The Stress and Addiction Connection
Stress and addiction play interrelated roles as one oftentimes leads to the other. The impact of each on the other can multiply as time passes. Of course, we all experience stress from time to time; that’s normal and an expected part of life. However, sometimes stress can feel overwhelming, and we start desperately looking for ways to handle that stress.
This can be done through healthy ways such as exercising, spending more time with loved ones, avoiding procrastination and reducing caffeine intake. Conversely, several unhealthy options exist too. These include doing things like increasing caffeine intake and withdrawing from others as well as smoking, drinking alcohol and using drugs. Often times this behavior is used to numb out from the stress.
Most Important Point
Dealing with stress by consuming alcohol or drugs may help you feel better at that moment, but the long-term ramifications of handling these issues in this type of manner are extremely negative. They can cause a very significant increase in stress levels, which is what individuals had been hoping to eliminate not exacerbate.
What is Stress?
Stress is tension that has resulted from emotional, mental or physical factors. As a result, heart rate can accelerate, digestion can slow, blood flow can tighten, and shaking can occur. Areas of the bodies affected by stress can include the brain, heart, stomach, pancreas, intestines, reproductive system, muscles and joints. Depression, anxiety and a number of other factors can cause stress as can things like issues with loved ones, suffering through a serious illness, losing a job and legal difficulties.
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PTSD and Addiction
Post-traumatic stress disorder is one of the most debilitating things that any of us experience. Its causes can include but are not limited to experiences with military combat, natural disasters, sexual abuse and violent assault. As a result of these experiences, those suffering from PTSD often feel a combination of extreme stress and feeling out of control. These emotions can be exacerbated when something triggers a memory of one or more traumatic experiences that had occurred or if those types of thoughts are constant and intrusive.
When PTSD occurs, alcohol or drug use is often sought after to help numb those unwanted feelings. For example, in the aftermath of 9/11, those living in that area showed a higher rate of usage of alcohol, marijuana and cigarettes in the months following that event. Experiencing chronic stress for any reason has also been shown to be a substance abuse risk factor while those suffering from higher stress levels experience more difficulty in rehab.
Long-Term Effects of Alcohol and Drugs on Stress
One of the primary long-term effects of alcohol and drug use is addiction. This causes significantly more stress than what had occurred to initially cause that usage. Depending on the substance being consumed, various changes in the brain result such as alterations that generally decrease the user’s ability to handle stress.
Addiction can also cause the user to lose loved ones, jobs and homes. There is also an increased likelihood of experiencing legal issues, incarceration or chronic unemployment, all of which are some of the most stressful situations that any of us will ever go through. This is how stress and addiction can result in a constant loop that keeps building upon itself until help is consulted and used.
As you continue to try to ward off the feelings of stress, you will find that you are increasing the amount of substance you need to consume in order to reach that high. The benefits are quickly diminishing which is why they are so addictive and so destructive. They end up causing much more stress that what was originally being battled.
Treatment for Stress and Addiction
Addiction negatively affects several areas of the brain, and attempting to overcome it is one of the most difficult things that anyone will undergo. This process should not be done alone. Those who became addicted to a substance due to stress as well as those who experience stress while battling an addiction should receive professional assistance.
It is necessary to ensure that the recovery process is as effective as possible. Underlying causes of the issues that resulted in PTSD, depression or similar stress-inducing conditions need to be treated too or the recovery will not happen or will not be as effective.
It should be noted that withdrawing from alcohol or drug use on your own can also result in significant physical repercussions, even death in some circumstances.
If you or a loved one is suffering from an addiction, contact Ocean Hills Recovery today so that the first steps towards recovery can be made. We provide a number of treatment and support methods, which include counseling, therapy, massage, yoga classes, art and music therapy and recreational activities, all of which help those who stay with us start to have more healthy focuses on their lives.
About the author:
Greg opened his home and heart to alcoholics and addicts in 2003. He is a Certified Addictions Treatment Counselor (CATC). Starting in 2009 Greg has fostered the growth of Ocean Hills Recovery into one of the most respected and effective treatment centers in the area and has been working with people with addictions since March of 2001. Greg believes in a holistic approach to recovery. His focus is on drug alcohol addiction treatment with a combination of 12 Step work, therapy and counseling, and the rejuvenation of the body through healthful eating and exercise. He has designed his program to foster a family-like atmosphere and believes that people in recovery are just beginning their lives. He encourages the people he works with to learn to enjoy life in sobriety. Greg is married to Nicole; they have two adorable sons together and an energetic yellow Labrador Retriever.