Anxiety and Recovery: How Anxiety Can Negatively Impact Recovery Efforts

Dealing With Anxiety: Recovery with Castle Craig

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Anxiety – clinical name Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD), may seem a relatively mild mental health condition when compared to some, but it should always be taken seriously. It can be debilitating both physically and mentally and can be dangerous when it co-occurs with addictive behaviour. This may impair the likelihood of successful recovery unless properly addressed.

Symptoms of Anxiety

Anxiety is a complex emotion that can arise from various sources, such as fear, stress, low self-esteem or general uncertainty – often about the unknown. Anxiety thrives on negativity, the expectation of bad outcomes and one’s perceived inability to cope with a situation or event. This can happen despite the absence of supporting evidence. Besides anxiety, people often feel powerless and stressed leading them to avoid family, work or social interaction. Whatever its origins, anxiety can be debilitating. 

Anxiety often produces both physical and psychological symptoms. Physical symptoms include:

  • poor sleep patterns and restlessness
  • stomach upsets
  • headaches
  • irritability
  • difficulty thinking clearly or concentrating
  • tremors and shortness of breath
  • dizziness
  • irregular heartbeat

Psychological symptoms can include:

  • a general sense of unease, dread or fear
  • a desire to isolate, not communicate and find safety
  • difficulty planning or concentrating
  • irritability
  • unrealistic view of reality
  • inability to take positive action

Addressing Anxiety

With proper management techniques, it is possible to alleviate anxiety symptoms and improve mental well-being. It can be dangerous for individuals with addiction due to its potential to trigger substance use, impair judgment, worsen mental health, and impact physical health. Seeking professional help, developing coping skills, addressing underlying issues, building a support system, and practicing self-care are important strategies for effectively managing anxiety in the context of addiction.

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Anxiety Is Often Hidden

In the UK, over 8 million people are experiencing an anxiety disorder at any one time, according to the mental health support service Rethink. People who have learned maladaptive behaviours, such as dwelling on negative thoughts, catastrophising situations, or avoiding perceived difficult life events may be more likely to experience anxiety symptoms. Similarly, those who experience chronic stress, lack social support, or engage in unhealthy lifestyle habits, such as poor sleep or substance abuse, may also be at greater risk for developing anxiety. 


Childhood anxiety is a common problem that affects many people worldwide. While it is normal for children to feel anxious from time to time, persistent anxiety that interferes with daily activities may lead to future problems in adulthood if left undetected and untreated. Unfortunately, childhood anxiety can go undetected for various reasons, including lack of awareness, misunderstanding of symptoms, and stigma. 

Parents and caregivers may fail to recognize anxiety in children as they may mistake it for shyness or temper tantrums. Additionally, children may not always express their anxiety in a way that adults can understand, and they may withdraw or avoid activities that make them anxious. This lack of communication can lead to a lack of diagnosis, and thus, little or no intervention.

If childhood anxiety is not treated, it can lead to more severe anxiety disorders, such as panic attacks, and chronic social anxiety. Adults who experienced childhood anxiety may find it challenging to manage their symptoms and may struggle with relationships, work, and social situations. They may also be more susceptible to depression, substance abuse, and other mental health problems.

Anxiety is Not a Choice

it is important to note that anxiety is not a choice, and individuals who struggle with anxiety should not blame themselves for their condition. There will often be sensitive underlying issues such as childhood trauma, rejection or grief that have contributed to anxiety feelings and these will need to be addressed too. Seeking professional help and implementing healthy coping strategies can go a long way in managing and reducing anxiety symptoms.

Factors That Contribute to Anxiety

Anxiety can be influenced by a variety of factors, including genetics, upbringing, life experiences, and personality traits. While individuals may not necessarily create their own anxiety, their thoughts, behaviours, and actions can contribute to its development and persistence.

Anxiety Is Dangerous for Addicts

Anxiety often co-occurs with addiction, and both conditions can exacerbate each other. If anxiety is left unaddressed, it can worsen mental health symptoms and increase the severity of addiction leading to a downward spiral of self-defeating behaviour:

  1. Anxiety can serve as a trigger for individuals whether already addicted or not, leading them to use substances as a coping mechanism to alleviate their anxious feelings. This can perpetuate the addictive cycle and increase the risk of relapse.
  2. Anxiety can impair judgment and decision-making abilities, leading individuals with addiction to make impulsive or risky choices, such as engaging in drug or alcohol use or heavy gambling, despite the negative consequences.
  3. Anxiety often co-occurs with addiction, and both conditions can exacerbate each other. If anxiety is left unaddressed, it can worsen mental health symptoms and increase the severity of addiction.
  4. Chronic anxiety can have detrimental effects on physical health, including increased heart rate, high blood pressure, weakened immune function, and other health issues. This can further compromise the well-being of individuals with addiction who may already be experiencing health challenges related to their substance use.

