Anxiety Disorders and Addiction During the Holidays

Woman who is struggling with Depression

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

Having an addiction to drugs or alcohol is a complex disorder that often involves multiple factors. Contrary to what may be perceived about individuals who struggle with an addiction, this is not something that can simply be stopped at will or that a person can just “get over”.

Healing and recovering from addiction requires a collaboration of treatment professionals who can address the many components involved with addiction, including biological influences, environmental and social factors, as well as behavioral/personality traits.

It is not uncommon for a person who is dealing with an addiction to also have an underlying mood or personality disorder. Because mental illness and addiction often share common roots, an individual who has an addiction may also have a co-occurring mental disorder, such as anxiety or depression.

Anxiety disorders are particularly common among people who are struggling with an addiction to drugs or alcohol. Types of anxiety disorders include:

  • Social anxiety
  • Phobias
  • Panic disorder
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Plus others

Anxiety, Addiction, Stress

Individuals who are struggling with some type of anxiety disorder may turn to drugs and alcohol as a means of coping or dealing with the stress related to what they are experiencing. Drugs and alcohol then serve a purpose in managing an underlying mood disorder that can otherwise be overwhelming to deal with.

Young female student studying outdoors in the autumn.This makes it more difficult to break a cycle of addiction, particularly when the addict is utilizing a substance to help cope with anxiety. Effectively healing from an addiction may therefore involve dealing with underlying anxiety and anxiety type disorders.

The holiday season can be particularly challenging for a recovering addict. During this season, there are often increased stressors and pressures, which can be triggering for someone who already has a preexisting anxiety disorder.

If anxiety is directly related to an addiction, maintaining recovery requires effective and healthy coping mechanisms in the face of anxiety and stress, which is something that is typically learned in treatment. If you or someone you love is struggling with an addiction and anxiety disorder, consider treatment for co-occurring disorders, which can be an invaluable resource for overcoming these complex issues.

Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!

Are you a professional who has treated individuals who are struggling with both addiction and anxiety disorders? If so, what therapeutic treatments have benefitted your patients in recovery?

Crystal Karges photo

Crystal Karges

Crystal is a Masters-level Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) with a specialty focus in eating disorders, maternal/child health and wellness, and intuitive eating. Combining clinical experience with a love of social media and writing, Crystal serves as the Special Projects Coordinator for Eating Disorder Hope/Addiction Hope, where her passion to help others find recovery and healing is integrated into each part of her work.

As a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor, Crystal has dedicated her career to helping others establish a healthy relationship with food and body through her work with EDH/AH and nutrition private practice.

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addictions. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Addiction Hope understand that addictions result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on November 25, 2015
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