Iris Healing® Retreat, Woodland Hills, CA

Anxiety and Addiction

The Connection Between Them

Anxiety and Addiction - Iris Healing® Retreat

Article Contents

What is Anxiety and What are its Symptoms?

Anxiety is a sensation that is brought on by emotion and fear. It presents itself in physical symptoms. Anxiety is often characterized by feelings of tension, apprehension, worry, irrational or excessive fear, and stress and can produce physical symptoms such as increased blood pressure, sweating, trembling, dizziness, rapid heartbeat, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle tension, headaches, trouble concentrating, insomnia and irritability.1

Most importantly, anxiety is a strong physical reaction to anxious thoughts, predictions, beliefs, and fears, that are usually irrational or excessive. Anxiety is not simply the stress that individuals naturally feel in difficult circumstances, such as before public speaking, or when writing an exam; anxiety presents itself irrationally and therefore, can be very difficult to understand and control.

Behavioral symptoms of anxiety include anxious thoughts, anxious predictions, anxious beliefs, avoiding feared situations, avoiding activities that previously caused anxiety, safety behaviors, and excessive physical reactions to the situation at hand.

What are Substance Use Disorders?

Substance Use Disorder (SUD) is a disease that is characterized by the dependence and negative effects of harmful substances such as alcohol or drugs. SUD’s are a disease that affects the brain and behavior, making it incredibly difficult to stop. Prolonged substance use leads to dependence and cravings, meaning that the body becomes dependent on a substance to function.

Substances activate the brain’s reward systems, producing feelings of pleasure, relaxation, and euphoria. Because of this, substance abuse to achieve those feelings will continue; despite negative outcomes, they might be experiencing as a result of substance use.

Once your body becomes dependent on a substance, stoppings its use may cause some unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. This creates a cycle whereby it becomes extremely difficult to stop using when the easy fix for negative withdrawal symptoms is the use of the drug that created the problem in the first place.

What Are the Symptoms of Substance Use Disorders?

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5th Edition (DSM-5) outlines 11 criteria that are used to identify the presence of a substance use disorder. The number of criteria that apply to a patient will determine the severity of their disorder. The 11 criteria outlined by the DSM-5 are:2

Displaying two or three of the above symptoms indicates a mild substance use disorder.2 Displaying four or five symptoms indicates a moderate substance use disorder.2 Displaying six or more symptoms indicates a severe substance use disorder.2

How do Substance Use Disorders Cause Anxiety and Vice Versa?

The relationship between anxiety and substance use disorders is multifaceted. In recent years, researchers have begun to understand that anxiety and substance use disorders commonly co-occur, and people who suffer from one of the disorders are more likely to suffer from the other as well. This is because substances can function as a temporary fix and relief for anxiety symptoms. People who suffer from anxiety may turn to substances to try to soothe their symptoms, which over time can lead to dependence on those substances.

On the other hand, anxiety can be one of the side effects of substance use, and prolonged substance use can often result in feelings of anxiety and depression. A study published in 2020 found that anxiety and depression are the most common problems reported by people who are seeking treatment for substance abuse.3

Anxiety is often a major symptom of withdrawal from both alcohol and drugs, and can last for up to two years after recovery and withdrawal.3 Because of the prolonged use of substances changes the way that your brain functions and changes your brain’s reward system, you become more likely to experience negative mental health effects.

