The Connection Between Addiction and Anxiety

I’ve seen a lot in the media lately about Demi Moore, as she recently released her memoir, Inside Out, where she candidly shares her struggles with addiction, failed marriages, and sexual assault in her teen years.  I’ve always admired Demi for her boldness and authenticity.

I vividly remember her famous Vanity Fair cover in 1991 where she posed naked while seven months pregnant (see my rendition below, pushing out with a bloat-baby instead!).  Her nudity sparked controversy, but I believe that her courage in allowing this iconic and beautiful photo to run on the cover made changes in the way society viewed a pregnant woman’s body. 

She is making waves again, as she courageously writes about some very important issues in her memoir, specifically substance abuse and addiction.  When people think of the word addiction, they often think of drugs and alcohol, but this isn’t always the case.  We can become addicted to anything (gambling, sex, food, etc.) and no matter what the addiction is, it can be just as dangerous and destructive.  

I became inspired to share a bit about my own story and patterns that I’ve seen in clinical practice with addiction.  It’s something I believe we all struggle with at one point or another in our lives whether we realize it or not, and it’s important that we talk about it, understand it and see the gifts in it, in order to heal.

And before you dive in, I encourage you to sign up for The Anxiety Summit by clicking here. This is a free 7 day online summit that I will be speaking on from November 11-17. 

My Personal Struggle with Addiction

I have an addictive personality, and I know I’m not alone.  Throughout my life I’ve struggled with strong addictions to sugar, coffee and cigarettes.  They owned me, ruled my every thought, commanded my life.  For me, it wasn’t only being addicted to something that was the problem, but the substances themselves were actually part and parcel of the problem.  

Caffeine and nicotine are stimulants of the nervous system and I’m naturally an easily excitable person with a predisposition to anxiety.  These substances served their purpose to make me feel “normal”, which for me at the time was being in an anxious state.  They also affected my digestion negatively.  They made me poop like a champ which felt like a godsend, coming from a history of having constipation. 

But these loosey-goosey poopies were because my gut was being irritated by my addictions.

Starting my day off with coffee and a cigarette was the worst thing I could be doing.  Initially, they made me feel great and alert (like the energizer bunny) but would amp up my anxiety to the point I was running away like Piglet from Winnie the Pooh.  It became so bad I was having insomnia and severe panic attacks where I thought I was literally dying. 

One time, I remember curling up in a little ball on the floor, hyperventilating with my arms and hands all in spasms.  If you’ve ever experienced a panic attack, you know it can be life altering and you’d do anything to prevent it.

Beyond my addictions, there was a part of me that felt completely out of tune.  I was wrestling with my integrity as a person.  I was in school in my third year of naturopathic medicine, closet-smoking on my balcony.  I felt like such a hypocrite… This was not who I wanted to be.  I knew I needed a way out, but it felt impossible since I was self medicating to cope with all of my stress. 

It kept me from socializing and going out to events with friends because once I had a cigarette, I smelt like it and I didn’t want to be labeled a fraud.  The only issue is that you can run from others’ judgement, but it’s pretty hard to run from what you think of yourself.

I couldn’t keep running; there was nowhere to hide.

Understanding the Connection Between Addiction & Anxiety

Addiction and anxiety co-exist and co-create with each other.  I refer to them as two peas in the infinity loop pod.  Which came first?  Was it anxiety, then the addiction?  Or did the addiction bring on the anxiety?  Often times, we’re addicted to things that make us increasingly anxious, and those things that we are addicted to deplete our nutrient profile, so the anxiety gets worse.  It’s a vicious cycle.

What we do know is that they always go hand in hand, there is a psychopathology associated with anxiety and addictive disorders.  The remarkable thing is that both have the ability to evolve us into something greater than we are today.  There are gifts within these chains, if we choose to accept them.

What Does Anxiety Feel Like?

You have felt the sheer terror of anxiety, like I have (and most other people at some point in their lives).  The overwhelming sensation of pressure on your chest and your heart beating so fast it feels like it’s exploding out of your body.  It’s difficult to take a deep breath, and there’s a tingling, numbing sensation in your hands, mouth, chest…  A pressure in the back of your neck…

Everyone tells you to take deep breaths, but you simply cannot.  You feel oxygen deficient, like the air around you is empty.

If you have ever felt like you’re unable to control the sensations in your body, you know anxiety.  The ultimate perception of not being safe and feeling a total loss of control.  It can completely stop you in your tracks. 

If this is all too familiar to you, sign up for The Anxiety Summit (Nov. 11-17) for free by clicking here.

A Visceral Reaction

Anxiety extends far beyond your mental state, as it can disrupt your digestion completely.  Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is often accompanied by anxiety (no surprise here). 

Do you find when you are anxious, you lose your appetite and simply can’t eat?  Or perhaps you have a tendency to overeat to calm the butterflies in your belly?  Some people experience loose stools while others have an inability to have a good bowel movement and let go. 

The sensation of anxiety, as with all things that are uncomfortable, comes bearing a gift.  It’s basically stress that’s been taken up a notch, with roots in future-thinking.  You feel that you’ve lost control over what will happen in your future, and gloom and doom is the predominant theme.  Those of us with a tendency towards anxiety, like myself, possess the gift of being incredibly intuitive.  We feel when things are not right around us, we feel when there is unrest.  We have this uncanny ability to feel what others cannot.  What we choose to do with these feelings is what will either elevate us… Or crush us. 

What Is Addiction?

Addiction is so hard to break for many of us because in its primordial form, its essence is that of self-care.  It is an instinct, one that is incredibly strong in some people because of genetic predisposition, exposure to addiction or trauma at a young age, or simply primordial impulse. 

