My anxiety was so crippling that I couldn’t stop moving, I couldn’t sleep, and suicidal thoughts were creeping in. I’d have to drink so much alcohol to get it to stop and help me fall asleep. But when I woke up, it all began again. I was in a horrible cycle and I couldn’t get out. – Hannah
1 in 6 people suffer from anxiety in the UK. (MHFA England)
Everyone has felt worried at some point – before a performance, a job interview, or on the morning of a wedding day – but anxiety is very different.
Anxiety is one of the most common mental illnesses in the world, and despite this, not everyone who needs treatment seeks help.
Those with anxiety are two times more likely to develop an addiction to drugs or alcohol. Why are anxiety and addiction so closely related?
We know how hard it can be and have the answers here. Call us on 080 1150 446 for impartial and confidential advice about addiction.
The vicious circle of anxiety and addiction
Anxiety and addiction can sometimes be a little bit like chicken or the egg – it is hard to know what comes first.
Those suffering from anxiety often turn to drug and alcohol abuse to relieve anxiety symptoms. However, this does the opposite – it enhances the feelings of anxiety.
So, when faced with this situation, an individual is caught in a vicious circle: they begin using drugs and alcohol to self-medicate, which exacerbates their symptoms, so they increase their substance intake, which leads to worsened anxiety and addiction.
Do you drink in the morning to cope with the day ahead?
How much alcohol or drugs is too much?
Find out more here about how addiction can develop in 5 stages.
It is medically termed dual-diagnosis when an individual suffers from mental health issues and addiction.
What is anxiety?
Anxiety, though a mental illness, largely manifests itself in the body’s physical reaction to stressful, dangerous or uncomfortable situations.
While feeling anxious is normal, those suffering from severe anxiety disorders experience high anxiety levels, which are so overwhelming that they affect a person’s ability to lead daily and functioning life.
The constant presence of fear and worry can disrupt sleep and concentration and causes an individual to retreat socially.
- Generalised Anxiety Disorders (GAD)
- Panic Disorders
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders
- Social Anxiety Disorder
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
GAD is most commonly diagnosed alongside other disorders such as depression or substance abuse. However, different types of anxiety disorders are also common.
Those suffering from GAD experience chronic anxiety, and their triggers are often very complex – various and hard to define or locate.
What causes anxiety disorder?
Those not struggling with anxiety may think that a person has chosen to be anxious or that if they just relaxed, they’d be fine.
Anxiety is not a weakness or something that an individual can control.
It can develop from several causes, but every case is different, and there is rarely just one cause of mental health issues.
The most common causes of an anxiety disorder include:
- A family history of anxiety or mental health problems
- A history of trauma such as child abuse, sexual abuse or exposure to violence
- Substance Use Disorder (SUD): Alcohol or drug misuse as a means of self-medication can intensify feelings and symptoms of anxiety
- Long-term burnout or stress
- Pre-existing psychiatric disorders such as depression, stress, or eating disorders
Psychological warning signs of GAD
Anxiety symptoms are both psychological and physical and will vary significantly from person to person.
Here are some of the most common psychological side effects:
- Prolonged uncontrollable feelings of fear and worry
- Panic and uneasiness for no identifiable reason
- Distraction and difficulty focusing
- Deterioration in social, professional and romantic relationships
- Substance abuse, overeating or compulsive behaviours to temporarily relieve symptoms
Anxiety isn’t all in the mind
Some of the more severe symptoms of anxiety are physical.
- Heart palpitations
- Tight chest
- Chocking sensations and breathlessness
- Rapid breathing or hyperventilation
- Muscle tension
- Trembling and shaking
- Stomach pain, nausea and vomiting
- Dizziness and disorientation
- Numb or tingling limbs
Will my anxiety get better if I stop drinking?
In short, yes, your anxiety will be much less prominent if you stop drinking or taking drugs.
By seeking the help and support you need to begin a sober life, you will start to regain control over your life, and you will be able to approach your mental wellbeing healthily, rather than relying on drugs or alcohol to self-medicate.
You cannot recover alone…
If you have dual-diagnosis, it will be impossible for you to recover without professional medical help.
Residential rehab is proven to be the most effective way of starting on the road to sobriety.
During your treatment, a consultant psychiatrist will specifically diagnose your conditions, and following this, will tailor an individualised plan which will help you recover effectively.
We do not just treat the addiction or mental health issue; we treat the person.
…But recovery is possible
Our team at the Executive Rehab Guide is committed to providing those in need with the support they deserve to get their lives back on track.
All you have to do is read our real-life stories to know that sobriety and happiness are achievable.
If you or someone you love is struggling, call us on 0808 1150 446.
- Depression: Symptoms and Signs
- Signs of severe PTSD
- Mental Health Foundation: A guide to living with anxiety
- NHS self-assessment for anxiety