Addiction and Anxiety: A Vicious Cycle

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Addiction and anxiety may seem, at first, like two separate conditions—and to be sure, there are many people who experience them independently from one another. Just because you have a substance use disorder, that doesn’t necessarily mean you have an anxiety disorder, and vice versa.

In other cases, though, one of these conditions may contribute directly to the other; in fact, anxiety and addiction can feed off of each other, and end up becoming a vicious cycle.

Often times, someone who has an anxiety disorder may turn to drugs or alcohol as a means of self-medicating, which can quickly spiral into a problem with addiction. At the same time, high levels of alcohol consumption or drug use can actually cause anxiety to worsen or deepen. (The common conception of alcohol as a way to sooth anxiety is only true when alcohol is consumed in moderation.) Thus, the two conditions can exacerbate each other and grow increasingly intertwined over time.

More specifically, there is evidence to suggest that alcohol and drugs can actually cause panic attacks—and if you already have an anxiety disorder, your risk rate for this is heightened. Meanwhile, anxiety is a key symptom of PTSD, and addiction is incredibly common among PTSD patients because it is seen as a way to calm that anxiety—but in reality, it makes the symptoms of PTSD far more pronounced.

All of this points to the need for dual diagnosis care: If you are struggling with both addiction and anxiety, it is important to have both conditions diagnosed and treated, not just one of them. Seeking a treatment plan that encompasses the full breadth of your mental health concerns is a key factor in finding lifelong recovery. Don’t hesitate to reach out for the dual diagnosis care you require.


  1. NCBI, Anxiety and Substance Use Disorders: A Review. Accessed February 17, 2016.
  2. NCBI, Anxiety and Alcohol Use Disorders. Accessed March 30, 2016.  
  3. Anxiety and Depression Association of America, Substance Use Disorders. Accessed March 7, 2016.
  4. New Beginnings Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation, Anxiety and Addiction. Accessed February 2 2016.
  5. Above it All, Anxiety and Addiction: A Vicious Cycle. Accessed February 19, 2016.
Contact us today to learn about dual diagnosis care.
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