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How to Deal with Anxiety from Alcohol Withdrawal

It doesn’t matter if you’re a mild alcohol drinker or an alcoholic; you’re bound to struggle with withdrawal symptoms when you decide to call it quits. Those in medical detox or early recovery might wonder how to deal with anxiety from alcohol withdrawal. This isn’t your average “I’m stressed out” level of anxiety, those struggling with withdrawal symptoms feel almost paranoiac, and their anxiety can be quite debilitating. So, keep reading for some proven ways to control alcohol withdrawal anxiety and prevent it from interfering with your recovery journey. 

The Reality of Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

Mild symptoms of alcohol withdrawal happen when someone suddenly stops drinking alcohol after long-term use or heavy drinking. Severe withdrawal symptoms are rare, but when they occur, it can be fatal. When people stop drinking, the body becomes hyper excited, anxious, and restless. For heavy drinkers, these symptoms can include high blood pressure, seizures, and tremors. 

Overall, for most alcohol abusers and alcohol addicts, initial or common physical and mental withdrawal symptoms include: 

  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Lethargy
  • Shakiness
  • Mood swings
  • Nightmares
  • Difficulty thinking clearly
  • Sweating
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Tremors
  • Appetite loss

However, around five percent of people struggling with alcohol withdrawal symptoms experience delirium tremens or “the DTs.” When this happens, signs of alcohol withdrawal syndrome include:

  • Fever
  • Agitation
  • Seizures
  • Confusion
  • Hallucinations
  • High blood pressure

When people experience these symptoms, checking into a clinically-supervised addiction rehab facility or detox program is vital to prevent fatal consequences. 

Understanding Anxiety During Alcohol Withdrawal

For someone with a generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), facing the harsh realities of early recovery can be challenging. It’s critical to find ongoing mental health support that helps you manage the anxiety signs and retain sobriety. 

In essence, someone with GAD will experience these symptoms of anxiety from NIMH

  • Irritability
  • Muscle tension
  • Fatigued regularly and easily
  • Restlessness and feeling on edge
  • Problems with focus or maintaining attention
  • Inability to control problematic feelings and thoughts
  • Sleep issues such as insomnia, trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, or waking up feeling unrefreshed

All of these symptoms can be a problem in recovery– if you can’t stop worrying, it’s hard to focus on the hard work of getting sober. Additionally, this anxiety can also trigger many people and lead to relapse if not addressed. 

Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, which affects serotonin levels that can worsen anxiety. When people stop drinking, their anxiety symptoms can worsen tremendously. Alcohol-induced anxiety can last for several hours or even for an entire day after drinking. 

But, for many with an undiagnosed anxiety problem, alcohol was their go-to substance to cope. Unfortunately, most people don’t know that alcohol is worsening their mental health condition. Alcohol isn’t an anxiety treatment, and as a matter of fact, almost 20 percent of people with a social anxiety disorder also suffer from alcohol dependence.

Besides, research shows that alcoholics have a difficult time recovering from traumatic events. They’re also predisposed to developing an anxiety disorder. One of the most common side effects of alcohol withdrawal is intensified anxiety symptoms. 

Healthy Ways to Manage Anxiety

Struggling with anxiety can be debilitating to many, especially those in alcohol rehab. However, treatment will depend on the type of anxiety you’re struggling with. For those going through alcohol detox, odds are their anxiety symptoms will reside once they’ve completed the withdrawal timeline. However, for those with chronic anxiety or an anxiety disorder, treatment may be the only way to manage it. 

Medication-Assisted Treatment

Sometimes, your doctor may prescribe medications to control your anxiety levels. Common medications include antidepressants and benzodiazepines that can help with anxiety symptoms. However, to avoid a comorbidity disorder, it’s paramount that those with heavy alcohol consumption problems only use these medicines under medical supervision. Both antidepressants and benzodiazepines are highly addictive substances that can trigger another substance use disorder. This is why seeking medical attention is vital to correctly control anxiety symptoms without jeopardizing their alcohol addiction treatment progress. 

Recognize Your Triggers

Furthermore, part of relapse prevention in addiction treatment is to learn more about your triggers. Well, you need to go through that same process with your anxiety. Unless you’re diagnosed with GAD, you’ll need to find out the root cause of your anxiety to learn the right coping strategies to fight them. 

Common anxiety triggers include:

  • Loneliness
  • New surroundings
  • Stressful situations
  • Meeting new people
  • Sleeplessness
  • Starting a new career or job
  • Sober living
  • Leaving a treatment center
  • Going back to school

Lifestyle Changes

Although there’s no cure for anxiety, there are ways to manage it. Lifestyle changes can sometimes help people reduce their anxiety while also teaching them how to cope whenever they have an anxiety attack. Some lifestyle changes that help with anxiety include:

  • Following a sleeping routine of at least 6 to 8 hours a night
  • Limiting the amount of caffeine and alcohol consumed
  • Eating healthy meals every day
  • Setting aside time to try relaxation techniques like yoga, meditation, and breathing 
  • Making time to engage in a relaxing hobby like painting, journaling, and listening to music
  • Making an effort to practice positive mindfulness
  • Practicing relaxing breathing exercises
  • Focusing on something that makes you feel calm whenever you feel anxious

With time you’ll learn to identify what are the activities that help you cope with your anxiety. You’ll also learn how to identify anxiety triggers and manage them in a healthy way that won’t interfere with your day. To some, anxiety can be quite debilitating; they might turn to outdoor activities, high-intensity exercise, or start baking to help them deal with their anxious thoughts. 

Getting Help for Alcohol Addiction

If you or someone you know is struggling with substance use disorders, seek help today. At Lighthouse Recovery Institute, our substance abuse treatment programs incorporate relapse prevention techniques throughout the program, helping those in recovery build a strong support system that can help them win the battle against drug addiction.

Aftercare programs can cover things like:

  • Individual and group therapy sessions
  • 12-step group meetings and other support groups
  • Treatment with family members to promote healing
  • Training and life skills development courses
  • Relapse prevention technique classes
  • Medication-assisted therapy

Also, our aftercare recovery programs offer ongoing support to those recovering from drug and alcohol use disorder. We know how difficult addiction relapse can be for those in recovery, which is why we provide continuing support to those in early recovery, helping them improve their daily routines and help them find the best ways to avoid relapse long-term. 

Finally, don’t dismiss the importance of long-term mental health assistance. Even after you complete rehab, consider maintaining a close relationship with a therapist to continue your progress. The best way to cope with anxiety in early recovery is by working on your mental health every day. As you know, addiction recovery is a lifelong journey, and investing time and effort to get better is the key to maintaining long-term sobriety. 

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