. However, excess or consistent levels of anxiety can be extraordinarily debilitating, and the development of anxiety disorders can further exacerbate the adverse effects of anxiety.

Those suffering from anxiety may experience a number of symptoms, including: 

  • Increased heart rate
  • Shaking
  • Restlessness
  • Hyperventilation
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty maintaining focus
  • Fear
  • A feeling of impending danger
  • Insomnia
  • Nightmares
  • Panic

Substance abuse can also bring about these same symptoms, most commonly felt during withdrawal.

How Substance Abuse Fuels Anxiety

The more an individual uses addictive substances, the more addiction can take hold of one’s mental and emotional health. Feelings of guilt, fear, or shame can all invite further anxieties. As one’s addiction develops and an individual sees the use of addictive substances as a necessary part of the day, the more that stress surrounding getting one’s next drink or hit can dictate one’s anxiety. Hiding alcohol, worried about being caught in a lie, or risking legal ramifications are all common anxieties that can be extraordinarily prevalent in one’s daily life and pollute one’s mind.

Recovery from the use of addictive substances is also filled with a significant amount of fundamental change. While the transformations one challenges themselves with throughout the recovery process are based on a healthier, sober future, there can still be anxieties surrounding the constant personal and social changes, alterations to daily routines, and the feelings of uncertainty that permeate the recovery process. While recovery is still an essential part of a healthy lifestyle, it is also something that must be approached with dedication. An individual entering a drug and alcohol inpatient treatment center should be mindful of this. 

How Anxiety Fuels Addiction

Even if an individual’s anxiety is a product of substance abuse, it is still possible to view addictive substances as a solution. Anxiety is an overwhelming experience, and it is difficult to consider the long-term effects of substance abuse if one is wholly focused on their feelings of anxiety and danger in the present. This inability to process long-term repercussions is how addictive substances can present themselves as a viable solution to anxious feelings.

Addictive substances work to soothe one’s mind, either by slowing down one’s response time and thought processes or by artificially releasing dopamine to help an individual quell these negative feelings. Whether by distracting an individual or helping them forget about their anxieties for a second, the quick-acting, short-term effects of addictive substances can be extraordinarily tempting. Without looking at the long-term ramifications of the use of addictive substances, such as the development of addiction or the physical detriments of drugs or alcohol, this can present as a falsely positive solution.

Understanding the Cycle

Understanding how anxiety and substance abuse interact with each other is crucial to creating a unified front against addiction. As one’s anxieties grow, the use of addictive substances may be used more and more to placate intense feelings of fear and discomfort. However, as one’s use becomes more frequent or intense, it can birth entirely new feelings of anxiety, perpetuating this destructive cycle. Not only does understanding this allow supports to better empathize with a loved one suffering from addiction and anxiety themselves, but this information can also help to address the relationship between people.

This destructive cycle isn’t something that is done out of resentment or spite, and no part of addiction is a personal affront to another. Instead, it is the unfortunate product of a tumultuous emotional state that isn’t granted the time or ability to cope with the future effects of addictive substances.

Breaking the Cycle

Breaking the cycle of anxiety and addiction is difficult. It involves not just internalizing that one’s coping strategy is also the source of emotional turmoil but also replacing one’s strategies with new practices while addressing destructive substance use at a center for drug and alcohol treatment. For those looking to start their recovery journey, this can mean taking a step out of their comfort zone and exploring new hobbies or social groups to address their vulnerable feelings. 

Anxiety and substance abuse are intricately linked. The constant cycle of complex emotions and the desperate need to placate these anxieties can leave each individual at dangerous risk of addiction. At Hawaii Island Recovery, we understand the unique relationship that anxiety and addiction have with each other. We are prepared to help you address your needs for coping with how anxiety and addiction have affected your life. Your time with us can be completely personalized for your unique goals, from detox to residential and continued aftercare. With yoga, meditation, mindfulness practices, and extensive programming of cultural and experiential therapies, our rehab center in Hawaii is prepared to help you understand not just your relationship with addictive substances but also the transformations you want to make in your life at large. If you are looking for a drug and alcohol inpatient treatment center, call to speak to a staff member about your unique situation today at (866) 390-5070.