How Are Work-Related Anxiety and Substance Abuse Related?

October 31, 2022

Work stress is the most significant contributor to the stress level of people in America. Most people work anywhere from 40-70 hours a week and still don’t feel they have accomplished everything they have to do. They are overworked, deal with office politics, feel a lack of control, struggle to balance work and home life, and more.

If you can’t forget your work at the end of the day and take it home, thoughts about work can ruminate, meaning stress stays with you all the time, and there is no release from it. Chronic stress is a catalyst for anxiety, and chronic anxiety creates an anxiety disorder.

The Symptoms of Work Stress and Anxiety

Stress impacts you mentally and physically. Physically it takes a toll on your body. You might have trouble sleeping, high blood pressure, heart disease, or ulcers, which can cause your immune system to go awry. The more stress you experience, the more symptoms you’ll experience.

Mentally stress can cause anxiety, obsessive behavior, and depression. It can be so powerful, driving you on; it takes control of how you see yourself, not as a family member or friend, but as a worker drone with no end in sight. You can feel like a hamster on a running wheel, around and around but never getting anywhere.

Anxiety and Substance Use Disorder

Your brain tries to cope with stress and anxiety. The more you work, the less time you have to do things you enjoy and release the stress of the day. Without that release, the stress can cause anxiety, and then even when you are at home, you still worry about work.

Your brain can’t handle that in the long term, so you must find a release. How often have you heard someone say, “Hey, let’s blown off some steam and have a couple of beers.” When you have work anxiety, that sounds like a great idea, but it can lead to long-term problems.

Coping strategies can bring you to a point where you need that release a couple of times a week, then every other day, every day, and then it becomes substance abuse or addiction. You need that release to get through the next day, which will be during the day. The anxiety craves that release. Then, the release leaves you feeling guilt and shame; you need a release from that, and it snowballs into an uncontrollable disorder. Once you realize you have substance use disorder (SUD), then you stress about that too. It cascades into itself and gets worse and worse.

Coping With Anxiety and Substance Abuse

In order to treat SUD and anxiety, accepting you need help is the first step. From there, treatment at an inpatient facility incorporating therapy, skill-building, and other modalities is key.

In therapy, you will learn skills and techniques to regain your life. You will always have stress in your life, but you can learn to control and manage it in effective ways. It starts with therapy, learning how to release stress, and keeping it from building up again.

Anxiety feeds the SUD, and the SUD feeds anxiety back. They are co-occurring disorders, and they need to be addressed at the same time. If you seek recovery from a SUD but not the anxiety, then you will have a high chance of relapsing. When they are entwined, therapy will help pull them apart and deal with each simultaneously.

Handling Stress Triggers in Recovery

Even after you are in recovery, stress can still be a trigger for SUD. In therapy, you will learn how to use positive coping strategies to help manage it in the future. Things like spending time with your family, socializing with friends, exercising, and mindfulness have positive empowerment to you that makes the stress make you stronger.

Understanding that stress can be a trigger, you learn what to look for. You will be able to tell people about what you are feeling and experiencing. Communicating with loved ones will allow them to understand what you are experiencing and what help you need from them. Peer counseling and mentoring can help you construct a larger support network to help you when stress is getting you down.

Everyone gets stressed. Work is the biggest stress factor we all must deal with, and handling it is essential to gain control. Being stressed or anxious about work isn’t weak; it just means you are human. Understanding that others are going through this at the same time allows you to not feel isolated. You are not alone. Anxiety and SUD are very formidable, and you need help to get past them. Therapy gives you the skills, techniques, and positive coping strategies to navigate through your day and let the stress slide off you. Your recovery can give you back control over your life.


Anxiety and stress are overpowering at times, and without proper coping skills and relaxation, an addiction can form. Substance use disorder only strengthens the burden of anxiety, but there is help. From your initial assessment to therapy to recovery and aftercare, we can help. Here at Buena Vista Recovery, we will not only help you treat your addiction but help you face the struggles that come along with it. We offer detox, inpatient, and outpatient programs so you can get the care and support you need to enter recovery. You will build skills and techniques that you will be able to use every day to release the grasp of stress from work. Call us at (480) 741-9414 today so we can help you get started on your journey to sobriety, recovery, and a calmer and healthier lifestyle. Don’t hesitate. Reach out now.