The Relationship Between Anxiety and Addiction

The Relationship Between Anxiety and Addiction

Table of Contents

Anxiety and addiction often go hand-in-hand, creating a challenging cycle. Anxiety with constant worry and fear can drive men to seek relief in substances which can lead to addiction. And addiction can worsen anxiety making recovery harder. Understanding the relationship between anxiety and addiction is key to treatment. By looking at the causes, effects, and solutions we can support those who are battling both anxiety and addiction and get them on the road to recovery.

Understanding Anxiety

Anxiety disorders are some of the most common mental health issues, affecting millions of people around the world. In fact, around one in five men will experience anxiety at some point in their lives. Understanding what anxiety is, its different types and its symptoms can help you recognize the signs and seek the right help. This knowledge is especially important when anxiety happens alongside addiction. By learning about anxiety, we can better understand how it affects people and why personalized treatment is so important.

Types of Anxiety

Anxiety comes in many forms, each with its own set of symptoms and difficulties. Here are some:
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
Chronic worrying about lots of things in life, work, health, relationships etc. This constant worrying can be overwhelming and affect daily living.
Recurring, unexpected panic attacks. These sudden episodes of intense fear can include palpitations, sweating and feeling of impending doom. They can come out of the blue and be debilitating.
This is an extreme fear of social situations. People with this disorder fear being judged, embarrassed or scrutinized by others, making social interactions impossible.
These are intense fears of specific objects or situations, such as heights, animals or flying. The fear leads to avoidance behavior which can affect daily living.

Unwanted, intrusive thoughts (obsessions) and repetitive behaviors (compulsions) increase anxiety. These compulsions can be time-consuming and affect daily life.

This develops after a traumatic event. Symptoms include flashbacks, severe anxiety and intrusive thoughts about the event. It can affect mental health long term.
Excessive fear or anxiety about being away from home or loved ones. More common in children but can affect adults and be distressing.

The Nature of Addiction

Addiction is a chronic disease that affects the brain’s reward, motivation, and memory functions. Someone with an addiction will feel a compulsive, or uncontrollable, need to seek out and use a substance or engage in a behavior, even though it brings significant consequences to their life.

Characteristics of Addiction

With addiction, the brain chemistry changes over time to make the addictive substance or behavior more important than everything else.

Anxiety and Addiction

Anxiety and addiction get tangled up together. Understanding how these two feed into each other is key to effective intervention.

How Anxiety Leads to Addiction


Battling anxiety, many men turn to alcohol or drugs as a solace. Initially, these substances might seem like a relief, but gradually, they can ensnare someone into dependency.

Overwhelmed by anxiety, the allure of substances that promise a temporary respite becomes tempting. However, this fleeting escape can spiral into addiction.
For those whose sleep is haunted by anxiety, the lure of substances that promise rest or relaxation is powerful. Unfortunately, this often sets the stage for addictive behaviors.

How Addiction Leads to Anxiety

Chemical Imbalance
Prolonged addiction can wreak havoc on brain chemistry, complicating the management of anxiety. The altered brain functions can amplify anxiety symptoms, making the situation worse.
Stopping the use of addictive substances can provoke intense anxiety as a withdrawal symptom. This severe anxiety can make quitting daunting and can perpetuate a vicious cycle of relapse.
The chaos that addiction breeds—be it through financial woes or fractured relationships—can heighten anxiety, adding another layer of complexity to the struggle.

The Co-Occurrence of Anxiety and Addiction

When anxiety and addiction occur together, it’s called a dual diagnosis—a tough combination many men face. They feed into each other and are hard to break. Imagine being so anxious you reach for a drink or drug to feel better for a while. That works at first, but then it becomes a habit and you’re addicted. Or, if you’re addicted, your anxiety goes up because of how the substances affect your brain or the stress and withdrawal of quitting.

To really get better you need to treat both anxiety and addiction at the same time. If you only focus on one, the other will sneak back in and knock you off track. A dual diagnosis approach looks at the whole picture so you get the treatment you need for both issues and then you can get on with a more stable recovery.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment at Jaywalker

At Jaywalker, we get it. Anxiety and addiction are connected and we address both. Our dual diagnosis treatment program is customized to each individual’s path to wellness.

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At Jaywalker we are committed to a full and effective recovery. By addressing the mental and physical aspects of recovery we give our clients the tools for a healthier and happier life.

Get Help Today!

If you or someone close to you is struggling with anxiety and addiction, remember, you are not alone. Jaywalker is a specialized dual diagnosis treatment center that provides comprehensive, personalized support. Taking the first step may be daunting, but reaching out to us is a stride towards a healthier, more fulfilling life. Contact Jaywalker today to learn more about our programs and start your journey to recovery. This initial step is your gateway to healing.

author avatar
Stefan Bate, MA, LAC, CCTP Chief Clinical Officer
Stefan Bate, BA, MA, LAC holds a Master's Degree in Applied Psychology from Regis University and is a Licensed Addiction Counselor in the state of Colorado. Stefan has wide-ranging experience in the field of addiction recovery including: working as a recovery coach, therapist, and program director.

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