You know that feeling when your stomach drops when you ride a roller coaster that's just about to fall over the edge or a feeling your heart beat widely against your ribs so loud 00:31 you can almost hear it that's what anxiety feels like and a lot of people all over the world struggle with it most of their lives according to a recent survey by the National Institute of Mental Health it's the most common mental illness with over forty 00:45 billion adults in the US alone being diagnosed every year the American Psychological Association defines anxiety as a future-oriented concern that may lead people to avoid situations that trigger are worse in their distress 01:00 often called the common cold of psychology along with depression it's one of the most prevalent and widespread mental health concerns today anxiety is an uncomfortable feeling to say the least but we mustn't let it rent space in our minds otherwise it can end up taking control over everything from your thoughts to your attitudes and behaviors an important first step in overcoming anxiety is acknowledging it and understanding where it's coming from so if you've been having a hard time figuring it out yourself here are six 01:31 are the most common causes of anxiety one overthinking also called rumination in Psychological terms this is when you make a big deal out of everything to the 01:43 point where every experience and 01:44 interaction you have starts to seem 01:46 negative reading too much into 01:48 everything from the slightest change in 01:50 someone's voice to the settles of facial 01:52 expressions it can be enough to drive 01:54 anyone mad sweating the small stuff and 01:58 never letting anything go can keep you 01:59 up at night obsessively thinking about 02:02 that small mistake you made years ago 02:04 overthinking can make you worry about 02:06 the most unimportant details and twist 02:08 everything in your mind into something 02:10 much much worse than it actually is two 02:14 overachieving 02:16 while the high of excelling at something 02:18 can be a wonderful feeling in the end 02:20 it's not worth all the anxiety you end 02:22 up giving yourself in the long run 02:24 overworking yourself and feeling 02:26 stressed out all the time leads you to 02:28 becoming more susceptible to anxiety and 02:30 depression when you strive for 02:33 unrealistically high goals you're only 02:35 setting yourself up for failure and 02:36 disappointment 02:37 you may feel compelled to busy yourself 02:39 with work or school all the time and 02:41 feel guilty about relaxing and having 02:43 fun you never feel contented with 02:45 yourself or what you've achieved because 02:47 there's always some other amount and you 02:49 think you need to climb three low 02:52 self-esteem in today's day and age when 02:55 popularity comes at the price of your 02:57 privacy the Internet makes the easy for 02:59 you to feel like you always need to 03:01 impress everyone some people think that 03:03 their social media presence defines who 03:05 they are so the pressure to be accepted 03:08 and well-liked by others has reached an 03:10 all-time high this is probably why 03:12 having a negative self-image has become 03:14 one of the most common causes of anxiety 03:16 everywhere insecurity is something that 03:20 all of us struggle with but failing to 03:22 overcome it can cost you a great deal of 03:24 happiness energy and peace of mind 03:27 self-doubt can make the prospect of 03:29 being judged and criticized by those 03:31 around you absolutely horrifying 03:33 however caring too much about what other 03:36 people think and letting this fear rule 03:38 your life is not healthy for pessimistic 03:43 thinking similar to overthinking 03:46 pessimistic thinking is another kind of 03:48 mind trap most people with anxiety find 03:50 themselves falling into a lot of the 03:52 time this means you're always worrying 03:55 about the worst things that could happen 03:57 in any given situation having a negative 04:00 mindset about yourself your 04:02 circumstances or those around you makes 04:04 it difficult for you to feel calm 04:05 because you're forever finding something 04:08 new to worry about you can't turn even 04:10 the smallest inconvenience into a 04:12 downward spiral of anxiety and 04:13 depression it's hard to escape five 04:17 traumatic events any negative experience 04:20 you may have had in the past plays an 04:22 important role in shaping your fears and 04:24 anxieties even if you don't know it our 04:28 sense of self-preservation is so strong 04:30 that oftentimes our minds will do 04:33 everything they can to keep us happy and 04:35 safe this commune of oiling anything 04:38 that may have previously given us to 04:40 stress or anxiety in fact this is one of 04:43 the most common reasons why we developed 04:45 phobias when it comes to anxiety on the 04:48 other hand traumatic events teach us 04:50 what to fear and be wary of no matter 04:52 how irrational it may seem so if you 04:55 find yourself feeling anxious for 04:57 seemingly no reason at all it might be 04:59 because you have some deep-seated trauma 05:01 or lingering issues you still need to 05:03 resolve m-6 05:05 no experiences finally trying new things 05:08 and stepping out of your comfort zone is 05:10 another one of the leading causes of 05:12 anxiety certainly the most positive 05:15 point on this list the anxiety you feel 05:17 here is actually a good sign that you're 05:20 being brave in making a conscious effort 05:21 to grow as a person this kind of anxiety 05:25 is more of a nervous excitement than a 05:27 dreadful worry change can be scary 05:30 especially if it's sudden and stressful 05:32 but it's also one of the many constants 05:35 in life learning to embrace change takes 05:38 a lot of emotional maturity of course 05:40 the nervousness and worry that 05:42 accompanies it is only normal in fact it 05:45 can even drive you to do better and try 05:47 harder if you let it inspire you and 05:49 remind you of all the possibilities life 05:51 has to offer we hope you found this 05:54 video helpful please like and subscribe 05:56 and keep us alive as always thanks for 05:59 watching 06:07 you

How Many People with SUDs also Have Anxiety?

