What happens to your anxiety when you reduce or stop drinking, smoking or using?
What happens to your alcohol, tobacco and other drug use when you feel anxious?
In recovery what anxiety symptoms do you experience? When? Where?
ANXIETY AND SUBSTANCE USE
— Sometimes people use alcohol, tobacco or other drugs to cope with their anxiety. This is often called ‘self-medication’.
— While alcohol, tobacco or other drug use may provide short-term relief from anxiety, in the long-term, it can actually make the anxiety worse as alcohol, tobacco or other drug use can cause anxiety.
— People also often feel anxious when they are craving alcohol, tobacco or other drugs, or when they are coming down or withdrawing from alcohol, tobacco or other drugs. This can lead to a cycle where the anxiety and alcohol, tobacco or other drug use feed off each other.
— Some people find that they develop alcohol, tobacco or other drug problems because they feel that they need to drink or use greater amounts more frequently to cope with their anxiety.
— People in recovery from alcohol, tobacco or other drug use often experience anxiety as they make adjustments in their life to abstinence.
WHAT IS ANXIETY?
— Anxiety is the feeling a person gets when they are stressed, worried or afraid of something.
— Anxiety can affect the way a person feels physically and emotionally, the way they think and the way they behave
— Anxiety is a normal part of life that everyone feels from time to time. For example, it is normal to feel anxious, stressed or worried before a test or a job interview.
— It is also normal to feel anxious when something dangerous might be about to happen. A certain amount of anxiety is helpful in these situations because it helps a person prepare to perform at their best or to avoid dangerous situations.
— Anxiety can become a problem if it is so overwhelming that it starts to get in the way of daily life, that is, when it interferes with work or study, or when it has a negative impact on relationships with workmates, family or friends.
— If anxiety gets in the way of a person’s daily life and they are finding it hard to cope, they might have an anxiety disorder.
SYMPTOMS OF ANXIETY
Anxiety can affect the way you feel emotionally and physically, the way you think, and the way you behave.
Have you experienced any of these symptoms when you’ve been anxious or worried? Tick the box next to the symptoms that you have experienced.
— Shortness of breath
— Racing heartbeat, pain or tightness in the chest
— Nausea, vomiting
— Dry mouth
— Muscle tension
— Going red in the face
— Difficulty falling or staying asleep
— Feeling on edge
— Being easily startled (e.g., by loud noises or sudden movements)
— Feeling impending doom
— Needing constant reassurance
— Finding it hard to concentrate or remember things
— Thinking the same things over and over
— Negative thoughts like ‘I am going crazy’, or ‘I am going to embarrass myself’
— Avoiding and escaping from things that make you anxious
— Being on the lookout for danger
— Repeated checking (e.g., making sure doors are locked or the oven is off)
— Using alcohol, tobacco or other drugs to cope
— Withdrawing from others
WHEN SHOULD I SEEK HELP?
If you believe your anxiety is a problem or if you answer yes to any of the following questions, you should seek professional assistance
— Are your symptoms very distressing?
— Do they interfere with your home, work, study, relationships or social life?
— Do you use alcohol, tobacco or other drugs to cope?
— Have you thought about harming yourself or others?
WHAT CAUSES ANXIETY?
There is no single cause of anxiety. However, several factors may contribute to the development of anxious thoughts and behaviours such as:
— A family history of anxiety
— Learned ways of responding (e.g., from parents, friends or teachers)
— Chemical imbalances in the brain
— Life experiences (e.g., family break-up, abuse, bullying, interpersonal conflict, or other traumatic events)
— Alcohol, tobacco or other drug use
TIPS FOR STAYING WELL
There are a number of things you can do to look after yourself:
— Call your sponsor or another 12 step member.
— Go to a 12 step meeting.
— Recognise early warning signs. Warning signs are signals that you may be more likely to experience anxiety again. You may recognise that you are changing in how you think, act or feel. Some common warning signs include worry, fear or dread, having difficulty concentrating, feeling irritable, fatigued, sweating, nausea, tremors or a rapid heartbeat.
— You can also learn to identify your warning signs by thinking about the signs and symptoms you experienced when you became unwell in the past. If you experience these warning signs, seek professional help to reduce the risk of experiencing further anxiety.
— Take care of yourself. Make sure you eat healthily and get regular exercise. Exercise helps to reduce anxiety by providing an outlet for the stress that has built up in your body.
— Plan to do something you enjoy each day. This doesn’t have to be something big or expensive, as long as it is enjoyable and provides something to look forward to that will take your mind off your worries.
— Live just one day at a time.
— Do not get too Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired. HALT the processes – eat, calm down, call a friend and sleep.