Anxiety and Addiction

shutterstock_275819786Addiction is well understood by clinical psychologists to be a brain condition resulting from impaired cerebral function. Anxiety is understood to be, at least in part, a combination of genetic factors, environmental stress, and personal idiosyncrasies. Or in other words, it is a cocktail combo of the influence from parental genes, cues in your surrounding daily life, and personal perspective.


Anxiety is typically characterized by paralysis; an inability to take any course of action. It is the element of the unknown which brings on anxiety. When we don’t know what will happen and we don’t know what to do, we start to feel out of control and anxiety sets in. It’s like being in a maze and feeling utterly confused. If only we could climb up the wall and sit on the ledge, then we would see the whole picture and know which way to go. We could formulate a plan and the outcome would be clear. It is this lack of perspective which keeps us in the unknown and therefore fretting away in anxious worry. Those with the hereditary predisposition to anxiety struggle more than others to climb that wall and gain the new perspectives they need to overcome their anxiety.


What is known about anxiety is that it corresponds with metabolic activity in a certain region of the brain. In some individuals, however, there is a disproportionate amount of activity in this region during times of stress. Research on monkeys shows previous generations of those with this heightened metabolic brain activity also displayed the same results when under similar levels of stress. The implication is clear; there seems to be a strong connection between heredity and anxiety. To what degree heredity influences anxiety is still debated, but at minimum there is ample agreement on its role in predisposing some people more than others.


Everyone experiences anxiety from time to time. Some handle it differently than others in that they resolve the issues causing their feelings more hastily. Others have trouble moving past those feelings and seem to linger there. Here is where the danger of addiction comes into play. The temporary and seemingly soothing nature of drugs and alcohol provide some with the quick relief they seek from their affliction and it has the gripping tendency to become an unhealthy coping mechanism. The problem is drugs actually make the anxiety worse over time and with regular use.


Those predisposed to anxiety tend to have difficulty seeing beyond their immediate problem and the drugs simply mask it. Plus, drugs affect people differently and those struggling with anxiety often find themselves further confused and nervous when under the influence which leads to panic attacks. The chronic use of drugs only postpones the inevitability of having to face one’s own problems and in the process makes it much harder to come to terms with reality. For the person struggling with anxiety, the healthiest and wisest solution is to seek help from a professional in the mental health field who understands anxiety for what it truly is; a medical disease.


Drugs are never the answer to stress, depression, or anxiety. However, if you have developed a debilitating drug addiction due to chronic anxiety or other mental health conditions, the addiction professionals at LEAD Treatment Center can help. Call us at 800.380.0012 to set an appointment.