Anxiety Disorders and Alcohol Dependence: How the Two are Connected

Anxiety Disorders and Alcohol Dependence: How the Two are Connected
October 24, 2022
|   Updated:
October 24, 2022

Navigating anxiety and Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) can be an emotional and physically taxing journey. Understanding how the two are connected can empower you, someone you care for, or a loved one with greater insight when entering addiction recovery. Let’s take a closer look at how anxiety relates to AUD and some available treatment options.

Anxiety and AUD: What Studies Show

A recent study showed that anxiety and AUD are often connected in three ways: the common-factor model, the self-medication model, and the substance-induced anxiety model. Each model offers a way to begin contextualizing how anxiety and AUD coexist and how we might approach each regarding addiction treatment.

The Common-Factor Model

This model suggests that there’s no direct relationship between anxiety and AUD. Instead, a third variable may contribute to the development of the two disorders, like genetic predisposition and personality traits.

While this method is not commonly relied on to identify connections between anxiety and AUD, it can be useful to consider when seeking treatment. Reviewing family or genetic history with a trusted treatment professional can provide individuals with a clearer sense of where their experience stems from and which recovery method(s) work best.

The Self-Medication Model

Sometimes those who experience anxiety turn to practices of self-medication. This could mean that they are consuming alcohol to soothe feelings of anxiety or to prevent the onset of anxiety. Over time, this practice can lead to the development of an AUD.

This model is often given the most attention when it comes to clinical research, as many people report using alcohol to cope with symptoms of anxiety. Understanding that anxiety may be behind an impulse to drink can be a powerful jumping-off point when exploring treatment options.

The Substance-Induced Anxiety Model

For those experiencing an AUD, there may be periods of prolonged alcohol consumption, which can contribute to increased feelings of anxiety. Long stretches of alcohol use can create an imbalance in your brain’s chemical makeup, leading to anxiety.

Additionally, if someone is undergoing symptoms of withdrawal, they may experience panic attacks or be more susceptible to stress-induced anxiety.

Anxiety and AUD: Options for Treatment

Everyone’s experience of anxiety and AUD is unique, and addiction treatment isn’t one-size-fits-all. It’s a complex process that involves a dedicated Recovery Circle of support. Taking steps to care for themself or someone else can be incredibly difficult, yet every single step counts. People in the process of recovery, should make sure to congratulate themselves and celebrate each small win.

Because it can be hard to determine if anxiety predates an AUD or vice versa, a thorough assessment of medical records, behavioral patterns, and observing symptoms over a sustained period of time is often necessary.

Additionally, the kind of anxiety one experiences may impact the kind of treatment they receive when simultaneously living with an AUD. While certain medications may help treat generalized anxiety, OCD, panic disorders, or social anxiety, care providers may also consider how those medications interact with treatments for AUD. 

Addiction recovery often involves elements of pharmacotherapy and psychotherapy. Finding the right treatment center is crucial. You or someone you care for should feel seen and heard throughout this sensitive process. If an individual struggling with AUD is looking for addiction treatment in NJ, Maryville Addiction Treatment Center offers holistic and empathetic care for short- and long-term residential stays and intensive outpatient treatment.

Anxiety and AUD: Accountability Tools

If an individual’s anxiety is worsening due to alcohol addiction and they are interested in building accountability, Soberlink may be a consideration. Remote alcohol monitoring can be an invaluable tool early on, and Soberlink’s technology streamlines the process so that the focus is on empowering addiction recovery.

Built into each device are features like facial recognition, Advanced Reporting, and tamper detection to keep Recovery Circles connected, foster accountability, and document and share sobriety in real-time. Clients can also test two to three times a day at their convenience, helping them replace bad habits with healthier ones over time. Including loved ones in the recovery journey can help rebuild the trust that may have been damaged due to an AUD. All things worthy of celebration.

As the only company that offers this kind of comprehensive system, Soberlink is proven to improve recovery outcomes, build recovery capital, and is the Gold Standard when it comes to something as sensitive and important as alcohol monitoring.


About the Author

Jenn Walker is a freelance writer, blogger, dog-enthusiast, and avid beach goer operating out of Southern New Jersey.

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