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Addiction and Anxiety

August 18, 2018

Anxiety and addiction tend to go hand in hand.  Whether it’s alcohol, pills, food, or other substances, anxiety fuels addiction.  When will I have my next drink?  When can I take another pain pill?  If I eat this entire pizza, will I hate myself?  Where can I hide my bottles?  Binge drinkers often say that they can’t be in social situations without alcohol because their social anxiety is so bad. 


Some therapists suggest that treating anxiety can break the cycle of addiction. While this theory makes a lot of sense, rarely is it that simple.  Addiction is a complex interplay of genetics, neurochemistry, and psychology.  So what role can therapy play in breaking the anxiety-addiction cycle?


It is important to address both the anxiety and addiction as separate but dependent issues. 

First, an anxiety counselor can help you understand whether your tendency to drink too much is a true addiction and, if so, direct you to a rehab program or addiction recovery group like Alcoholics Anonymous or Overeaters Anonymous.  Then, while the addiction is being addressed, your counselor can work with the accompanying anxiety.


For example, an addict who has been through rehab might best benefit from regular AA meetings coupled with weekly cognitive behavioral therapy to address the accompanying anxiety.  A person who medicates social anxiety with binge drinking would do well to face their drinking problem head on while simultaneously working on their lack of confidence.


Addiction recovery is hard, but working with a therapist who understands the connections between anxiety and addiction can supercharge the process.  Recovery can be easier and faster by tackling both issues, and often times, you can end up stronger than you were before the word “addict” ever came into the picture.

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