Alcoholism and Anxiety

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Contributor: Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC Special Projects Coordinator at Eating Disorder Hope/Addiction Hope

Substance abuse and mental illness often go hand-in-hand, and it is not uncommon for an individual dealing with alcoholism to also struggle with a behavioral disorder. A common mental illness that is often experienced alongside alcoholism is anxiety, or some form of an anxiety disorder.

The main types of anxiety disorders include generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorders, social anxiety disorder, and phobias.

Coping with Anxiety By Using Alcohol

Anxiety disorders can be seriously debilitating mental illnesses, impacting a person’s ability to thrive in their life. Depending on the type of anxiety disorder an individual may be struggling with, alcoholism may develop as a means of coping with the intense fears that are often experienced.

For example, an individual who struggles with social anxiety may hide their fears beneath alcohol or may use alcohol as a means of “relaxing” himself or herself. Other individuals who may suffer with anxiety may turn to alcohol as a way to “unwind” or in effort to relax or numb them. If not mindful, these behaviors and patterns can quickly escalate into a dangerous addiction.

How Repetitive Use Can Turn into Addiction

The more a person with an anxiety disorder turns to alcohol as a means of coping with their struggles, the greater these behaviors are reinforced in the brain. While turning to alcohol may have begun initially with harmless intentions, repetitive uses can easily progress into an addiction.

An addiction to alcohol can further trigger anxiety disorders, and thus a painful cycle can erupt.

Breaking Dangerous Habits

dog-454145_640Breaking these dangerous behaviors begins with admitting your struggle and asking for help. It is never easy to admit when you are dealing with a complicated issue, but the treatment for alcoholism and anxiety disorders is dependent on professional guidance.

Having appropriate treatment that can adequately address both of these mental health concerns will be crucial to beginning the recovery process and finding healing and restoration.

If you are not sure where to begin to find the treatment resources you need, consider reviewing the directories available on Addiction Hope. You are certainly not alone in your struggles, and the addiction community is here to support your through your journey of recovery.

Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!

What aspects of having an anxiety disorder would make it more difficult to overcome alcoholism? What treatment aspects do you think are most helpful in addressing these often co-occurring disorders?

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on June 2nd, 2015
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