Stress and Addiction: How Are They Connected?

man with stress and addiction problem

Table of Contents

Stress is a normal part of life, but it can become overwhelming and affect our physical and mental health. Recovery from addiction requires a strong commitment to managing stress to maintain sobriety and achieve long-term success.

International Stress Awareness Week 2023 takes place from November 1st to 7th. This annual event aims to increase awareness about stress, its impact on our mental and physical well-being, and the crucial role of stress management.

If you or a loved one is interested in treatment for chronic relapse in Colorado, we are here for you. Our residential treatment center can help you take the first steps toward sober living today.

Understanding Stress

stress management in recovery
Stress is the body’s natural response to changes in the environment that can create tension and anxiety. It is a normal part of life, but when it becomes overwhelming, it can become damaging to both physical and mental health.

Acute stress is short-term and is caused by sudden changes or events that cause an individual to become overwhelmed in some way. This type of stress usually passes quickly once the event has ended, but if it goes on for too long can lead to more serious issues with mental health.

Chronic stress is a long-term response to situations or events that cause significant levels of tension over some time. Chronic stress can have serious implications for both physical and mental health, leading to anxiety, depression, sleep disorders, digestive problems, and an increased risk of developing other illnesses.

It’s important to learn how to recognize the signs of stress early on so that we can manage them effectively before they get out of control. If you or a loved one is having trouble controlling symptoms of stress, look into our outpatient services.

Stress and Addiction Statistics

According to the Colorado Department of Human Services, as of 2019, one in four adults in Colorado struggles with mental health issues, including anxiety and depression. Additionally, there are over 3 million Coloradans who report having a substance use disorder.

In 2018, overdose deaths due to opioids were at their highest rate since 2000 and accounted for more than 70% of drug-related deaths in the state. In terms of stress, nearly one-quarter of Colorado adults reported high levels of stress in 2019.

The Relationship Between Stress and Addiction

Stress is an unavoidable part of modern life, and can have powerful effects on both our physical and mental health. It can manifest in a variety of ways, from physical symptoms such as headaches or insomnia to mental ones like anxiety or depression. But can it also be linked to addiction?

The answer is yes. Stress can be an underlying factor in the development of an addiction disorder, as it often affects our judgment and coping skills. Stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline can affect the reward system in our brains, which rewards us for engaging in pleasurable activities such as drinking alcohol or using drugs.

Stress can also play a role in addiction relapse. Chronic stress has been linked with cravings for substances or behaviors that people are trying to abstain from. Many people with addiction disorders may use substances or engage in behavior-based addictions as a form of self-medication.

Our dual-diagnosis treatment program can help you overcome stress and addiction. We treat both mental illness and addiction simultaneously to help you achieve sobriety.

Risk Factors For Stress and Addiction

Risk factors for stress and addiction vary from person to person, but some common risk factors can increase the likelihood of developing an addiction or suffering from stress.

Genetic Predisposition

Certain people may have a genetic predisposition to stress and addiction, due to inherited traits or behavioral patterns that make them more likely to engage in risky behaviors.

Environmental Influence

Environmental factors such as poverty, violence, and family dysfunction can create an atmosphere of instability and increased risk for stress and addiction disorders.

Mental Health Diagnoses

People with diagnosable mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia are at increased risk for developing substance use disorders or chronic stress.

Social Isolation

People who lack strong social connections are more prone to the negative influences of drugs and alcohol and may find it harder to manage their stress levels without external support.

Stressful Circumstances

When faced with a traumatic event such as job loss, divorce, natural disasters, or other life changes, individuals are more likely to turn to substances to cope with the added distress they experience in these situations.

Trauma Exposure

Prior exposure to trauma is strongly correlated with both stress and addiction disorders as individuals try to cope with the psychological distress that follows such experiences.

Effects Of Stress On Physical and Mental Health

man struggling with stress and addictionStress can have a profound impact on both physical and mental health, leading to a range of health problems that can negatively affect overall well-being.

Physically, stress can manifest itself through headaches, chest pain, fatigue, sleep disturbances, digestive issues, and a weakened immune system. For those who experience prolonged or severe stress, these physical effects can become more serious and lead to heart attack or stroke.

Mentally, stress is often linked to depression, anxiety, memory loss, and a decrease in concentration and productivity levels. Stress can also lead to negative coping mechanisms such as substance abuse which further impairs mental health. Stress can be so overwhelming at times that it causes people to feel helpless with no way out.

When individuals understand how their body responds to stressful situations they are better equipped to manage the situation differently. Seek professional help if you are struggling to control stressful thoughts.

Does Chronic Stress Increase Your Risk of Drug Use and Mental Illness?

Yes, chronic stress can increase a person’s risk of drug use and mental illness. Research has shown that chronic stress can lead to increased levels of anxiety, depression, and irritability, which can increase an individual’s vulnerability to substance abuse and mental health issues.

Chronic stress has also been linked to changes in brain chemistry, which may make it more difficult to resist engaging in unhealthy behaviors or coping strategies such as drug use. If you or a loved one requires drug addiction treatment in Colorado, we can help you.

How to Effectively Manage Stress and Addiction in Recovery

Understand the Connection Between Stress and Addiction

It is critical to understand the relationship between stress and addiction when in recovery. Stress can be a contributing factor to addictive behaviors, such as using drugs or alcohol as a way of coping with difficult emotions or situations. Understanding how stress can lead to addiction can help individuals identify triggers and take proactive steps to avoid relapse.

Develop Healthy Coping Strategies

Identifying healthy ways of managing stress and addiction is key to preventing relapse. This could include practicing mindfulness, engaging in physical activity, talking about problems with a supportive friend or professional, or participating in activities like yoga or meditation that reduce stress levels.

Create a Support System

Having a strong support system is also essential for stress management in recovery from addiction. Whether through family therapy, support groups, or counseling sessions, having people who can offer understanding and guidance during stressful times can provide invaluable peace of mind.

Prioritize Self-Care

Taking care of your needs is a crucial part of stress management in recovery. Make sure you get enough sleep each night and make time for enjoyable activities like hobbies or art projects. You can also practice healthy nutrition habits and limit exposure to negative influences or people that may trigger addictive tendencies.

Seek Professional Help When Needed

If you find yourself struggling to cope with stress and addiction on your own, it may be beneficial to seek out the help of a mental health professional. A professional can offer advice and resources for managing addiction in recovery.

Stress Management in Recovery: Healthy Tips and Techniques

  1. Exercise: Regular exercise can help to reduce stress levels and provide a sense of accomplishment. Engage in adventurous activities that you enjoy.
  2. Relaxation Techniques: Practicing relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, yoga, or meditation can be an effective way to manage stress.
  3. Time Management: Learning how to better manage your time can help reduce feelings of being overwhelmed by tasks and deadlines.
  4. Healthy Diet: Eating healthy foods and limiting stimulants like caffeine and alcohol can also help to reduce stress levels in the body.
  5. Social Support: Connecting with supportive friends, family members, or professionals can help you cope with difficult emotions and provide guidance when needed.
  6. Hobbies & Interests: Engaging in pleasurable activities that you enjoy can be an effective way of managing stress and providing a sense of fulfillment.

Find Healing and Recovery at Jaywalker

stress management in addiction recovery

Located in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, our residential treatment program helps people overcome their addictions and start living healthy, productive lives. We provide a supportive environment where individuals can share their stories with others in similar situations and gain valuable insight from one another.

With our dedicated staff of experts and a caring atmosphere, Jaywalker is the perfect place to get back on track and reclaim your life. Contact us today to learn more about our recovery services.

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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