The unconscious snowball effect
Addicted to Anxiety: The Unconscious Snowball Effect
Anxiety is, unfortunately, the norm for much of society. Whether it be due to traumatic events, work-based pressures or even just watching the news, we as a culture seem to be more sensitive to stressors in our lives. One possible explanation is that we are actually becoming habituated and addicted to anxiety itself.
When anxiety becomes a catalyst for other problems
Anxiety is present to some degree in most behavioral and mental disorders, including addiction. However, in some respects, anxiety becomes more of a catalyst for other problems than simply a symptom. For example, if someone with alcoholism has a stressful day at work, they may use this as a rationalization for having a drink.
Physiologically speaking, though, the brain is experiencing a stress-producing event and is immediately numbed by the alcohol. The brain does not like this response because it does not actually solve the stress, so it decides, “OK, next time I’ll make you even more anxious, maybe then you will fix things!” The result? Even more drinking.
This phenomenon also applies to non-substance or behavioral addictions, such as the increasingly common concern of video game or technology addiction. If we are dealing with a stressful situation, we might retreat to our phones, tablets or game systems to have a momentary sense of relief. In our brains, however, it is the same idea as the alcohol.
Balance relaxation with coping skills
As we become more wrapped up in the process of replacing anxiety with something else, our brains are ramping up our stress response in retaliation! If this happens enough, we may become overwhelmed and stressed out about unimportant things because we are hypersensitive to anxiety itself.
Having a healthy balance of relaxation and coping skills, along with effective ways of decreasing stress itself is a much better answer than simple avoidance.