Overcoming Anxiety in Addiction Recovery

Dec 29, 2022

It is natural to be a little confused when the term “anxiety” is brought up in addiction treatment and recovery or mental health settings. After all, anxiety is a general feeling of worry or nervousness. We all feel that way sometimes.

In a clinical context, anxiety goes beyond a simple worry and progresses to excessive feelings that interfere with your ability to live your life. There are five main anxiety disorders we classify like this: 

  1. Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
  2. Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  3. Panic disorder
  4. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  5. Social anxiety disorder.

According to government statistics, nearly one-fifth of the United States population experienced an anxiety-related disorder within the last year. Almost 30% of people will experience an anxiety disorder at least once in their lives.

Anxiety can often be brought on by the feeling that we alone have to accomplish everything in our lives. However, this is simply not true. When we think this way, we can begin to engage in catastrophic thinking, in which we imagine terrible and unrealistic scenarios playing out and develop fear about those things happening. That is why it is important in recovery to keep in contact with our peers and mentors in a support network, especially when we struggle with an anxiety disorder. 

Anxiety and Mental Health

Understand that some worry is natural. If we did not worry about real things that are happening, we would not have the foresight to prepare for real problems and mitigate them before they occur.

However, worries that are irrational begin to cause us problems in our ability to interact with others and live our lives. You may be experiencing excessive anxiety if you experience the following:

  • Restlessness
  • Constant worry about everyday situations
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Heart palpitations
  • Tremors, twitching and shaking
  • Hyperventilation or inability to catch your breath
  • Dizziness, nauseousness, or lightheadedness
  • Sleeping problems

If you experience any of these symptoms, your therapist may have diagnosed you with anxiety. There are a few main types of anxiety to know about:

  • Social anxiety disorder: This type of anxiety is one that affects people who feel nervous in crowded places or around other people.
  • GAD: Unlike social anxiety disorder, people who struggle with GAD have general anxiety that is not necessarily triggered by one specific situation. 
  • Panic disorder: People with panic disorder are triggered by certain situations and have recurring episodes of discomfort and fear that paralyzes them.
  • Other phobias: Phobias occur when you experience an intense fear of an object or situation that otherwise would likely not result in such an irrational response. 

The Links Between Anxiety and Addiction

During treatment, you likely experienced some form of anxiety even if you had not experienced or recognized it before. Anxiety is a common experience during withdrawal. There are a few ways to treat anxiety during withdrawal. One such way is through medication. However, medication is not always the most effective treatment course. Instead, anxiety can also be treated with the following:

  • Mindfulness: Learning to meditate and relax to relieve anxiety is one way to treat excessive worry.
  • Individual and group therapy: In order to treat anxiety, you have to learn what triggers and cues cause your anxiety. Therapy can help with that. 
  • Exercise: Working off tension is a good way to work past anxiety-related symptoms. Getting outside in the sun helps your body produce Vitamin D, which can also help relieve anxiety.

Scientific research shows that stress cues are intrinsically linked to substance abuse and consumption. Treating anxiety is a proven way to help prevent relapse in recovery and help individuals reach lifelong sobriety.

Anxiety in Addiction Recovery

Anxiety can leave you feeling like you are stranded on a desert island, even when you are in a crowded room surrounded by others. However, most people who have anxiety can get better and lead healthy and productive lives.

One of the best ways to overcome anxiety is to identify the things in our lives that trigger anxiety attacks. These triggers, or cues, keep us within the cycle of anxiety and prevent us from seeking the help we need. 

However, when we identify triggers, we acknowledge the stressful elements in our lives that hold us back and keep us from moving forward. As individuals in recovery from substance abuse, our goal is to move forward and create a new life free of anxiety.

Tips for Dealing With Anxiety Triggers

Once you and your therapist have identified the triggers for your anxiety, it is time to take action. Here are a few tips for you to cope with triggers before and as they come:

  • Focus on physical health: Taking care of your body through exercise and eating nutritious meals can help the brain and body to work through anxiety-related symptoms.
  • Stay connected: Human connection can make all of the difference in overcoming anxiety.
  • Rest when you need to: Too often, we are hard on ourselves when we need rest. However, exhaustion is your body telling you what it needs. Listen to your body when you are tired and take the break you need.
  • Avoid constant news cycles: Twenty-four-hour news is intended to be an outrage machine, and this can cause heightened anxiety. 
  • Get help when you need to: Call your peers, your therapist, or family and friends when you need to talk. They are there to listen.

Everybody experiences stressful times in their lives. Some of us learned valuable coping skills as children to deal with these worries when they come along. However, for those of us that did not, dealing with these anxiety triggers can result in panic and anxiety attacks. When anxiety and panic begin to disrupt your ability to live your life, you may be struggling with an anxiety disorder. Whether someone is nervous about sharing their experience with others, living without substances, or facing their traumas, anxiety during recovery can feel overwhelming and could even lead to relapse. When you need help or someone to talk to, call your brothers at Renaissance Ranch at (801) 308-8898.