In 2019, about 9.5 million American adults between the ages of 18 to 255 were diagnosed with at least one co-occurring disorders alongside a substance use disorder.4 In addition, only 742,000 of these people received treatment for both a mental heath and substance use disorder simultaneously.4

2004 Study

In 2004, A National Epidemiological Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions was conducted with 43,000 adults.5 About 17.7% of these adults with a SUD in the past 12 months also met the criteria for having an anxiety disorder.5 15% of those who had an anxiety disorder in the past 12 months had at least one co-occurring SUD.5

Based on criteria from the DSM, the relationship between anxiety disorders and drug use disorders is stronger than the relationship between anxiety and alcohol use disorders. Amongst those with anxiety disorders, the most prevalent co-occurring drug use disorders were marijuana use (15.1%), cocaine use (5.4%), amphetamine use (4.8%), hallucinogen use (3.7%), and sedative use (2.6%).5

Substance Use Disorders that commonly co-occur with Anxiety

Marijuana 15.1%
Cocaine 5.4%
Amphetamine 4.8%
Hallucinogen 3.7%
Sedative 2.6%

AMA Reports

Reports published in the Journal of American Medical Association showed that approximately 50% of individuals with severe mental health disorders also suffer from substance use disorders.3 37% of people with alcohol use disorder and 53% of people with drug use disorders also have at least one serious mental illness. From the sample of all people with a mental health disorder, 29% abuse either alcohol or drugs.3 This shows that the relationship between anxiety disorders and substance use disorders is strong, and having either disorder increases your chances of also having or developing the other disorder.

