Stress is a part of everyday life and something that we have all experienced.
It plays such a big role in our lives that the Stress Management Society has an entire month every year dedicated to its awareness.
Despite it being something we’re all familiar with, not everyone has much knowledge of stress and what it can do to you. While stress most of the time is a mild condition, it can be a factor contributing to more serious issues.
One is Addiction.
Drug addiction and other forms of substance and behavioural abuse can grow from being unable to deal with stress – and might be a reaction to stress disorders. Learning to deal with stress healthily is the key to a more fulfilling life. Unfortunately, many people can’t cope and end up self-medicating with substances, which can quickly lead to full-blown addiction.
So, what is the link between stress and addiction? And are there ways better deal with stress and avoid slipping into an addiction?
Action Rehab is an advisory service for people suffering from addiction or who have been affected by it. We advise on addiction treatments and help you access the correct rehabilitation for your situation.
What is Stress?
Stress is essentially your body’s reaction to change or pressure that it perceives to feel. It comes in the form of fight, flight or freeze and is an instinct that has been with us humans ever since we evolved.
This response is due to the body releasing hormones such as cortisone and adrenaline which can affect nearly every system in your body. Back in the early days of humanity stress would’ve been vital to survival – the alertness it brings would’ve helped us avoid dangers and react to predators.
Nowadays stress has more negative connotations, but positive stress brought on by things such as overcoming challenging exercises, the thrill of a rollercoaster, or new experiences are all-natural occurrences. Stress can even be a motivator, urging you to achieve things and meet demands that you may face in different aspects of your life.
The most common reactions to stress that you become aware of are physical effects such as headaches, muscle tension, rapid breathing, and increased heart rate. As time passes and the stressful situation ends the hormones released by stress will decrease and your body will go back to functioning normally.
If someone experiences stress often and possibly has a chronic stress disorder then these reactions to stress never switch off, disrupting the natural processes in the body. This will eventually disturb sleeping patterns, cause digestive problems, increase anxiety and the chance of depression and have effects on your immune system.
If someone is suffering from chronic stress or other mental health disorders there is a chance they will turn to substances like drugs or alcohol to help alleviate the issues.
Is There a Link Between Stress and Addiction?
Stress can be a factor in the initiation of addiction but there are many other reasons why people abuse substances. According to one report, “stress pathways may enhance craving, loss of control, and compulsion, the key components in the transition from casual use of substances to the inability to stop chronic use despite adverse consequences.”
So, while stress is very rarely the one source of addiction, it often lends a helping hand in turning substance abuse into something far more dangerous.
The irony of stress and addiction is that it soon becomes a vicious cycle. Whereas drinking or taking drugs to initially relieve stress, the life of an addict is a stressful one. Soon you will always be thinking about the substance and how you are going to get it. The very thing that relieved stress soon because the main cause of it.
Stuck in the throes of addiction, addicts often talk about the stress of detoxification, going through rehab and life afterwards. The anxiety around these situations may keep you stuck in addiction – but it can be countered by learning how to cope with stress.
If you learn to cope with stress, the link between it and addiction gets that little bit weaker.
Coping with Stress and Addiction
Finding ways beyond abusing substances to reduce and cope with stress will simultaneously lower your risk of addiction. Even if you are an addict and in recovery then learning how to reduce stress will also decrease the chance of relapsing.
Getting regular exercise and fresh air is proven to help reduce stress hormone levels in your body and will endorphins to improve your mood quickly. Combining good exercise with a healthier diet and consistent sleep pattern will leave you feeling more balanced. The sense of structure and routine a new, healthier regime will bring is a great weapon against stress and addiction.
Learning deep breathing exercises, doing yoga, meditating, finding more positive ways to relax and decreasing caffeine intake are all small things shown to decrease stress and improve a person’s mental health. Getting the better of stress can be done in small ways that are not impossible to master.
The biggest way to reduce stress is to talk to someone. Having a support network stands you in good stead when it comes to stress and addiction. Knowing that people are there for you will ease your mind and talking through problems rather than keeping it all inside stops it from growing into something monstrous.
If you are dealing with a very serious addiction, then these techniques may seem a bit quaint. Oftentimes, addiction isn’t as simple as that, and it might be time for a big change. Many people in similar situations undergo addiction treatment to rid themselves of their addiction. It might be the case that you need to take part in inpatient or outpatient treatment through a rehabilitation centre.
Dual Diagnosis Treatment
Dual diagnosis is the term for when a person is experiencing substance abuse and mental health problems concurrently. To deal with your addiction issues you can expect to undergo drug or alcohol detox and take part in individual therapy and group sessions.
These therapies will centre around things such as stress management and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy – helping you learn coping skills and achieve a more positive outlook on life.
The point of dual-diagnosis treatment is to make sure that treatment of addiction doesn’t affect your mental health treatment. At Action Rehab we understand that addiction is merely the symptom of something much larger, and only through a comprehensive treatment programme that promotes your wellbeing can effective recovery be achieved.
Whether you are undertaking inpatient treatment or outpatient, choosing a rehab where dual-diagnosis treatment is available is vital to combating stress and addiction.
So, while stress is not the sole reason why people become addicted to substances, it can often be a contributing factor. Learning to recognise what stress is doing to you and finding healthy ways to cope are key to making sure that it doesn’t push you towards addiction.
Action Rehab offers support and advice on addiction treatments if you find yourself in need. We also offer support to family and friends of those suffering from addiction – capable of giving you the help you need to help others.