Renaissance Ranch

Why Addiction Makes Anxiety Worse

Jan 9, 2023

Anxiety and substance use can often go hand in hand. Which causes which? Does it start with anxiety, which leads to using substances to cope? Or does it begin with substance use, which then creates anxiety? We will address both scenarios, but the moral of the story is that addiction and substance use can worsen anxiety. 

Anxiety occurs as a result of chemical imbalances in the brain. Substances affect how the brain works by interfering with different operating systems and disrupting typical communication within the brain. So it makes sense that this impact on the brain’s typical functioning could result in some psychological turmoil. 

It is much more than that, though. Substances impact the way your physical body operates, too. For example, drugs and alcohol can affect your sleep, appetite and digestion, heart rate, and more. The physical body and the brain are closely connected and rely heavily on one another to keep things working well. Anxiety symptoms include mental and physical experiences, all of which substances can create or worsen. 

Symptoms of Anxiety

People are impacted by anxiety in different ways and may experience different symptoms. While this is true, a few common symptoms of anxiety are often present. These can include:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Sweating
  • Trembling or shakiness
  • Indecisiveness
  • Desire to isolate
  • Headaches
  • Digestive upset

While this is not a comprehensive list, it includes some more common symptoms. Regardless of what symptoms you may be experiencing, anxiety is a powerful thing that can significantly impact your quality of life. If you are struggling with substance abuse and anxiety, you may find that symptoms worsen due to consuming and withdrawing from drugs or alcohol. 

Treating Anxiety With Substances

It is not uncommon for those who experience anxiety to try to self-medicate using drugs or alcohol. Unfortunately, this is a dangerous choice for several reasons. One reason is that when you try to treat symptoms of anxiety with drugs or alcohol, you are only temporarily making the problem fade for a little while at best. After that, the effects of the drugs or alcohol will wear off, and, chances are, you will be left feeling even more anxious than before. 

Trying to treat anxiety symptoms with substances can also lead to increased use and eventual dependence on the substance. This is because your body begins to adapt to the amount of substances you consume and learns to tolerate and need more to feel the reprieve from anxiety you seek. 

Anxiety Caused by Substances

Substances affect the way you think and behave. As mentioned above, they disrupt typical brain and body functions, which can lead to many side effects. One of these side effects can include insomnia or trouble getting enough quality sleep. Anxiety can be worsened and triggered by a lack of sleep. 

Substances are known to alter brain chemistry. As mentioned above, anxiety results from chemical imbalances in the brain. Since drugs and alcohol affect chemicals in the brain, using them can lead to anxiety symptoms. 

Anxiety and Addiction

Anxiety is a widely experienced condition and can impact people of all ages and from all walks of life. It can be an ongoing issue or circumstantial. Anxiety paired with substance abuse is known as a co-occurring disorder. Learn more about co-occurring disorders here

Anxiety combined with substance abuse can create a vicious cycle of unpleasant symptoms and thought patterns that can be very difficult to break. Whether your addiction began as a coping mechanism for your anxiety or your anxiety stems from drugs or alcohol use, you likely feel stuck and unsure of what to do.

Treating Anxiety and Addiction Together

There is good news when you have reached a point of needing help for both your anxiety and your addiction. You can receive treatment for both simultaneously. The relationship between your anxiety and substance abuse is close, as one condition significantly impacts the other. This understanding allows clinical staff at Renaissance Ranch to address both issues through a whole-person approach to treatment. 

Through individual therapy and therapy groups, you will learn techniques for managing your anxiety in healthy ways that support your recovery. Strategies such as prayer, exercise, healthy eating, sleep routines, and more can help you keep anxiety symptoms at bay. 

Stop allowing the cycle of anxiety and addiction to continue. One is undeniably fueling the other, and both are working against you. Anxiety causes you to seek drugs or alcohol, which causes more anxiety. Whether you are using substances to ease your symptoms or your substance abuse is causing them, it is time to make the decision to reach out for help. You will find that you can have the symptom relief you have been seeking through treatment and recovery. 

Anxiety can be a very powerful thing. It can impact relationships, careers, and everyday life in a major way. Many experience anxiety in addition to their struggle with addiction. It may be the case that addiction is causing anxiety or that substances are being used to try to ease symptoms of pre-existing anxiety. Either way, each condition is working against the other and making the situation worse. If you or someone you care about is struggling with substance abuse, Renaissance Ranch would love to help. Our staff is ready to listen and learn more about your situation so that we can design a program that is right for you. To get help today, call Renaissance Ranch at (801) 308-8898.