The Connection Between Anxiety and Addiction

The Connection Between Anxiety and Addiction

Anxiety and addiction are connected due to the causes and effects of both disorders. Learn more here.

Table of Contents

What Is Anxiety?

Anxiety is an emotion experienced by everyone at some point in their lives. It can occur for various reasons, such as people, events, or situations that cause feelings of concern, discomfort, and worry about possible future events—usually arising from normal day-to-day circumstances. Some examples include starting a new job, starting college, getting married, and even driving on the freeway. In most cases, feelings of anxiety subside soon after the event is over; however, this is not the case for some.

Anxiety is a group of related conditions that share several common symptoms. Persistent and excessive fear in unthreatening situations is the most common symptom experienced across all anxiety disorder diagnoses.

Anxiety Disorders

Having an anxiety disorder is more than feelings of worry or fear because it is intense and persistent, causing it to interfere with daily life. Anxiety disorder symptoms typically begin in early childhood and continue into adulthood. There are several anxiety disorder types, including generalized anxiety disorders, social anxiety disorders, phobias, and separation anxiety.

People with an anxiety disorder experience a range of emotional and physical symptoms. Common emotional symptoms may include restlessness, irritability, feeling tense or jumpy, experiencing dread, and hypervigilance. Physical symptoms of anxiety disorders may include headache, sweating, fatigue, insomnia, racing heart, difficulty breathing, and stomach problems.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DMS-5) lists the diagnostic criteria used by mental health providers to diagnose anxiety disorders. While there are several possible diagnoses, some anxiety disorder types are more common than others. It is also possible to have more than one anxiety disorder simultaneously.

Regardless of the anxiety disorder diagnosis, seeking help at a dual diagnosis treatment center  treatment center like Alta Centers is vital to safely overcome anxiety symptoms and move forward with the tools and coping skills needed to manage triggers without turning to substances.

Panic Disorders

Panic disorders are characterized by repeated and often unexpected episodes of overwhelming fear. Fear is accompanied by various physical challenges, including racing heart, difficulty breathing, and stomach problems.

Generalized Anxiety Disorders (GAD)

People with generalized anxiety disorder experience chronic anxiety disorder symptoms. They struggle with heightened worry and tension regardless of whether there is a reason to feel such emotions.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Someone with obsessive-compulsive disorder experiences recurrent and unwanted thoughts, also referred to as obsessions, coupled with repetitive behaviors or compulsions. Repetitive behaviors may include checking, cleaning, counting, or even hand washing. These compulsions are performed to reduce the intensity and severity or even the presence of obsessions, but they only provide temporary relief. Despite the temporary relief, failure to perform them often leads to excessive anxiety.

Social Phobias

Social phobias are also referred to as social anxiety disorders. Someone with a social phobia experiences uncontrollable anxiety and feelings of self-consciousness when placed in social situations.

The Connection Between Anxiety and Addiction Disorders

When a person has both anxiety and addiction, they have what is referred to as a co-occurring disorder or dual diagnosis. This means the individual struggles with symptoms from both conditions. It is essential to seek care in an environment where learning to understand and manage all the symptoms is part of the comprehensive treatment program.

Substance-induced anxiety is not uncommon. Many people turn to alcohol to cope with anxiety disorders such as panic disorders, social anxiety disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The Anxiety and Depression Association of America indicates approximately 7% of Americans have alcohol-induced anxiety.

In addition to self-medication, biochemical factors (the chemicals in your body) can lead to anxiety disorder symptoms. This is because the brain makes chemicals that affect thoughts, emotions, and actions. Without the right balance of these chemicals, there may be problems with how a person thinks, feels, or acts. Various types of drugs can create a chemical imbalance in the body, just the same as detoxing from drugs or alcohol. These alterations in chemical composition can also occur due to biological factors.

Common Substances Associated with Anxiety Disorder

Anxiety and drug abuse commonly co-occur, leading many people to wonder if drugs can cause anxiety. Unfortunately, the answer might be yes. Substance-induced anxiety occurs when fear and addiction combine to produce intense and overwhelming anxiety disorder symptoms. Co-occurring anxiety and substance abuse can develop while taking particular drugs or getting sober in a detox program. Drugs that can lead to anxiety disorder symptoms include alcohol, prescription and illicit stimulants, methamphetamine, benzodiazepines, cocaine, and marijuana.

Treatment Options for Anxiety and Addiction

The most effective treatment programs combine evidence-based treatments and comprehensive care to address both conditions simultaneously. Dual-diagnosis rehabs like Alta Centers offer several levels of care for someone looking to defeat struggles with anxiety and addiction. Recovering from anxiety disorder and a co-occurring substance use disorder can be managed in a residential or inpatient rehab or outpatient treatment setting. The best choice for the patient will depend on the severity of their addiction and their specific treatment needs and goals.

Here are the common steps in a treatment program for co-occurring anxiety and addiction disorders:


The first step for most who seek help to overcome co-occurring anxiety and substance abuse is detox. Detox allows the body to cleanse itself of the harmful effects of substances before starting therapy.


Patients will participate in several types of therapeutic interventions during therapy, including family therapy, group therapy, and individual therapy sessions. They will also have the opportunity to participate in alternative treatment models such as equine-assisted therapy and valuable peer support groups like 12-step programs.


Finally, as treatment for anxiety and addiction comes to an end, we will help the patient secure necessary aftercare treatment and support to ensure they have the ongoing guidance they need to maintain lasting recovery.

Tips to Control Anxiety When Recovering from Addiction

The process of recovering from anxiety and addiction looks different for each person. When people seek anxiety disorder treatment, they will learn and practice important self-care skills that can help manage anxiety while recovering from addiction. If someone experiences anxiety triggers, they should incorporate some (or all) of the following into their routine:

Treatment at Alta Centers

If you or a loved one experiences anxiety disorder and addiction symptoms, don’t wait to seek help. Contact Alta Centers –dual diagnosis treatment center in Los Angeles, California . Alta Centers today to learn more about how we can help you overcome addiction and put struggles with addiction in the past.