Addiction: Feeling restless in your anxiety

Addiction begins as an escape from the reality of life to temporarily make ourselves feel better and can include a wide range of activities from excess shopping, and gambling to substance misuse. It starts as a simple act of trying something out as an experiment or feel-good fix but can engulf our existence. If not careful it can destroy marriages, ruin finances and cost far more than money.


Anxiety is a significant part of the addictive personality. The connection is formed when alcohol and drugs or other pursuits are engaged in to relieve the symptoms of worry, stress, boredom or not feeling good enough and attempting to avoid the uncomfortable feelings of anxiety while dealing with conflict currently experienced in life. 

There is a vast range of feelings that often lead to misuse to escape temporarily from the strains of life or gain a false sense of confidence instead of asking why I feel this way and what steps can I take to improve my life. Self-medicating with alcohol or drugs becomes a way to numb emotions and calm the central nervous system to escape or eventually fall asleep.

This self-medicating is dangerous because it is only a temporary solution. The undesirable effects return as the drugs and/or alcohol wear off. The problem increases as the amount of substance required to reach the same level increases because the brain's receptors adapt to the presence of drugs and alcohol in the body. This is referred to as the level of tolerance before any effects of escape are felt with each attempt to escape.

When substance misuse is engaged to relieve anxiety symptoms, the cycle of anxiety increases over time.

Instead of finding solutions to problems, prolonged substance abuse damages both the mind and body in the way they function. It then becomes difficult to explore the options we may have for longer-term solutions to our problems. The word FEAR has long been used to describe two options: face everything and recover or fear everything and run.  

Alcohol consumption in the UK has shot up ever since covid and has never gone back down to levels recorded before the epidemic. 

There are families the length of the UK with someone in the family experiencing a drug or alcohol problem, or maybe you have noticed a difference in a loved one who may be trying to hide the way they feel. Over time the issues will become compounded. Not only is the cycle of anxiety present, but comorbid (dual diagnosis) issues of the breaking of an additional cycle of addiction need to be addressed.

There might be a wide range of family issues such as anger management and abuse to address. These issues may require a skilful understanding of the problems to begin to address and can only commence if the client feels ready, it cannot be done for someone else and needs to be a personal commitment to self.

Turning addiction around

A need for change is desired, it can be a case of hitting rock bottom – this has a different significance to everyone. Do you recognise an ever-decreasing feeling of fulfilment in your life? Make no mistake about the facts, addiction comes in many guises and can be associated with peer pressure to fit in.

What fuels the drive in addiction (and is so common in families today) is a feeling of low or loss of self-worth and not feeling good enough, disappointment in levels of personal and social dysfunction, dysfunction within the family and unaddressed emotional trauma that has never been spoken about. 

Often addiction can be traced in the family line. This then becomes part of generational trauma leading to emotional, disconnection on a massive scale. 

When home is not right and we can't find what we need at home, we will find it outside the home. So many young people go through the challenge of not being able to focus on alternative things that bring them joy. If your life has been severely disrupted how can you get back on track without seeking the right help? 

Addiction is different for everyone, let's not forget it begins with self-medication to escape unpleasant feelings. Whatever the choice of addiction, it's escapism from anxiety and stress and will often play out in future relationships. 

The thinking becomes distorted and there is a desire to create intensity and a longing to be needed. It feeds a historical requirement in the case of relationships. It can feed the addiction and attract bad-choice partners while a false façade of vitality is put on – this itself can become traumatic.

We all need to learn to work from the inside out instead of façades. The addiction can feed the chase, yet it can be that we need to get ourselves right before even considering a permanent relationship.

Counselling can help with freeing up the stored trauma. Yes, post-traumatic growth and the discovery of true self can lead to the potential for us to grow, even through life's biggest challenges and traumas and become sought-after partners.

Addiction in anxiety and recovery

Trauma and anxiety can cause us to think about things over and over again in our brains and trigger anxiety as we allow them to build up. This repetitive thinking is known as ‘rumination’ – it can cause depression and it’s not beneficial.