Instinct is raw!  It is the evolutionary emotional commands from the limbic system situated in the hypothalamic pathway in the middle of our brains.

Addiction is often fed by feeling uncomfortable in your own skin and how you’re living. It’s a form of self-care that allows instant gratification.  You don’t feel good and you know that, so you search for the easiest and quickest fix.  This is very normal.  This is how we have evolved and survived through treacherous times, by listening to what we need.  We look for the path of least resistance and take the easiest way out.

The 3 Categories of Addiction

1. Substance Addiction

When we talk about addiction in general, a chemical or substance addiction like cigarettes, alcohol or drugs is often assumed.  The reality, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) is that addiction has three faces, substance addiction being the first.

2. Food Addiction

Beyond substances, the second category of addiction is food.  The search for high-calorie, low-nutrient foods with sugar, salt and fat is programmed into our brains.  It’s a primal evolutionary advantage – feed, so as not to famine.  In the modern day, we no longer have this need, but food engineers work hard to make their foods as addictive as possible. 

Have you ever heard yourself say, “I can’t open the package because I will eat it all”?  For example, think of chocolate.  It contains sugar, fat and psychoactive substances from the cocoa bean, a perfect recipe for addiction and wanting more.  Addiction to food is rampant and you are not alone – we’re in this one together. 

3. Behavioral Addiction

The final category is behavioral addiction.  This form includes exercise, internet-use, sex, work, gambling, and more.

What is intriguing is that all of these faces of addiction could technically be considered under the umbrella of substance addiction, since the neurobiological effect and the neurotransmitter pathways stimulated within our bodies, are all the same.

The Addiction Anxiety Infinity Loop

According to Freimuth et al, tolerance is where the addict keeps on increasing the substance, food, or behaviour, to receive the desired effect that gives them their “high”.  Withdrawal is where, with the lack of their addiction, they start to desire it more and more.  They become obsessed with the thought of procuring it, they need their “fix”.  This brings on the feelings of restlessness, irritability, sleeplessness and anxiety.  

This is why anxiety and addiction are linked together in the infinity loop.  The addiction produces the anxiety, and the anxiety fuels the addiction.  My thoughts are that another unknown part of the affliction may actually be an addiction to the state of being anxious.  I know for me, that was my “natural” state in the past, as I grew up in a home with great anxiety.  I became conditioned to the addiction anxiety loop, it was my “normal”, I knew nothing else.

Intuition Within

As mentioned before, having a tendency toward anxiety actually holds a gift within, if we choose to see it this way.  When something isn’t right, we feel it in our gut, in our digestion.  This feeling is our intuition.

Intuition is important as it elevates us to our higher selves.  When we learn to listen, it guides us to a state of safety, balance and being in flow.  It guides us through our emotions and sensations, A.K.A. “gut feelings”.  It could be a nervous feeling that comes with a new decision.  It could be a strong confidence when we make a choice that “feels” right.  You intimately know when something feels right or wrong; you can feel it in your gut.  So do you listen?  Or do you suppress these sensations with stress, or by numbing your feelings?  Do you take quiet time to really listen to your intuition or do you simply keep on “doing” and not “being”? 

Your addictions are instinctual, whereas your anxiety is a call from your higher self, your INTUITION.  Your anxiety elevates and increases the less you listen to your higher self, which only serves to perpetuate the cycle of addiction.

 Channeling Your Intuition

The way towards channeling your intuition is through: 

  • Quiet reflection
  • Meditative practices and gratitude practices, such as with the Grateful Dung™ Bracelet
  • Limiting the amount of anxiety-promoting substances, foods, and behaviours in your life
  • Using calming and connective essential oils such as those in Eau de Throne
  • Getting restful, good quality sleep with regular nighttime rituals, like your Beauty Sleep Eye Kit
  • Improving your digestion (the gut is where we feel it the most) this can be supported with castor oil packs

Over time, you become truly become in tune with your needs.  Intuition can be curated and cultivated from your anxiety.  It is truly a diamond in the rough! 

Your intuition shows you the best, brightest path, the yes and no; it moves you towards enlightenment.  Your instincts move you towards immediate safety or prevention from harm such as “I’m starving, there must be a famine!  I should eat everything in sight right now!” 

This differs from your intuition which says, “This is all I need right now; this will nourish my body and make me feel well”.

End the Epidemic 

In my practice, I see more constantly anxious people than any other health condition.  It’s an epidemic and one of the reasons why our digestive systems are so damaged.  Anxiety creates a major cascade of stress hormones via the adrenergic system, such as adrenaline in the short term and cortisol in the longterm.  These are constantly pumping through our veins, especially for those with digestive issues like IBS.

To this day, I need to mind my tendency to slip into a “normal” state of anxiety.  I have to work at it and be very disciplined with my quiet practices.  If anxiety is all you have ever known as your normal, you will seek to maintain that level of normalcy.  That’s just human nature because that is your comfortable spot.  But this just opens the door for addiction, whether your vice is sugar, alcohol, food, work or sex, or maybe all of them.  Not only will you get the ill effects of the substance, but also the ill effects of the anxiety that is superimposed over the addiction.

It is important to understand these connections and do everything in our power to change our environments and get in touch with our intuition, that we may live a fulfilled, joyous life, free of addiction and chronic anxiety.

All of the products discussed in this article are included in the Queen Kit, click here.

SPECIAL NOTE:  I would absolutely love for you to sign up for an online summit that I am a part of by clicking here. The Anxiety Summit is is a free 7 day online summit that I will be speaking on from November 11-17.


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