People with Severe Mental Health Disorders

50% also Suffer from Substance Use Disorders
37% Suffer from Alcohol Use Disorders
53% Also Have One Serious Mental Illness
Ever heard a really good joke about polio? Or made a casual reference to someone having 00:04 hepatitis? Or maybe teased your buddy by saying he has muscular dystrophy? 00:07 Of course you have never done that, because you are not a terrible person. You'd never 00:10 make fun of someone for having a physical illness, but folks make all kinds of offhand 00:15 remarks about people having mental illnesses and never give it a second thought. 00:18 How often have you heard a person say that someone's psycho, or schizo, or bipolar, or 00:23 OCD? I can pretty much guarantee that the people who used those terms had no idea what they actually meant. 00:29 We've talked about how psychological disorders and the people who have them have often been stigmatized. 00:33 But at the same time, we tend to minimize those disorders, using them as nicknames for 00:38 things that people do, think, or say, that may not exactly be universal, but are still basically healthy. 00:43 And we all do it, but only because we don't really understand those conditions. 00:48 But that's why we're here, because as we go deeper into psychological disorders, we get 00:52 a clearer understanding of their symptoms, types, causes, and the perspectives that help explain them. 00:58 And some of the most common disorders have their root in an unpleasant mental state that's 01:01 familiar to us all: anxiety. 01:04 It's a part of being human, but for some people it can develop into intense fear, and paralyzing 01:09 dread, and ultimately turn into full-fledged anxiety disorder. 01:13 Defining psychological disorders again: a deviant, distressful, and dysfunctional pattern 01:17 of thoughts, feelings, or behaviors that interferes with the ability to function in a healthy way. 01:22 So when it comes to anxiety, that definition is the difference between the guy you probably 01:26 called phobic because he didn't like Space Mountain as much as you did, and the person 01:31 who truly can't leave their house for fear of interacting with others. 01:34 It's the difference between the girl who's teased by her friends as being OCD because 01:38 she does her laundry every night and the girl who has to wash her hands so often that they bleed. 01:42 Starting today, you're going to understand all of those terms you've been using. 01:56 We commonly equate anxiety with fear, but anxiety disorders aren't just a matter of fear itself. 02:00 A key component is also what we do to get rid of that fear. 02:03 Say someone almost drowned as a kid and is now afraid of water. 02:06 A family picnic at the river may cause that anxiety to bubble up, and to cope, they may 02:11 stay sequestered in the car, less anxious but probably still unhappy while the rest 02:16 of the family is having fun. 02:17 So, in clinical terms, anxiety disorders are characterized not only by distressing, persistent 02:22 anxiety but also often by the dysfunctional behaviors that reduce that anxiety. 02:27 At least a fifth of all people will experience a diagnosable anxiety disorder of some kind 02:32 at some point in their lives. That is a lot of us. 02:35 So I want to start out with a condition that used to be categorized as an anxiety disorder 02:38 but is now considered complex enough to be in a class by itself, Obsessive-Compulsive 02:43 Disorder or OCD. 02:44 You probably know that condition is characterized by unwanted repetitive thoughts, which become 02:49 obsessions, which are sometimes accompanied by actions, which become compulsions. 02:53 And it is a great example of a psychological disorder that could use some mental-health myth busting. 02:57 Being neat, and orderly, and fastidious does not make you OCD. 03:02 OCD is a debilitating condition whose sufferers take normal behaviors like, washing your hands, 03:07 or double checking that you turned off the stove and perform them compulsively. 03:12 And they often use these compulsive, even ritualistic behaviors to relieve intense and unbearable anxiety. 03:18 So, soon they're scrubbing their hands every five minutes, or constantly checking the stove, 03:22 or counting the exact number of steps they take everywhere they go. 03:25 If you're still unclear about what it means for disorders to be deviant, distressful and 03:29 dysfunctional, OCD might help you understand. 03:31 Because it is hard to keep a job, run a household, sit still, or do much of anything if you feel 03:36 intensely compelled to run to the kitchen twenty times an hour. 03:40 And both the thoughts and behaviors associated with OCD are often driven by a fear that is itself 03:45 obsessive, like if you don't go to the kitchen right now your house will burn down and your 03:48 child will die which makes the condition that much more distressing and self-reinforcing. 03:52 There are treatments that help OCD including certain kinds of psychotherapy and some psychotropic drugs. 03:58 But the key here is that it is not a description for your roommate who cleans her bathroom 04:01 twice a week, or the guy in the cubicle next to you, who only likes to use green felt tip pens. 04:05 And even though OCD is considered its own unique set of psychological issues, the pervasive 04:10 senses of fear, worry, and loss of control that often accompany it, have a lot in common 04:15 with other anxiety disorders. 04:17 The broadest of these is Generalized Anxiety Disorder or GAD. 04:21 People with this condition tend to feel continually tense and apprehensive, experiencing unfocused, 04:26 negative, and out-of-control feelings. 04:29 Of course feeling this way occasionally is common enough, but feeling it consistently 04:32 for over six months - the length of time required for a formal diagnosis - is not. 04:37 Folks with GAD worry all the time and are frequently agitated and on edge, but unlike 04:42 some other kinds of anxiety, patients often can't identify what's causing the anxiousness, so 04:46 they don't even know what to avoid. 04:48 Then there's Panic Disorder, which affects about 1 in 75 people, most often teens and young adults. 04:53 It's calling card is Panic Attacks or sudden episodes of intense dread or sudden fear that 04:59 come without warning. 05:00 Unlike the symptoms of GAD which can be hard to pin down, Panic Attacks are brief, well-defined, 05:06 and sometimes severe bouts of elevated anxiety. 05:08 And if you've ever had one, or been with someone who has, you know that they call these attacks 05:13 for good reason. 05:14 They can cause chest pains and racing heartbeat, difficulty breathing and a general sense that 05:19 you're going crazy or even dying. It's as awful as it sounds. 05:23 We've talked a lot about the body's physiological fight or flight response and that's definitely 05:27 part of what's going on here, even though there often isn't an obvious trigger. 05:31 There may be a genetic pre-disposition to panic disorder, but persistent stress or having 05:35 experienced psychological trauma in the past can also set you up for these attacks. 