The Relationship Between Anxiety and Addiction

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Anxiety and addiction are two complex conditions that can often co-occur, which means you can experience both simultaneously. When someone is diagnosed with both anxiety and addiction, it is referred to as a dual diagnosis or a co-occurring disorder.

Anxiety disorders involve excessive worry, fear, or apprehension that is often persistent and can interfere with daily activities. If you’re suffering from anxiety disorders, you may use drugs or alcohol as a way to cope with your symptoms. In some cases, substance use can temporarily relieve anxiety symptoms, making it difficult for you to stop using them. Common anxiety disorders include generalised anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder, and social anxiety disorder.

Addiction, on the other hand, is a chronic and often relapsing brain disease characterised by compulsive drug seeking and use despite negative consequences. Drugs, including alcohol, can temporarily relieve anxiety symptoms, making it difficult for you to stop using them. However, substance use can also alter brain chemistry and increase the risk of developing anxiety disorders. Additionally, the stress and consequences associated with addiction can cause or worsen anxiety symptoms.

Anxiety and addiction can create a vicious cycle where anxiety symptoms lead to substance use, and substance use worsens anxiety symptoms. This cycle can make it challenging to treat either condition effectively.

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What Are the Symptoms of Anxiety? 

Anxiety is a complex emotional and physiological response to a perceived threat or danger. Everyone experiences anxiety differently, but some common physical and emotional symptoms include:

  • Feeling nervous, restless, or tense
  • Sweating, shaking, or trembling
  • Rapid heartbeat or palpitations
  • Shortness of breath or tightness in the chest
  • Nausea or stomach discomfort
  • Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Difficulty concentrating or mind going blank
  • Irritability or agitation
  • Excessive worry or fear

Anxiety can also manifest in the form of panic attacks, which involve sudden and intense feelings of fear or terror, often accompanied by physical symptoms such as chest pain, sweating, and trembling. It is important to note that anxiety can be a normal and adaptive response to stress. Still, if it becomes chronic or interferes with daily functioning, it may require professional treatment.

Anxiety is one of the most globally pervasive associated mental health issues with addiction


  • Symptoms similar to body dysmorphia could include body checking, fact-checking, and skin checking for imperfections and issues. Obsession over these areas can lead to compulsive behaviours like picking until there is bleeding or damage.
  • Excessive apologizing and taking responsibility for problems or offences which are not personal.
  • Dissociating during challenging moments or conversations or simply “tuning out” while around other people.
  • Suddenly departing the premises and leaving without any explanation, typically with no return.
  • Having snap reactions to people, places, and situations by making rude comments, lacking verbal control, and acting offensively.
  • Shaking or jittery hands and limbs, which can include bouncing the knee or legs, constantly fidgeting or seeming to be restless.
  • High occurrences of forgetfulness or losing track. Can include difficulty staying organized. Symptoms of attention deficit and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder are common.
  • Engaging with technological devices like a phone at inappropriate times to stay distracted.
  • Obsessive thinking and ruminating thought patterns, when expressed, can seem overwhelming to others.
  • “Jammed speech” patterns of hyper-talking.
  • Sporadic episodes of extreme emotions and emotional displays such as becoming frantic, anxious, crying, screaming, having panic attacks.

Symptoms of anxiety are often overlooked because they are commonly confused with stress. Stress and anxiety are similar and often symptoms of one another, but are not the same issue. For full recovery from addiction, it is essential to assess and properly treat anxiety.

Dealing With Anxiety and Alcohol Addiction

Alcohol can impact anxiety disorders in several ways, both in the short term and the long term. While alcohol can provide temporary relief from anxiety symptoms, it can also exacerbate anxiety in the long term and contribute to the development of anxiety disorders.

In the short term, alcohol can act as a sedative, which can create a feeling of relaxation and euphoria. This feeling of relaxation can provide temporary relief from anxiety symptoms, making you feel more comfortable in social situations. However, as the effects of alcohol wear off, anxiety symptoms can return, often more intense than before.

In the long term, alcohol use can contribute to the development of anxiety disorders. Regular or heavy alcohol use can lead to changes in brain chemistry, including the reduction of neurotransmitters that regulate mood, such as serotonin and dopamine. These changes can lead to increased anxiety and depression symptoms.

Additionally, alcohol use can lead to physical health problems, such as liver damage, which in turn causes additional stress and anxiety. Alcohol use can also interfere with daily functioning, which can lead to stress and anxiety related to work, school, or personal relationships.

It is important to note that while alcohol can provide temporary relief from anxiety symptoms, it is not a safe or effective long-term solution. Treatment for anxiety disorders should involve a combination of therapy, medication management, and lifestyle changes. It is essential to seek professional help from a healthcare provider or mental health specialist if you or someone you know is struggling with anxiety and alcohol use.

Living With Anxiety and Drug Addiction

Anxiety can cause feelings of fear and worry that can lead to self-doubt and self-criticism. If you’re suffering from anxiety you may also have difficulty sleeping, which can exacerbate anxiety symptoms and make it challenging to function during the day. It’s often at this stage that people turn to drugs as a way to self-medicate and alleviate their anxiety symptoms.

Drug addiction can worsen anxiety symptoms and create a cycle of dependence and withdrawal. People suffering from addiction may experience intense cravings for drugs, which can cause significant distress and anxiety. The fear of withdrawal symptoms can also lead to anxiety and contribute to a cycle of drug use.

It is crucial to seek professional help for anxiety and drug addiction to manage the symptoms effectively. Treatment options may include therapy, medication-assisted treatment, support groups, and holistic approaches such as mindfulness and exercise. Recovery from anxiety and addiction is a gradual process, and it is essential to seek ongoing support and make lifestyle changes to maintain sobriety and manage anxiety symptoms effectively.

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Anxiety and Addiction Treatment 

The best treatment for anxiety and addiction involves an integrated and individualised approach that addresses both conditions simultaneously. Treatment options may include medication, therapy, support groups, and holistic approaches, depending on your specific needs and preferences.

Some of the most effective treatments for anxiety and addiction include:

Medication: Medications can be used to manage anxiety symptoms and reduce drug cravings. Antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications can often help manage anxiety symptoms, while medications such as methadone, buprenorphine, or naltrexone can help reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms.

Behavioural therapies: Therapy, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), can help you identify and change negative thought patterns and behaviours that contribute to anxiety and addiction. Other forms of therapy, such as dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT), mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), or acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), can also be effective.

Support groups: Support groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA), can provide a sense of community and support for people in recovery. They can also offer a safe space for individuals to share their experiences and struggles with others who can relate.

Holistic approaches: Holistic approaches such as meditation, mindfulness, yoga, and exercise can help reduce anxiety symptoms and promote relaxation and well-being.

Dual-Diagnosis Treatment at Castle Craig

At Castle Craig, we understand the complexities that come with treating a dual diagnosis such as anxiety and addiction. Your therapist or addiction specialist will work with you to develop a personalised treatment plan that addresses both anxiety and addiction effectively. Treatment should be ongoing and may require adjustments over time as your needs may change. Recovery is a gradual process, and it is essential to seek ongoing support and make lifestyle changes to maintain sobriety and manage anxiety symptoms effectively.

If you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol or drug abuse, while also experiencing anxiety symptoms, we recommend specialised dual-diagnosis treatment. Contact us for more information on how to access our rehab programme, which addresses co-occurring illnesses like anxiety.

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To find out how we can help you please telephone Castle Craig on our Helpline: 0808 271 7500 or click here to arrange a free addiction assessment or here for more information.

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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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