However, research shows that people who use alcohol to cope with anxiety and stress are headed towards a dangerous path of addiction.
What’s the Difference Between Stress and Anxiety?
Stress is defined as the body’s reaction to something that is potentially temporary. It’s a response to a threat or a challenging situation. For example, an individual may experience stress as a result of pressure at work.
Perhaps, the person is feeling stressed because he or she has a task that is due soon. Generally speaking, the body naturally responds to difficult circumstances like this in the form of stress.
Anxiety, on the other hand, is a feeling of fear for things that may not even happen. It can also be thought of as the body’s response to stress.
There are also, however, some similarities between stress and anxiety. For example, most people experience both anxiety or stress at some point in their lives.
For some, stress occurs naturally and often as a result of the type of work they do or even a recent divorce. Anxiety often occurs because of an upcoming situation that could prove to be harmful, uncomfortable, or difficult. Many people feel anxious when meeting new people, preparing for an exam, or going to the dentist.
How Anxiety and Stress Affect People
Another way in which these two are similar is the set of symptoms they cause. With both stress and anxiety comes physical symptoms, such as:
- Rapid breathing
- Muscle tension
- Heart palpitations
- Panic attacks
- Lack of appetite
- Digestive problems
- High blood pressure
Again, both of these responses can cause physical symptoms. But, they also affect people emotionally and mentally. Some of the emotional effects of stress or anxiety may include the following:
- Problems with memory
- Difficulty concentrating
- Lack of interest in once engaging activities
Sometimes, people who are suffering from stress feel so much pressure that they lose interest in things or people that they normally care about. For instance, a person who is feeling stressed or anxious may not enjoy a night with friends as much as he or she does when stress and anxiety are not present.
Other cognitive problems may occur as a result of continued stress, including confusion and problems with making decisions. It can be difficult to have clear judgment when the mind and body are under stress.
So, sometimes people who are experiencing intense symptoms of stress or anxiety make rash and unsafe choices. Some may engage in risky behaviors. Others may resort to something equally dangerous: alcohol or drug use.
Developing Addiction Because of Anxiety or Stress
Many times, people who are feeling anxious or stressed drink alcohol or use medications or even illicit drugs in order “wind-down”. It’s not uncommon for individuals to have a drink or two after a stressful or challenging week.
Some people may smoke cigarettes or marijuana in an attempt to feel calmer. There are also individuals who use illegal drugs (heroin, cocaine, etc.) to escape from the negative or unpleasant results of stress and anxiety. Others might take prescription drugs that produce calming or relaxing effects.
In any case, individuals who use alcohol and/or drugs in order to cope with stress and anxiety are actually self-medicating, which can be both unhealthy and very harmful. This is because the body and mind tend to become dependent on substances that are consistently being consumed. In other words, if a person continues to drink alcohol or use a particular drug, his or her brain and body will eventually come to depend on that substance.
As a person begins to use alcohol or drugs more frequently, it’s likely that he or she will develop a tolerance for the substance. This means that the individual’s body will get used to functioning with alcohol or drugs in its system and will, eventually, need higher doses of those substances in order to feel the desired effects.
After an individual develops a tolerance for alcohol or drugs, he or she may begin to abuse these substances, using them more often or in higher doses than recommended. Some may begin to inject or chew medications in order to feel the effects sooner. Many individuals drink heavily.
Tension and Alcohol Feed Off of Each Other
People who suffer from chronic and recurring stress and anxiety, tend to drink more heavily in an attempt to ease stress and anxiety. However, this is very dangerous behavior due to the fact that alcohol doesn’t reduce stress hormones until you are legally drunk.
Therefore, people who suffer from stress and anxiety get in the habit of drinking in excess to feel relaxed. This obviously can quickly lead to a dangerous habit and addiction.
In some cases, people develop stress or anxiety disorders. In these situations, individuals suffer from more than the occasional feeling of nervousness or emotional pressure. Instead, they experience symptoms of stress or anxiety regularly.
Some Common Types of Anxiety and Stress
One of the most well-known stress disorders is post-traumatic stress disorder, also called PTSD. This disorder is often linked to people who have been in combat. While many veterans suffer from PTSD, this disorder also affects people who have been through other types of trauma, including child abuse, the death of a loved one, a car accident, or witnessing a crime.
Social anxiety disorder (SAD) is one type of anxiety disorder that many people suffer from. It is characterized by a phobia of social situations. People who suffer from SAD often struggle with intense fears of speaking in public, meeting new people, or being in crowded spaces.
Panic disorder is another type of anxiety disorder that affects many people. Individuals who suffer from this disorder often experience panic attacks which involve excessive sweating, nausea, chest pain, and dizziness.
Getting Help Through a Dual Diagnosis Program
Those who are suffering from anxiety or stress in addition to a substance use problem can experience an intensifying of symptoms in their lives. Often, the symptoms of anxiety or stress actually become more intense when alcohol or drug use increases. This begins a cycle of substance use in order to drown out the unpleasant effects of stress or anxiety.
Since problems with substance use and anxiety or stress often become intertwined in people’s lives, it can become very difficult for individuals to eliminate these problems from their lives. This is mainly due to the fact that people might attempt to get rid of addictions without addressing the underlying causes of their substance use: stress or anxiety.
If a person seeks help for an alcoholism or drug use problem, it’s likely that he or she will be able to end substance abuse through a professional treatment program. But, the possibility of an addiction relapse may be high because the causes of addiction are still present.
This is why it’s important to enroll in a treatment program that will work to treat the “whole person” rather than only one of the issues the individual is dealing with. Those who are suffering from the effects of a stress disorder or an anxiety disorder along with the effects of an addiction problem have what is called a “dual diagnosis” and are suffering from co-occurring disorders.
A professional dual diagnosis program can help those who are dealing with co-occurring disorders such as anxiety and addiction or stress and addiction. A program that is dedicated to treating dual diagnosis cases can include various group therapy and individual therapy approaches that help with anxiety recovery, stress rehab, and addiction treatment.
Some of the types of therapy that can help people who are suffering from co-occurring disorders include the following:
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy – CBT is a type of therapy that works to help people to identify negative and harmful thought processes and gives them guidance for replacing those thoughts with healthy ones.
Talk Therapy – Sometimes, individuals in treatment simply need a safe place where they can discuss their feelings and thoughts. Through talk therapy, people can speak with a therapist and gain a deeper understanding of themselves and their journey to recovery.
Art Therapy – Healing often comes through expression. Individuals can express themselves through art with art therapy.
Fitness – Many dual diagnosis programs include things like yoga and exercise in order to help people become physically and emotionally fit as they work to recover. This often builds self-confidence and encourages endurance.
Anxiety and Stress Rehab at Discovery Institute
Have you been drinking to cope with stress and anxiety? Perhaps you’ve resorted to drug use and abuse in order to escape from the effects of anxiety or stress in your daily life. Or, maybe you have noticed that a family member or close friend has been using substances like alcohol and drugs in order to deal with the negative situations they’re facing. The Discovery Institute can help.
With a variety of programs designed to assist you with coping in everyday life, we can help guide you or your loved one to lifelong recovery and freedom. Contact us today by calling (844) 433-1101 to learn more about our therapy options.