05:39 And because the attacks themselves can be downright terrifying, a common trigger for 05:43 panic disorder is simply the fear of having another panic attack. 05:47 How's that for a kick in the head? 05:48 Say you have a panic attack on a bus, or you find yourself hyperventilating in front of 05:52 dozens of strangers with nowhere to go to calm yourself down, that whole ordeal might 05:56 make you never want to be in that situation again, so your anxiety could lead you to start 05:59 avoiding crowded or confined places. 06:01 At this point the initial anxiety has spun of into a fear of anxiety which means, welcome 06:07 you've migrated into another realm of anxiety disorder, Phobias. 06:10 And again this is a term that's been misused for a long time to describe people who, say, 06:14 they don't like cats, or are uncomfortable on long plane trips. 06:18 Simply experiencing fear or discomfort doesn't make you phobic. 06:21 In clinical terms, phobias are persistent, irrational fears of specific objects, activities, 06:27 or situations, that also, and this is important, leads to avoidance behavior. 06:31 You hear a lot about fears of heights, or spiders, or clowns, and those are real things. 06:37 They're specific phobias that focus on particular objects or situations. 06:40 For example, the Chesapeake Bay Bridge in Maryland is a seven-thousand meter span that 06:44 crosses the Chesapeake Bay, if you want to get to or from Eastern Maryland that's pretty 06:49 much the only way to do it, at least in a car, but there are thousands of people who 06:53 are so afraid of crossing that bridge that they simply can't do it. 06:57 So, to accommodate this avoidance behavior, driver services are available. 07:01 For $25 people with Gephyrophobia, a fear of bridges, can hire someone to drive themselves, and their kids, 07:08 and dogs, and groceries across the bridge in their own car, while trying not to freak out. 07:13 But other phobias lack such specific triggers, what we might think of as social phobia, currently 07:18 known as social anxiety disorder, is characterized by anxiety related to interacting or being 07:23 seen by others, which could be triggered by a phone call, or being called on in class, 07:28 or just thinking about meeting new people. 07:30 So you can probably see at this point how anxiety disorders are related and how they 07:34 can be difficult to tease apart. 07:36 The same thing can be said about what we think causes them. 07:39 Because much in the same way anxiety can show up as both a feeling like panic, and a thought, 07:44 like is my kitchen on fire, there are also two main perspectives on how we currently view anxiety 07:50 as a function of both learning and biology. 07:52 The learning perspective suggests that things like, conditioning, and observational learning 07:57 and cognition, all of which we've talked about before best explain the source of our anxiety. 08:01 Remember our behaviorist friend, John B. Watson and his conditioning experiments with poor 08:05 little Albert, by making a loud scary noise every time you showed the kid a white rat, 08:09 he ended up conditioning the boy to fear any furry object, from bunnies, to dogs, to fur coats. 08:15 That conditioning used two specific learning processes to cement itself in Little Albert's young mind. 08:20 Stimulus Generalization, expanded or generalized his fear of the rat to other furry objects, 08:26 the same principle holds true if you were, like, attacked by your neighbours mean parrot 08:29 and subsequently fear all birds. 08:30 But then the anxiety is solidified through reinforcement, every time you avoid or escape 08:36 a feared situations, a pair of fuzzy slippers or a robin on the street, you ease your anxiety, 08:42 which might make you feel better temporarily, but it actually reinforces your phobic behavior, 08:46 making it stronger. 08:48 Cognition also influences our anxiety, whether we interpret a strange noise outside as a 08:52 hungry bear, or a robber, or merely the wind, determines if we roll-over and keep snoring, 08:58 or freak out and run for a kitchen knife. 08:59 And we might also acquire anxiety from other people through observational learning. 09:04 A parent who's terrified of water may end up instilling that fear in their child by 09:08 violently snatching them away from kiddie pools or generally acting anxious around park 09:12 fountains and duck ponds. 09:14 But there're also equally important biological perspectives. Natural selection, for instance, 09:18 might explain why we seem to fear certain potentially dangerous animals, like snakes, or why fears 09:23 of heights or closed in spaces are relatively common. 09:26 It's probably true that our more wary ancestors who had the sense to stay away from cliff 09:30 edges and hissing serpents were more likely to live another day and pass along their genes, 09:35 so this might explain why those fears can persist, and why even people who live in places 09:40 without poisonous snakes would still fear snakes anyway. 09:43 And then you got the genetics and the brain chemistry to consider. 09:46 Research has shown for example that identical twins, those eternal test subjects, are more 09:49 likely to develop phobias even if they're raised apart. 09:53 Some researchers have detected seventeen different genes that seem to be expressed with various 09:58 anxiety disorders. 09:59 So it may be that some folks are just naturally more anxious than others and they might pass 10:03 on that quality to their kids. 10:05 And of course individual brains have a lot to say about how they process anxiety. 10:10 Physiologically, people who experience panic attacks, generalized anxiety, or obsessive 10:14 compulsions show over-arousal in the areasof the brain that deal in impulse control 10:19 and habitual behaviors. 10:20 Now we don't know whether these irregularities cause the disorder or are caused by it, but 10:24 again, it reinforces the truism that everything that is psychological is simultaneously biological. 10:30 And that holds true for many other psychological disorders we'll talk about in the coming weeks, 10:34 many of which have names that you've also heard being misused in the past. 10:38 Today you learned what defines an anxiety disorder, as well as the symptoms of obsessive 10:43 compulsive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder and phobias. 10:46 You also learned about the two main perspectives on the origins of anxiety disorders, the learning 10:51 perspective and the biological perspective and hopefully you learned not to use "OCD" 10:56 as a punch line from now on. 10:58 Thanks for watching, especially to all of our Subbable subscribers who make Crash Course 11:01 available to them and also to everyone else. 11:04 To find out how you can become a supporter just go to 11:08 This episode was written by Kathleen Yale, edited by Blake de Pastino, and our consultant 11:12 is Dr. Ranjit Bhagwat. 11:13 Our director and editor is Nicholas Jenkins, the script supervisor is Michael Aranda who 11:17 is also our sound designer and the graphics team is Thought Cafe.

