There are many reasons why men and women experience anxiety in recovery.
First, it’s common to experience anxiety in the withdrawal and detoxification phase of early recovery. During that time the body, and the brain, are learning how to find its homeostasis again. As the body learns how to function without the excessive presence of a particular substance, there might be some psychological and emotional responses – and one of them is often anxiety.
Second, for many people, anxiety might have been there even before they started drinking or using drugs. There might have been excessive worry about one aspect of life or another. In fact, there might have even been clinical criteria for the diagnosis of an anxiety disorder. There are thousands of Americans who suffer from anxiety disorders and who do not get treatment. It’s common for some of these men and women to turn to drugs or alcohol as a means for feeling better or calming down. However, the problem begins when someone enters treatment – he or she might begin to feel their anxiety again if they never got treatment for it to begin with. As the drugs wear off and as the addiction wanes, the anxiety might actually have gotten worse.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is a common illness of anxiety. It’s a diagnosis given to those who experience excessive and irrational worry for at least six months. It might be natural to experience anxiety right before going out on a date, but excessive anxiety is often persistent and seems to come on without an associated trigger. Its symptoms, such as a racing heart, dizziness, nausea, shortness of breath, shaking, sweating palms, and feeling hot, might suddenly come out of nowhere. Other anxiety disorders include Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Panic Disorder, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and Phobias.
If you’re in recovery from addiction and you notice that your anxiety is getting worse, the first thing would be to contact your mental health provider. There’s a good chance that you’re working with a therapist or psychologist in addiction treatment. However, if you’re feeling anxiety and you’re already taking medication for it, here are some quick things you can do in the moment to feel better:
- Remind yourself that you are right here, right now. Often, anxiety springs out of a worry, either from the past or a concern for the future. Return to the present moment and tell yourself – “In this moment, everything will be alright.”
- Breathe deeply. Anxiety doesn’t always come when we have the time to make ourselves tea and rest. Instead, it can come while we are at work or in the middle of driving on the freeway. In these moments, we can take a deep breath and allow the relaxation to soothe the racing thoughts.
- Call a friend. When you’re feeling tense, you might just need to tell someone about it. You might need to tell your friend how you’re feeling and what you’re worried about. Simply talking about it can bring a sense of ease. However, staying connected with friends in general might also be a source of comfort in life.
- Practice relaxation techniques. Just like the deep breathing that can make you feel better in the moment, a regular practice of relaxation, such as yoga or meditation, can help you relax over time.
It’s common to experience anxiety in recovery, but it doesn’t have to be debilitating. The above suggestions can help you manage any anxiety you feel while you’re in recovery.
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