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What Is The Connection Between Anxiety And Substance Abuse?

It is no surprise that most people who experience substance abuse also tend to have some kind of psychological issue going on, and vice versa. There are certainly a number of strong links here which can be identified, and the more fully we understand those links, the more empowered we are as individuals and as a culture to overcome those variety of issues. 

Some connections seem particularly strong, and are especially important to understand, and one example of that would be the connection between anxiety and substance abuse.

In fact, the correlations here are actually more complex than you might think. So let’s take a look at this in some detail, so that you can more readily understand what it all means and how it looks.

A Vicious Cycle

Although it is possible, of course, to have anxiety without also suffering substance abuse, or the other way around, those who have both at once are in a particularly dire situation, and it is something that can be typified by that old saying – a vicious cycle. 

Once you have a problem with anxiety or with a substance abuse issue, you will find that it influences the other and that they both exacerbate each other. This can then snowball over time, getting worse and worse, until you find that you are in a really nasty cycle that can at times seem impossible to get out of. At such times, it is a good idea to start thinking about asking for help.

Which Comes First?

There is sometimes a clear idea of which came first, whether it was anxiety or substance abuse. You might know that you already have a history of one or the other, for instance, so in such a case it would be clear. But more often than not, it might not be entirely obvious which came first. 

Of course, in one sense, it doesn’t matter too much – all that matters is that you get the help you need and deserve. But understanding which came first can be important for many people, so that is something to think about here as well.

Social Anxiety Disorder

A particular branch of anxiety that has a particularly high correlation with substance abuse, especially alcohol abuse, is social anxiety disorder. This kind of anxiety centers around anxiety to do with other people and social settings, and it is one of the most common kinds of anxiety out there. 

Those who have been diagnosed with this disorder, or simply have elements of it in their psyche, will often have a much higher likelihood of abusing alcohol and other drugs. The horrible irony then is that the alcohol use often makes the anxiety worse in the long run – even if it appears to help at first during specific social settings.


Of course, we all know that post-traumatic stress disorder is a very nasty condition, and one that usually requires a lot of therapy and other help in order to improve and get beyond it. It should hardly come as a surprise, then, that people who experience PTSD also tend to be more likely to have a substance abuse problem. 

Again, this can be the kind of situation where the drug appears to help, but in the long run actually has the opposite effect altogether.

Treating Anxiety & Substance Abuse

The good news is that there are options for treating both anxiety and substance abuse. In fact, if someone is presenting with both of these, then it would be normal to treat them together, as the same essential singular problem. This is especially important to try and keep the chance of relapsing as low as possible.

What forms of treatment might this take? Well, there are many options. The best is obviously to go to a treatment center which specializes in this kind of problem, and that is often going to be the most important step that a person in this position can take. 

Generally there needs to be a lot of care around what medication to prescribe such a person, as they might have the potential to become addicted to that, but bearing this in mind is an essential part of the whole process of care in such a case.
If you think that you might need help with your anxiety and your substance abuse, the first port of call is to get in touch with the Findlay Recovery Center, who will be able to help you get back to the person you used to be.

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