Does Anxiety Medication Pose a Risk for Abuse?

One of the tricky aspects of treating co-occurring disorders such as anxiety and substance abuse is that certain anxiety medications may pose risks for addiction. Two popular medications used to treat anxiety disorders are Gabapentin (an anticonvulsant) and Xanax (a benzodiazepine).


Gabapentin is an anticonvulsant prescription medication originally intended for use against seizures and the pain following an episode of shingles. While there have not been many medical studies looking into the effect of gabapentin for the treatment of anxiety disorders, it is sometimes used off-brand to treat anxiety when other medications have not worked.

Due to its ability to be used for multiple issues, in 2020, Gabapentin was the sixth most prescribed medication in the U.S.6 Unfortunately, gabapentin can also have negative consequences, as it carries the potential for addiction and can also cause suicidal thoughts, mood swings, and other physical symptoms.

This can be problematic because in trying to treat an anxiety disorder, gabapentin can also cause a substance use disorder. Essentially, you would be replacing an anxiety disorder with a substance abuse disorder, or end up with both co-occurring disorders. This makes it more difficult to treat both the anxiety disorder and the substance use disorder, and treatment will have to reflect the complexity of co-occurring disorders.


Xanax, which is the brand name for alprazolam, belongs to a group of drugs called benzodiazepines and is the most prescribed psychiatric medication in the U.S. Xanax acts on the brain and central nervous system, decreasing the levels of abnormal excitement in the brain and producing feelings of calmness. It reduces nervous tensions and anxiety that are caused by an unbalance of brain chemicals by boosting a natural chemical called gamma-aminobutyric acid.

Even more so than Gabapentin, Xanax is highly addictive and can have negative side effects as well, including suicidal thoughts and mania. Long-term abuse of Xanax can be associated with depression, psychotic experiences, and aggressive or impulsive behaviors. Therefore, the use of Xanax to treat anxiety disorders can also easily lead to the abuse of the substance, and consequently a substance use disorder.

Treatment Options for Co-occurring Anxiety and Substance Use Disorders

Treatment for co-occurring disorders, otherwise known as a dual diagnosis, requires an integrated approach where both the anxiety disorder and substance use disorder are treated simultaneously. Because anxiety and drug abuse affect each other, it is impossible to treat one disorder without treating the other.

Treatment options for co-occurring disorders include treatment programs that specialize in dual diagnosis. Treatment can be inpatient treatment where patients live at a facility and receive 24-hour care or outpatient treatment where individuals live at home and visit the hospital or clinic to receive their treatment, whether that is medication, counseling, or other types of treatments. Some of the treatment options for co-occurring anxiety and substance use disorders are:

Medical Detoxification

The first step to any type of substance use treatment is detoxification. When you stop using substances after a prolonged period of use, you can experience unpleasant withdrawal symptoms such as sweating, nausea, vomiting, anxiety, insomnia, muscle pain, fatigue, restlessness, tremors, difficulty sleeping, and more.

