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Can Anxiety Cause Substance Abuse?

a woman sits on a couch with her hands to the sides of her head appearing distraught as she deals with anxiety and substance abuse

Today, anxiety is a leading cause of substance abuse. Many people don’t know the symptoms of anxiety or seek treatment. This often leads to self-medicating and self-soothing with drugs or alcohol. While self-medicating can provide temporary relief from anxiety symptoms, when substances wear off, anxiety can return and worsen. Luckily, anxiety treatment is increasingly accessible and the best way to treat anxiety symptoms and substance abuse.

If you or someone in your life is struggling with anxiety and substance abuse, know you are not alone. The team at A Better State is here to help you and your loved ones with holistic anxiety treatment programs. Call us now at 781.412.1488 to learn more about our outpatient treatment programs for addiction and anxiety, and get started today.

What Is Anxiety?

Anxiety is a mental, physical, and emotional response. While anxiety symptoms are similar to physical and emotional symptoms of a trauma event, anxiety does not exist in the present. The top sign of anxiety is persistent negative rumination about the past or worry about the future. Common symptoms of anxiety include:

  • Sweating
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Trouble breathing
  • Racing thoughts
  • Trouble focusing
  • Negative self-talk
  • Fear of the future
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Drug-seeking behavior

While anxiety can be a symptom of unresolved trauma, a person’s belief systems, childhood, and current life situation can all lead to anxiety. Many people may try to calm their anxiety with depressants like alcohol or opioids, and benzos. They may also have trouble discussing their anxiety with others or asking for help. In reality, anxiety is increasingly common in our busy world. Financial stress, natural disasters, a lack of time off, and school stress can all lead to anxiety.

Can Anxiety Cause Substance Abuse?

Often doctors prescribe benzos to treat anxiety temporarily. If someone doesn’t also receive psychological treatment, they will likely become dependent on medication. Addictive substances like benzos, alcohol, and opioids release dopamine, the chemical responsible for feelings of joy and motivation. While the brain makes dopamine, substances provide unnatural levels, causing the brain to crave more dopamine. This is called the “dopamine reward effect.” Craving dopamine is more common for those with anxiety and other mental health conditions.

Anxiety is treatable, especially with behavioral therapies like ​​cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), and alternative therapies like art, music, and dance. Getting to the root cause of anxiety is the best way to simultaneously treat substance abuse and anxiety. Many times, by treating anxiety, a client’s drug cravings and triggers lessen and even disappear.

Treating Addiction and Anxiety

Most people don’t realize that anxiety can cause substance use. Understanding anxiety symptoms can help people know when to seek treatment. Anxiety treatment is a safe and effective way to improve a person’s quality of life. While many live with low levels of anxiety, persistent anxiety that interferes with life and leads to self-medication is a sign it’s time for treatment.

If you or someone you love is ready for dual-diagnosis anxiety treatment, Better State is here to help. Our accessible outpatient treatment programs help the people of New Hampshire recover from anxiety, trauma, substance use, and other mental health conditions. We specialize in mental health treatment for depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Our range of holistic trauma-informed treatments helps clients uncover the root cause of anxiety and addiction for deep healing. With a partial hospitalization program (PHP), intensive outpatient program (IOP), and evening outpatient treatment, we have the program that fits your lifestyle.

Learn More About Anxiety and Addiction at A Better State

At A Better State, we understand the unique challenges of anxiety and addiction. Look at our programs page to learn more about how we can help, or call us to learn more about our dual diagnosis treatment programs. Our compassionate advisors are here to help you start your recovery journey today. Contact us at 781.412.1488 to learn more about holistic, trauma-informed treatments for addiction and anxiety in New Hampshire.