Spend just a little bit of time with the realities of our world today and, if you’re like me, you’ll find yourself brimming with tension. It may your anxiety skyrocket. And it may make you want to turn to substance use.
I’m talking about the tension between yourself and another person, the weight of important decisions, the burden of things out of your control, and the murky thoughts that float around in your mind at night—lengthening your worry and shortening your precious, precious sleep.
And because we’re all reeling from a collective trauma—looking at you, neverending pandemic—as well as enduring our own individual challenges, it can be difficult to pinpoint the line where typical worries meet full-blown anxiety.
Not to mention—but here we go—that it can also be tricky figuring out how to cope. And then there’s the pesky business of determining whether our coping mechanisms make things better or worse.
Deep breath, friends. We’ll figure this out together.
Today, let’s tackle the topic of what causes anxiety, how attempts to numb anxiety might actually make it worse, and what you can do instead. Ready? Inhale, exhale. Let’s go.
What Causes Anxiety?
Anxiety can manifest in many different ways and for loads of different reasons. For our purposes today, let’s look at two broad categories that cause anxiety: internal stressors and external stressors.
You’re likely aware of the fact that anxiety can be brought on by our mental health as well as our life circumstances, hence the internal and external distinctions.
But what you might not realize is that anxiety can also come about as the result of drug or alcohol misuse. If you or someone you love has anxiety and also struggles with substance abuse, you may find yourself in a classic “which came first?” scenario.
After all, did an extreme bout of anxiety encourage a quick twist of the cap on a pill bottle or did that nightly round of drinks trap you in a worried mind? And even if one did come first—anxiety struggles or substance misuse—do they now exacerbate one another?
How Do Drugs and Alcohol Interact with Anxiety?
It makes sense that an anxious mind desperate for a moment of calm might look to drugs or alcohol as a possible, if temporary, solution. A glass of wine to quiet your nerves, a quick hit of your drug of choice—but only on the worst of days. And you feel better, right?
But what happens next?
Research shows that substance misuse can actually cause panic attacks in the short term and “more severe anxiety symptoms” in the long term.
This helps to explain the “which came first?” cycle, which might look something like:
Anxiety —> temporary relief through substances —> increased anxiety —> additional substance misuse —> ongoing and unrelenting anxiety.
The total opposite of what you’re going for.
If Drugs and Alcohol Make Anxiety Worse, What Makes it Better?
Depending on the severity of your anxiety and substance misuse, you may benefit from speaking to a counselor or entering treatment for addiction. A professional can help you manage the transition from now to the future in a healthy and productive way.
We’d love to help! You can speak to one of our advisors at 844.767.9404.
In the meantime, consider healthy coping mechanisms during moments of anxiety.
You might try:
- Taking five deep breaths
- Going for a long walk
- Calling a trusted friend or family member
- Engaging in a fulfilling hobby
- Watching a familiar and funny show
- Relaxing without the use of your phone
- Enjoying a comforting meal
- Taking a nap or going to bed early
Would you like to talk to someone about getting help for your anxiety or substance misuse? Give us a call today at 844.767.9404.
By Stephanie Thomas, Contributing Writer with Promises Behavioral Health