When you catch yourself ruminating, try to record the thought and to challenge it, looking for opportunities to see it from a better viewpoint. Does what you’re worrying about have any likelihood of taking place? Have you experienced similar thoughts in the past which have not turned into reality? This can make it easier to challenge your thoughts and stop them from overwhelming you.

Talking with a trained professional and taking part in cognitive behavioral therapy can really help you. One of the great benefits of CBT is the ability to equip you to urge surf this involves allowing any craving you might have to normally pass after a short period.

Another way to put time to positive use is to journal. Write down your feelings and keep a regular record of both the good and bad things during the day. It might even be a good idea, instead of battling with your thoughts all day, to set aside a worry period of half an hour but not too close to bedtime. It will take a while to develop this routine so be patient with yourself as you transfer your thoughts to paper from your body and mind.

The critical voice of anxiety might make you feel like you want to withdraw from other people but don’t. Spend time with other people and engage in sports and peer support groups. When we are with others, we feel good and anxiety becomes reduced. When you have an active day you often sleep a lot better. Emerge yourself in nature by taking a good walk in the local woods or taking a visit to the park. Any time spent outdoors is good for you. When connecting with nature we tend to feel a lot happier. 


Our relationship with addiction says a lot about the relationship we have developed with ourselves. Yes, we can point to our developing environment and disappointments of this life – they can indeed leave a mark on us – but our future is in our own hands. We can do nothing about the past apart from accepting the lesson, for if we were to try to erase all the mistakes of the past we would also erase the wisdom of our present. The real skill becomes making peace both with self and past events. But the future is yours, it’s the decisions you make today that will shape your tomorrow.

The trauma we carry requires healing and new skills of self-care patterns to be put in place. If we never received the appropriate care when developing we need to discover the concept of self-parenting and learning about what we require today to begin to heal and take care of ourselves in an appropriate way.

Rediscovering your true self can be a rewarding way of reconnection. Is there a voice inside you doing battle with the critical voice patiently telling you that you are still worth so much more why not take a little thinking time to mull this over? It all begins to become easier once you commit to building a new relationship with yourself.

Think of the benefits of loving yourself.

Can you picture a new you? How would it feel? What would you change? Imagine a new life where past hurts have been dealt with you feel energised and ready to face whatever comes your way.

The former things that used to pull you down such as self-doubt, self-criticism and fear no longer impact you. Picture yourself knowing your value and feeling worthy with all these new feelings coming from a place of genuine validation. This can be your reality and is referred to as self-love. Something no one can ever steal from you.  

Here are five ways loving yourself can change your life:

  1. A kinder, gentler you (self-parenting). Instead of beating yourself up when things don’t work out, imagine being able to connect with yourself in a supportive manner like a coach or best friend offering self-encouragement not to give up.
  2. More energy for living fully. Reset your life from low confidence to a renewal of energy and inspiration, allowing for a constant supply of positive energy.
  3. More love to share with others. To love someone you need to love yourself first, without this strength you are likely to fall into the trap of codependency or need. With self-love, you will build positive relationships.
  4. Healthier relationships with loved ones. No longer will you seek out relationships to receive the validation of others to make you feel good. No more relationships that end badly from an imbalance of unmet needs, resentment and bitterness. In place, you will have boundaries to prevent pain but remain open and attract the right connections. When we feel happy about our own dynamics life becomes fun. We become the creators of happiness in our own right.
  5. No longer dependent on external measures of success. When self-love is your fuel, success becomes something to look forward to and enjoy with feelings of gratitude and personal growth rather than the former self-doubts and fear that once held you back

As an integrative counsellor, I have a lot of experience in the art of reconnection. If feelings of anxiety are not going away and are still hurting you or preventing you from doing all the things you need or want to do, seek support – this can be found on my profile. I am happy for you to explore your requirements in a free discovery call.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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London W6 & E14
Written by David Pender, MBACP, Integrative Psychotherapy | Anxiety Specialist
London W6 & E14

I am an integrative counsellor registered in London. Specializing in alcohol reduction, trauma, anxiety & depression issues. I work online across the UK helping you raise and develop your individual self-worth

We are the sum total of our experiences. Those experiences – be they positive or negative – make us the person we are, at any given point

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