Last updated: 05/6/2019
Author: Addictions.com Medical Review
Reading Time: 2 minutes
When it comes to addiction, anxiety is a common side effect. But what many people don’t know is that addiction is almost as present in those with anxiety as anxiety is in those who are addicted to drugs or alcohol.
While the relationship between the two is hazy at best, it’s necessary to understand how they interact and the complications that can present when these two disorders manifest at the same time.
Anxiety Disorders and Addiction
When you’re diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, every day things are harder to do. Sometimes it’s hard to talk to people. Sometimes it’s hard to sleep. Sometimes it’s even hard to leave the house. But if you add drugs or alcohol into the mix, these things, at first, seem to be easier. Alcohol makes it easier to socialize at a party. Marijuana makes it easier to sleep. Prescription pain killers make it easier to quiet your mind.
But the benefits don’t last long.
The longer and more severe drug and alcohol use becomes, the more likely it is to make the symptoms of anxiety worse.
Drug and Alcohol Addiction and Anxiety
Even if someone’s drug use wasn’t spurred by issues with anxiety, anxiety often makes itself present. Whether from the paranoia involved with some drugs, the stress of obtaining and using drugs, or the fear of negative consequences, addiction often makes people anxious, often to the point that it interferes with regular, daily activities.
While anxiety and addiction are two very different disorders, they share many symptoms. Here are some of the similar ones that could be caused by either:
- Trouble concentrating
- Trouble sleeping
- Unexplained problems/pain in the abdomen and GI tract
Seek Co-Occuring Disorder Treatment
Because the symptoms of anxiety and addiction are so closely related, it’s recommended to treat anxiety and addiction at the same time, instead of separately. When treated individually, the untreated diagnosis is often left to accelerate, causing more problems and lowering the potential benefits received from treatment.
One of the best ways to improve outcomes when someone has both an anxiety disorder and addiction is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT helps individuals realize how anxiety and addiction manifest and feed off one another, as well as recognizing how to improve them. Individuals learn new, positive coping mechanisms to utilize when anxiety becomes hard to manage, instead of reaching for drugs or alcohol.