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Anxiety and Addiction

image depicting anxiety and addiction

Anxiety and addiction often happen together. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S. About 19% of adults have anxiety and over 48 million U.S. adults have an addiction.

This guide will explain how anxiety and addiction are connected and how you can get effective treatment for both conditions.

What Is Anxiety?

Anxiety is more than just feeling stressed. It’s a constant fear that can mess up your relationships, work, and social life. The fears often don’t have a real reason behind them. Anxiety can affect both your mind and body, and there are different ways to treat it.


People with GAD (generalized anxiety disorder) always feel worried and scared, even when there’s no real reason. Their worries cover many things and are much stronger than regular concerns.

Social anxiety disorder

Social anxiety disorder is a fear of being around people. This includes fears of crowded places, social events, and public speaking. It affects almost 15 million adults in the U.S. and often comes with other anxiety issues like panic disorder or agoraphobia.


PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) happens after a person goes through a traumatic event like war, natural disasters, violent crimes, or sexual assault. About 8 million adults in the U.S. have PTSD. Symptoms include flashbacks, nightmares, irritability, trouble sleeping, and feeling paranoid.

Panic disorder

Panic disorder causes panic attacks, which come with physical symptoms like nausea, sweating, a fast heartbeat, dizziness, and chest pain. Around 1 million adults in the U.S. have panic attacks each year, which usually last about 10 minutes.

Specific phobias

This condition involves a strong fear of certain things, situations, or animals. Common phobias include claustrophobia (fear of enclosed spaces), aviophobia (fear of flying), and acrophobia (fear of heights). About 9% of adults in the U.S. have a specific phobia each year, with 22% of these cases being very serious.

People with anxiety disorders often misuse alcohol or drugs to feel better. According to NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse), those with anxiety are twice as likely to have substance abuse issues. Sadly, trying to self-medicate can make anxiety worse, leading to more substance use and addiction.

An image of a couple depicting addiction and anxiety

What Is Addiction?

Addiction is a lifelong condition where a person keeps using a substance or doing an activity, even when it causes harm. Addiction can hurt your health, relationships, and overall life. Get help if you notice signs of addiction.

ASAM (American Society of Addiction Medicine) says addiction is a chronic brain disorder. It doesn’t happen because of weak willpower or bad choices. Addiction changes how your brain works.

There are ten main types of addiction listed in DSM-5-TR:

  1. Caffeine
  2. Marijuana
  3. Alcohol
  4. Hallucinogens
  5. Hypnotics, sedatives, and anti-anxiety drugs
  6. Inhalants
  7. Opioids
  8. Stimulants
  9. Tobacco/nicotine
  10. Other

These substances are different but all activate the brain’s reward center, making you feel good. Using these substances can lead to substance use disorders (addictions). Addictions can be mild, moderate, or severe. Getting help early is essential to manage addiction and prevent it from taking over your life.

How Addiction and Anxiety Disorders Are Connected

Addiction and anxiety disorders often go hand-in-hand. Here’s how they are connected:


People with anxiety may use drugs or alcohol to feel better. This is called self-medicating. While it might help for a short time, it usually makes anxiety worse in the long run.

Brain chemistry

Both addiction and anxiety change the brain’s chemistry. These changes can make it easier for someone with anxiety to develop an addiction. The substances that people use to feel better affect the same brain areas that are involved in anxiety.

Stress and triggers

Stress is a big factor in both anxiety and addiction. A stressful event can trigger anxiety and lead someone to use drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism. Triggers for anxiety can also be addiction triggers, creating a cycle that is hard to break.


Genetics plays a role in both anxiety and addiction. If someone in your family has anxiety or addiction, you might be more likely to develop these conditions too.

Symptoms overlap

Some symptoms of anxiety and addiction overlap. For example, feeling restless, having trouble sleeping, and feeling out of control can be signs of both.

Treatment needs

Because they are so connected, treating just one of these conditions may not be enough. Effective treatment often involves addressing both anxiety and addiction together. This is called dual diagnosis treatment. It provides care for both addiction and anxiety at the same time. This helps to address all issues, reducing the chance of relapse.

Specialized therapies

Therapies like CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) can help manage both conditions. Medications may also be used to treat anxiety without causing addiction.

Support systems

Support groups and counseling provide a community of people who understand what you are going through. This support is essential for long-term recovery.

Anxiety and Substance Abuse | FAQs

What are some signs that anxiety and substance abuse are co-occurring?

Signs that anxiety and substance abuse are happening together include feeling very nervous or stressed, using substances to feel better, and having trouble stopping substance use despite wanting to.

How can I get treatment if I am struggling with anxiety and substance abuse?

You can get treatment by talking to a doctor, therapist, or counselor specializing in both issues. They can create a plan that addresses both anxiety and addiction at the same time.

Does addiction always lead to anxiety and vice versa?

No, addiction does not always lead to anxiety, and anxiety does not always lead to addiction. However, addiction and anxiety often occur together and can make each other worse.


a man celebrating what is sobriety

Get Insurance-Covered Addiction Treatment at Drug Rehab Centers

If you need help dealing with addiction and anxiety disorder, contact Drug Rehabs Centers in Southern California.

Most major health insurance plans cover at least part of the cost of rehab. We can help you with the insurance process and learn how much you’ll need to pay for treatment.

Supervised detox is the safest and most comfortable approach for most people dealing with addictions. We’ll help you find medical detox centers in the state where you can start the recovery process.

We can recommend reputable rehabs in California for ongoing treatment, and support groups for those who need extra help.

Call our recovery experts for assistance with addiction recovery today at 866.559.4256.

Author: juan

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