Dealing with Co-occurring Anxiety and Addiction

To effectively deal with anxiety in the context of addiction, it is important to consider the following strategies:

  • Seek professional help: anxiety conditions respond well to counselling and finding a suitable mental health professional who can provide support and guidance in managing anxiety and addiction concurrently is important. The severity of a person’s addiction is of course a major factor in deciding which kind of treatment is most appropriate but both conditions require attention to ensure a good outcome.
  • Develop coping skills: learning healthy coping skills, such as mindfulness, relaxation techniques, and stress management strategies, can help people to better manage their anxiety and reduce the desire to turn to substances.
  • Address underlying issues: anxiety may be a symptom of underlying issues, such as past trauma, unresolved emotions, or unmet needs. Addressing these underlying issues can help people understand and manage their anxiety triggers more effectively.
  • Build a support system: a supportive network of friends, family, or colleagues who understand and empathise with the challenges of addiction and anxiety can provide invaluable support. Talking openly about such matters (for example in Twelve Step fellowships such as AA or Emotions Anonymous) can help reduce stigma and promote healthy coping.
  • Self-care: taking care of oneself through healthy lifestyle choices, such as regular exercise, adequate sleep, balanced nutrition, and engaging in enjoyable activities, can promote physical and mental well-being, and reduce anxiety.
  • Medication: one of the most common responses to anxiety is self-medication which should not be contemplated and can be extremely dangerous. At Castle Health we do not recommend medication unless short-term in exceptional circumstances. Even if prescribed by a doctor, some medications (such as benzodiazepines) can produce serious negative consequences such as cognitive impairment and addictive dependence.

Practical Techniques for Managing Anxiety

Anxiety is often related to stress and there are a number of well-known techniques for managing general stress conditions such as:

  • Breathing: taking slow, deep breaths can reduce feelings of anxiety and stress and increased oxygen levels that result will increase the feeling of wellbeing.
  • Muscle relaxation: learning a routine of tensing and relaxing muscles in different parts of the body leads to physical and mental relaxation and consequent reduction in anxiety levels.
  • Mindfulness meditation: creating a set time for a daily routine of focusing on the present moment and accepting thoughts and feelings without judgment leads to a calmer and more accepting frame of mind.
  • Exercise: regular exercise not only distracts the mind from worries but improves overall mood and metabolism.
  • Sleep hygiene: getting enough good-quality sleep can help overall contentment and peace of mind. Establishing good sleep habits may require some self-discipline at first but you will soon feel the difference.
  • Time management: effective use of time can help to reduce stress and give a sense of empowerment and self-esteem.
  • Social support: spending time with supportive friends and family can help provide a sense of comfort, security and belonging.

It is important to find what works best for you, but overall, a combination of some or all of these techniques will be helpful in managing anxiety. 

Anxiety and Recovery

Anxiety and Self-esteem

Low self-esteem is often linked to anxiety because both conditions can arise from an inaccurate perception of ourselves and how others view us. If we feel rejected or not accepted by others, we may start to feel inadequate and worthless – both of which are likely to cause feelings of anxiety.

The immediate way to deal with this can be to run some kind of reality check – for example, ask people you trust what they really think about you. However, this is often neither possible nor suitable for many with serious anxiety issues and some form of counselling is usually preferable.

Professional Treatment for Addiction and Anxiety Disorders

Dealing with mental health issues is never simple and addiction is especially complex. At Castle Craig, we recognise this and will always take great care to assess each individual’s needs.

We believe that full recovery requires all mental health issues to be addressed – sometimes these can be dealt with concurrently while someone is receiving residential treatment or daycare and sometimes further treatment sessions will be required after the conclusion of the addiction treatment programme.

If you or someone close to you are struggling with addiction problems or anxiety issues, call us today on 0808 271 7500 for a confidential chat – we are always glad to listen and discuss your best options.

Targeted Psychotherapy for Anxiety and Addiction

Castle Craig’s model of treatment addresses the underlying psychological causes of anxiety and addiction through a combination of specialised therapies and complementary therapies, that explore each patient’s specific diagnosis and deep-rooted mental health issues.

Through therapy and detox, we teach patients how to apply healthy changes: changes in behaviour rebalance the body chemistry and reduce anxiety symptoms.

We Offer Several Specialised Psychotherapy Sessions for Anxiety Treatment:

For recovery to take place, we help patients during therapy to examine their anxiety, deal with its causes, and learn healthy ways of coping with fear and reducing the chance of relapse. We teach patients how to actively participate in the process of their healthy growth and build on each day of sobriety in rehab treatment.

This participation takes effort and time. We help patients understand the roots of their anxiety and addiction problems, become willing to face them, and determined to make healing changes in their life. Learning to deal effectively with fear and anxiety is part of the effort for achieving lifelong recovery

How Can Castle Craig Help?

How Do I Pay For Rehab?

One concern we sometimes hear from people is how they will fund their rehab treatment. The cost of rehab varies depending on what kind of accommodation you choose. You can pay for treatment at Castle Craig privately, or through medical insurance, and some people receive funding through the NHS.

How Long Is the Rehab Programme?

Residential rehab treatment starts at 4 weeks and can go up to 12+ weeks. Research shows us that the longer you stay in rehab and are part of the residential therapy programme, the longer the likelihood of continued abstinence and stable recovery.

Who Will I Speak to When I Call?

When you call you will reach our Help Centre team who will give you all the information you need to help you decide whether to choose treatment at Castle Craig. Once you have decided that you would like to have a free screening assessment you will be put in touch with our admissions case managers who will guide you through the admissions process.

What Happens at the End of My Treatment?

Castle Craig thoroughly prepares patients before departure by creating a personalised continuing care plan which is formulated following discussions with the medical and therapeutic team. We offer an online continuing care programme which runs for 24 weeks after leaving treatment, in order to ensure a smooth transition back into your everyday life. Patients leaving treatment automatically join our Recovery Club where they can stay connected via our annual reunion, events, online workshops and recovery newsletters.

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