Learn / Breaking the Cycle: How to Heal From Addiction and Anxiety

Breaking the Cycle: How to Heal From Addiction and Anxiety

Sarah Shawaker
 December 27th, 2022|   Clinically Reviewed by 
Rajnandini Rathod

Anxiety can be more than a feeling. It also affects your behavior. And if it’s getting in the way of your daily life, it makes sense that you’d look for ways to cope. But not all coping strategies are healthy. Some—like drug use—can even make your anxiety worse. In rehab for anxiety, you can learn safer, more sustainable skills.

Recognizing Anxiety

Anxiety disorders1 look different for different people. They can even be invisible to others. But even for high achievers, anxiety can get in the way of important goals. If anxiety is interfering with your daily life, you may have one of these diagnoses:

Everyone feels stressed from time to time. But if your anxiety interferes with the rest of your life, you might have one of these diagnoses. And while it’s normal to search for ways to manage these feelings, not all coping mechanisms are healthy.

The Connection Between Anxiety and Drug Addiction

Anxiety and addiction2 are 2 of the most common diagnoses in the U.S. And they often occur together. Some people develop addiction in an attempt to self-medicate anxiety. Others feel anxiety about their addiction. Whichever comes first, one thing is clear: anxiety and addiction are a volatile combination.3

What’s more, each of these conditions can make the other one worse. And that’s true even if a drug helps with your short-term symptoms. For example, benzodiazepines are commonly prescribed for anxiety. But some benzos, like Xanax, have a rebound effect.4 They’re hugely effective at relieving the symptoms of panic attacks. But, if you reduce your dosage, your anxiety might spike. This can easily lead to relapse.

The complex relationship between addiction and anxiety has an impact on treatment.5 Specifically, it can be hard to treat underlying anxiety while you’re actively taking drugs. When you’re ready to heal from either of these conditions, you might benefit from treatment for co-occurring disorders.

Treating Both Addiction and Anxiety

There’s a silver lining here. Because these issues are so common, experts have sought out many effective therapies. In residential rehab, you might try one of these, or combine them as part of a comprehensive care plan.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Data shows that cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can effectively treat anxiety and co-occurring addiction.6 This type of talk therapy helps you recognize unhealthy thought patterns. When you understand the reason behind your own behaviors, you can learn to respond in a healthier way.

Your therapist will act as a guide, teaching you practical coping strategies. As you incorporate those skills into your daily life, you’ll learn to regulate your emotions. This healthy behavior can make it easier to work through anxiety without taking drugs.


There’s more to yoga than physical exercise. It also teaches mindfulness, breathwork, and emotional endurance. It can even give you a sense of community. For these reasons and more, research shows that yoga reduces anxiety.7

This is part of why yoga is often used in addiction treatment. Specifically, this mind-body practice can reduce drug cravings, helping you kick-start recovery. And over time, it can help you reconnect with yourself in an even deeper way.


Biofeedback uses sensors to track your physical responses8 to certain stimuli. For example, you might wear a heart rate monitor during a therapy session. Then, with a clinician’s help, you’ll review the data it collected. This helps patients understand their own reactions to stress.

This treatment gives you valuable information about how your body reacts to certain emotions. You can then use that data to change your physiological response using different relaxation techniques. The goal is to empower you to make different choices—ones that will support your long-term health. As a result, biofeedback reduces both anxiety and drug cravings.9

Moving Forward, on Your Own Terms

Often, anxiety is the fear of things you can’t control. Some of those things—like the weather—will always be out of reach. That’s okay. In recovery, you can learn to accept your emotions just as they are. And by doing that, you can take back control of the best parts of your life.

Browse a list of anxiety treatment centers to learn about their housing, treatment options, insurance, and more.

Reviewed by Rajnandini Rathod

  1. What are the five major types of anxiety disorders? [Text]. 2013, February 9. HHS.Gov. https://www.hhs.gov/answers/mental-health-and-substance-abuse/what-are-the-five-major-types-of-anxiety-disorders/index.html []
  2. Smith, J. P., & Book, S. W. (2008). Anxiety and substance use disorders: A review. The Psychiatric Times, 25(10), 19–23. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2904966/ []
  3. Nguyen, A., Mirbaba, M., Khaleghi, F., & Tsuang, J. (2017). Current treatment options for co-morbid anxiety and alcohol use disorders: A review. Journal of Addictive Behaviors and Therapy, 1(1), 0–0. https://www.primescholars.com/abstract/current-treatment-options-for-comorbid-anxiety-and-alcohol-use-disorders-a-review-106758.html []
  4. Ait-Daoud, N., Hamby, A. S., Sharma, S., & Blevins, D. (2018). A review of alprazolam use, misuse, and withdrawal. Journal of Addiction Medicine, 12(1), 4–10. https://doi.org/10.1097/ADM.0000000000000350 []
  5. Brady, K. T., Haynes, L. F., Hartwell, K. J., & Killeen, T. K. (2013). Substance use disorders and anxiety: A treatment challenge for social workers. Social Work in Public Health, 28(0), 407–423. https://doi.org/10.1080/19371918.2013.774675 []
  6. Alamdarloo, G. H., Khorasani, S. M., Najafi, M., et al. (2019). The effect of cognitive-behavioral therapy on depression, anxiety, and stress levels in iranian males with addiction. SAGE Open, 9(1), 215824401882446. https://doi.org/10.1177/2158244018824466 []
  7. Kuppili, P. P., Parmar, A., Gupta, A., & Balhara, Y. P. S. (2018). Role of yoga in management of substance-use disorders: A narrative review. Journal of Neurosciences in Rural Practice, 9(1), 117–122. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5812135/ []
  8. Banerjee, S., & Argáez, C. (2017). Neurofeedback and biofeedback for mood and anxiety disorders: A review of clinical effectiveness and guidelines. Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK531603/ []
  9. Khatami, M., Woody, G., O’Brien, C., & Mintz, J. (1982). Biofeedback treatment of narcotic addiction: A double-blind study. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 9(2), 111–117. https://doi.org/10.1016/0376-8716(82)90056-4 []

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