When experiencing withdrawal symptoms, it may be tempting to use the substance that your body developed the dependence on. This is why it is advisable to seek out medical detoxification where your body can detox under medical supervision, and with medication if necessary. This will make you more likely to succeed in detoxification, and avoid relapse. Stopping the use of substances is important for the treatment of anxiety disorders; because it is important to not use substances in a misguided attempt to self-medicate from anxiety.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT is a form of counseling that focuses on teaching skills and strategies that are used to reduce problematic behaviors and challenge negative patterns of thinking.7 When using CBT for substance abuse, you would identify negative patterns of behavior associated with substance use and implement strategies to be able to avoid triggers and fight against cravings.7

When using CTB for anxiety disorders, there would be a focus on changing patterns of thinking to decrease the feelings and emotions associated with problematic thinking. This involves cognitive therapy which focuses on how our negative thoughts contribute to our anxiety and behavior therapy which focuses on how we behave and react in situations that trigger anxiety.7 CBT on its own or in combination with medications or other forms of therapy is very useful for treating co-occurring disorders.

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS)

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation is a noninvasive procedure that involves placing an electromagnet against your head and having small magnetic bursts released to stimulate the part of the brain responsible for mood. TMS is typically used to treat depression but has also been effective in the treatment of anxiety and substance use disorders.

TMS is also used to treat the withdrawal symptoms that occur when stopping the use of substances after prolonged used and to help fight drug cravings. Because TMS is non-invasive, it is a good option for people who do not want to take medications to treat their co-occurring disorders, as many medications pose a risk of abuse.


Neurofeedback refers to the training of the brain function and re-training it to function more efficiently. Neurofeedback is a process that takes place over a longer period and starts with observing the brain, the way that it acts, and the way that it responds to anxiety. The brain is then rewarded when it changes its activity to more appropriate patterns.

This happens by showing the person something in particular and then measuring the brain function. Over time, the brain will become trained to respond to different scenarios differently. Neurofeedback is useful for anxiety disorders and substance use disorders in retraining the way that the brain functions and responds to different triggers.



Clonidine is in a class of medications called central alpha-agonists. It is a prescription medication used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and high blood pressure. Clonidine has also been used in the treatment of anxiety disorders and is believed to decrease anxiety attacks and ‘psychic’ symptoms. Clonidine is also prescribed to help with opioid withdrawal symptoms and with the detoxification process. This makes it a multi-functioning medication since it can be used for anxiety disorders and substance use disorders.


Propranolol belongs to a class of medications called beta-blockers and is used to treat heart problems, anxiety, and migraines. Propranolol works by slowing down your heart rate so it is easier for your heart to pump blood around your body. It helps reduce physical symptoms of anxiety such as sweating and shaking and also helps you feel calm and relaxed. Propranolol is also sometimes used for the treatment of severe cocaine withdrawal symptoms, such as anxiety and cravings.

What are Some Coping Skills for Anxiety?

Natural Anxiety Relief

Herbs for Anxiety

Herbal remedies may be used in addition to or as an alternative to prescription medication since they are less likely to have unwanted side effects. The following herbs may help alleviate anxiety:

  • Ashwagandha
  • Chamomile
  • Valerian
  • Lavender
  • Galphimia Gluaca
  • Passionflower
  • Kava Kava

CBD for Anxiety

Cannabidiol is a type of cannabinoid which is a chemical found naturally in cannabis plants. Research has shown that taking CBD oil consistently can help alleviate anxiety symptoms.

Vitamins for Anxiety

Magnesium, vitamin D, calcium, zin, iron, and B vitamins can help to reduce anxiety.

Holistic Anxiety Relief


Consistent meditation (the act of sitting quietly with our thoughts) can help to reprogram neural pathways in the brain and improve our ability to regulate emotions and reduce anxiety. 


Yoga helps to reduce anxiety and stress by helping to focus on your breath and being present in the moment and not letting the anxiety take over our thoughts.


Mindfulness is a mental state in which we are aware of ourselves in the present moment, we accept our feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, and observe them. Mindfulness helps us to control our thoughts, and focus on the reality around us which can reduce anxiety.

Nutritional Anxiety Relief

Avoiding Caffeine

Caffeine is known to increase symptoms of anxiety by stimulating the body’s fight or flight response. Avoiding caffeine can help to maintain a state of calm throughout the day.

Healthy Diet

The following foods can help to reduce anxiety: brazil nuts, fatty fish such as salmon, eggs, pumpkin seeds, dark chocolate, turmeric, yogurt, and green tea. Maintaining a healthy diet can help to reduce anxiety symptoms.

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