Links Between Anxiety and Substance Abuse

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Research suggests that one in five people with an anxiety disorder also struggle with a substance use disorder. Given the overlap between anxiety symptoms and the repercussions of alcoholism or drug addiction, it can be challenging to differentiate between the manifestations of anxiety and substance abuse. Read on to learn more about this connection.

The Relationship Between Anxiety and Substance Abuse

The relationship between substance abuse and anxiety disorders is bidirectional, meaning that not only can anxiety lead to substance abuse as individuals seek relief from their symptoms, but substance abuse can also significantly worsen or even trigger anxiety disorders.

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Many people struggling with anxiety may turn to alcohol, drugs, or prescription medications as a way to self-medicate and alleviate their symptoms temporarily. This coping mechanism may provide short-term relief but often leads to long-term consequences. It also does nothing to address the underlying issue, while introducing the added dangers associated with substance abuse.

Over time, the body’s tolerance to the addictive substance increases, meaning that higher doses are needed deliver the same effect, leading to a cycle of escalation. As dependence forms, the ability to cope with anxiety without the substance diminishes, further entrenching the use of anxiety substances abuse as a coping strategy.

Substance abuse can inflame the symptoms of anxiety, leading to increased frequency and severity of episodes. Additionally, the stress of managing addiction, the fear of withdrawal, and the consequences of substance use on personal and professional life can further aggravate anxiety.

Effective treatment for anxiety disorder substance abuse requires addressing both the anxiety disorder and the substance use disorder simultaneously. Integrated treatment approaches that combine therapy, medication management, and support groups have been shown to be more effective when combined than when used to address each condition separately.

Learning healthy coping mechanisms like stress management techniques, cognitive-behavioral strategies, and relaxation exercises can help people manage anxiety without turning to addictive substances.

A man leans his head on a wall, depicting anxiety disorder substance abuse

Navigating Sobriety and Anxiety

In cases of co-occurring disorders like substance abuse and anxiety disorders, addressing one condition without the other can lead to a cycle of recurrence. Treating the addiction without managing the anxiety may result in a relapse when anxiety symptoms re-emerge. Conversely, focusing solely on anxiety while neglecting the substance use may cause the anxiety to persist or worsen due to ongoing substance misuse.

A dual-pronged treatment approach enables people to work toward overcoming both disorders, paving the way for a more effective and lasting recovery.

Personalized treatment plans usually involves a combination of therapies, which may include:

  • CBT: CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) helps people understand the thoughts and feelings that influence behaviors and is especially effective in treating anxiety disorders.
  • MAT: MAT (medication-assisted treatment) utilizes a blend of medications, behavioral therapies, and counseling to treat addictions and manage symptoms of anxiety.
  • Support groups and peer support: These groups can offer a sense of community and shared experience, which is highly beneficial for anyone struggling with anxiety in recovery.
  • Stress management techniques: Learning and practicing stress management techniques can help manage anxiety symptoms.
  • Relapse prevention education: Understanding the triggers for both substance use and anxiety can help in developing strategies to prevent relapse.
  • Lifestyle changes: Encouraging a healthy diet, regular exercise, and sufficient sleep can improve overall well-being and support recovery.
  • Mindfulness and meditation: Mindfulness and meditation practices can reduce stress and anxiety and improve mental health, aiding in the management of both conditions.
  • Family therapy: Involving family members can provide additional support and help in creating a supportive home environment.
  • Continuous monitoring and adjustment of treatment plans: As recovery progresses, treatment plans should be revisited and adjusted to meet the changing needs of the individual.

Seek treatment from facilities or professionals experienced in handling co-occurring disorders, as they will have a deeper understanding of the complexities involved. The integration of mental health and substance use treatment services almost always leads to better outcomes compared to treating each disorder separately. Recovery from co-occurring disorders is a journey that may have its challenges, but with the right support and treatment approach, people can achieve sobriety and manage their anxiety effectively.

Getting Treatment for Anxiety Disorder and Substance Abuse

Dual diagnosis treatment is proven more effective for treating co-occurring disorders like anxiety and addiction than managing each condition separately. Here’s how you can connect with evidence-based care in California.

luxury bedroom at california detox representing anxiety substance abuse

Get Treatment for Addiction and Anxiety Disorder at California Detox

Now you know more about the link between addiction and anxiety, you might feel that you need help addressing substance use disorder or anxiety disorder. For those experiencing co-occurring disorders, we offer coordinated dual diagnosis treatment at California Detox in Laguna Beach, CA.

Begin your whole-body recovery from addiction and mental health issues by choosing supervised detoxification at our luxury beachside facility. Over the course of a week or so, you can withdraw from alcohol with minimal discomfort. You’ll then be ready to move into an inpatient dual-diagnosis treatment program.

You can access a personalized array of therapies to manage alcohol addiction and anxiety during inpatient treatment. This may include:

Call admissions today at 949.694.8305 and begin your recovery tomorrow.


Anxiety and substance abuse are often interconnected, as individuals may use drugs or alcohol to self-medicate and alleviate symptoms of anxiety, leading to a cycle of dependence and worsening mental health.
Yes, treating anxiety can be a crucial part of substance abuse recovery, as addressing underlying mental health issues can reduce the likelihood of relapse and improve overall well-being.


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