Treatment For Anxiety And Addiction

Anxiety and substance use disorders can be co-occurring disorders that require separate interventions. Both should be addressed simultaneously rather than dealing with one before the other. The presence of substance abuse minimizes the likelihood of recovering from chronic anxiety disorders, which underscores the importance of addressing both disorders.

WRITTEN Review by:

Amanda Stevens, BS

On: Dec 12, 2023
Medical Review by:

Dr. Po Chang Hsu MD, MS

On: May 7, 2024
Jump to Section Chevron Down

    What is Anxiety and Addiction?

    Anxiety is the most common mental illness in the US.[1] Anxiety disorders often co-occur with other diagnosed mood disorders, such as depression.[2]

    Little worries and pint-sized fear are both a normal part of life, but debilitating anxiety is not. While fear is a response to a specific threat, anxiety is a response to stress.[3] It’s a feeling of doom or dread you can never shake. There are sometimes specific triggers (e.g. phobias), but sometimes the cause of anxiety is non-specific (e.g. panic attacks).

    Anxiety takes many forms, from generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic attacks, and specific phobias to social anxiety disorder, separation anxiety disorder, and more. In addition to co-occurring with mood disorders, anxiety sometimes co-occurs with substance use disorders (e.g. alcohol or opioid).

    At particular risk for co-occurring substance use disorders are those suffering from social anxiety disorder. To alleviate the symptoms of anxiety, many sufferers of social anxiety disorder turn to alcohol.[4]

    While individuals may become reliant on the coping mechanisms used for managing anxiety, it’s not accurate to describe this as an addiction to anxiety itself. Instead, this situation is more about a dependency on certain behaviors or rituals that provide a sense of control over anxiety symptoms. For this purpose, anxiety and addiction will be treated as separate, albeit co-occurring disorders.

    Common Symptoms of Anxiety and Addiction

    Anxiety disorders can take many forms, but there are common symptoms:[5]

    • Feeling jittery or unable to relax
    • Experiencing fatigue without a clear cause
    • Lack of focus
    • Irritation over trivial events
    • Having headaches, muscle aches, stomach aches, or phantom pain
    • Persistent, uncontrollable worry
    • Disrupted sleep patterns

    Substance use disorders can take many forms, but to qualify for a clinical diagnosis, at least 2 of the 11 criteria in the DSM-5 must be present in a 12-month period:[6]

    • Using more of the substance than you intend or is good for you
    • Prior failed attempts to stop using substances
    • Reallocating free time to sourcing the substance
    • Craving
    • Lack of meeting prior obligations and responsibilities
    • Despite interpersonal and professional damage, still continuing to use the substance
    • Reduction or elimination of former hobbies
    • Risky behavior (like unprotected sex or driving a car) while using the substance
    • Despite physical or mental damage, still continuing to use the substance
    • Needing a bigger and bigger dose to experience the same effects
    • Pain when discontinuing the substance use

    Anxiety and Addiction Statistics

    Mental Disorder


    About 19.1% of US adults have an anxiety disorder in a given year.[7] During the same time, approximately 31.9% of adolescents have an anxiety disorder.[8]

    Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) affects 6.8 million US adults yearly, but only 43.2% of those are actively receiving treatment.[9] Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) affects 15 million US adults yearly, and 36% of those reporting SAD waited 10 or more years before seeking help.[10]

    20% of people exhibiting social anxiety disorder also suffer from alcohol abuse or dependence.[11] This is even more true for women than men. Unfortunately, addiction and anxiety disorders often go hand in hand. Research estimates those with an underlying anxiety disorder are 2 to 5 times more likely than others to develop a substance use disorder.[12]

    Dual Diagnosis Treatment Works


    A recent survey found that 43.7 million US adults (15.6% of the population) either have an alcohol use disorder or an illicit drug disorder or have received treatment in a facility that specializes in addiction.[13] They would qualify as needing substance abuse treatment.

    When substance use disorder co-occurs with anxiety, it complicates the treatment and recovery process from chronic anxiety disorders, making integrated treatment approaches essential for effective outcomes.[14]

    Some people may have a genetic predisposition that increases their risk for both anxiety and addiction.

    For instance, research suggests that people with a nicotine substance abuse disorder may show similar patterns of neural activity in the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex as individuals with schizophrenia, whether or not they have smoked.[15] Nicotine helps them relieve symptoms of schizophrenia but makes quitting difficult.

    Anxiety disorder and self-medicating with substances in Connecticut

    Anxiety and Addiction

    If you have anxiety disorder and also self-medicate with substances such as alcohol or nicotine, you might also meet the DSM-5 criteria for a co-occurring addiction disorder. A dual-diagnosis treatment might be just the solution for you.

    What Does Treatment For Anxiety And Addiction Look Like?

    What Does Treatment For Anxiety And Addiction Look Like in Connecticut

    Now, imagine getting treated for your co-occurring anxiety and addiction disorders in an environment that inspires mental, physical, and spiritual tranquility rather than more stress. You will feel comfortable, safe, and motivated with on-site medical detox and a tranquil inpatient treatment setting.

    Let us introduce you to your new retreat.

    Imagine a retreat spanning 17,000 square feet nestled into the mountains of Connecticut, where each room is newly remodeled and equipped with a private bathroom. The facility maintains a high staff-to-patient ratio of 1.5 staff members for every patient, with healthcare professionals such as Advanced Practice nurses, Medical Doctors, and Registered Nurses available both on-site and on-call 24/7, ready to assist with detox and recovery anytime.

    The facility offers a wide range of recreational therapy opportunities to engage with nature, including kayaking, boating, paddle boarding, fishing, and hiking, among others. Let your imagination run wild with that. This peaceful environment is just the place to work on any anxiety and substance abuse disorder you may have.

    Since we are a 24/7 facility, you can start the admissions process anytime. There is no such thing as too early or too late. Somebody will answer your phone call at any time of day or night. A staff member will qualify your insurance and perform a clinical assessment to determine your needs. Then, we’ll schedule an admission time at any time of the day or night.

    We’re Glad You’re Here! Take The First Step In Recovery Today.

    We’re eager to meet you and help you succeed in your recovery journey. Contact us today to start now.

    Frequently Asked Questions about Anxiety and Addiction

    What is the relationship between anxiety and addiction? Chevron Down
    Can anxiety disorder cause addiction? Chevron Down
    How do I overcome my addiction and anxiety? Chevron Down
    Is substance abuse directly caused by anxiety? Chevron Down