The Link Between Anxiety and Addiction

Frequently, people with substance use disorder (SUD) also suffer from other mental disorders. Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is one of the most common psychiatric problems that appears alongside addiction. Anxiety and addiction often predict or exacerbate one another.

GAD should be diagnosed by a doctor, however common signs and symptoms of GAD include:

  • Restlessness.
  • Overthinking worst-case scenarios.
  • Indecisiveness.
  • Being unable to move on or stop worrying about something.
  • Muscle tension.
  • Trouble focusing.
  • Insomnia.
  • Tiring easily.
  • Impatience.

Sometimes anxiety may cause physical symptoms like nausea or diarrhea.

The signs and symptoms of GAD must be persistent for a minimum of 6 months to result in a diagnosis.

Often, people with GAD will self-medicate with drugs and alcohol, especially when their anxiety is undiagnosed. While these substances may provide temporary relief, chronic substance misuse will worsen someone’s anxiety in the long run.

Addiction/SUD is a treatable chronic brain illness characterized by compulsively seeking and using drugs despite serious consequences on someone’s health, career, academics, or interpersonal relationships.

Addiction and Anxiety Risk Factors

While GAD and SUD are separate conditions, they both share many of the same risk factors. These include:

  • Genetic vulnerability.
  • Suffering trauma or abuse.
  • Use of drugs or alcohol early in life.
  • Irregularity in certain common brain regions.

The above factors do not mean someone is destined to suffer from anxiety, addiction, or both, but they increase the likelihood of experiencing these conditions.

Treatment for Addiction and Anxiety

Research shows that a comprehensive approach is more effective than treating addiction and a co-occurring disorder separately. Therefore, treatment facilities should be equipped to treat co-occurring disorders as well as SUD.

Therapy forms the foundation of addiction and anxiety treatment. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) has been proven effective in treating both conditions. CBT works to help someone recognize and overcome triggers and correct negative thought and behavioral patterns that may lead a patient to suffer anxiety symptoms or misuse substances.

Medication is also an important component of treatment for anxiety and addiction for many (but not all) people. Medication may be used relieve the symptoms of anxiety or withdrawal symptoms as well as mitigate drug cravings.

Addiction treatment is a highly individualized process, and patients with GAD or other co-occurring disorders have unique challenges. That said, despite there being no cure for either condition, both GAD and SUD are treatable. It often just requires getting the right help.

Addiction Treatment at Sunrise House

In Sunrise House’s residential treatment program, patients are assessed and safely treated for addiction and co-occurring disorders or co-morbidities in a safe, supportive, and sober environment. There are also specialized treatment programs for:

  • Veterans and first responders.
  • Trauma survivors.
  • LGBTQ+ patients.
  • Young adults.

Following treatment, patients are granted access to a robust alumni program, allowing them to remain in contact with their peers in recovery, attend sober events and weekly meetings, and track and celebrate recovery milestones.

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, please reach out to an admissions navigator at to learn more about the care and treatment options provided at Sunrise House.

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