Mental health plays a major role in people’s lives, even if they don’t realize it. Stress is one factor that often leads to alcohol and drug misuse, abuse, and addiction. Living with stress is harmful to the body and can lead to a number of challenges. Stress can also increase a person’s vulnerability to addiction.
Learn more about how stress and addiction intersect, and reach out for help from our addiction treatment center today if you’re ready to begin the road to recovery.
What Is Stress?
Stress is defined as being the degree to which a person feels unable to cope or overwhelmed with the surrounding pressures. Those pressures may include things such as:
- Raising children
- Maintaining a stressful job
- A heavy course load in school
- An abusive home life
- Medical diagnoses
There are all kinds of stressors that could impact you or the people around you. The key is not to allow that stress to build up and overwhelm you.
How Stress Impacts the Body
When the body is exposed to stress through stressful events, there is a rise in the blood levels of stress-related hormones. This is what triggers the “fight-or-flight” response that many people struggle with in dangerous or frightening situations.
While this is a normal response to stress, chronic stress can exhaust the body. Chronic stress increases the risk of:
- Tension headaches
- Teeth grinding
- Tense neck/shoulders
Interestingly, stress also lowers the body’s immunity. As a result, those who are stressed often struggle with catching colds and cases of flu more often than others.
Did you know that chronic stress in childhood is also a factor in addiction and greater stress in adulthood? This is because the body causes the methylation of key genes that determine how stress is controlled in the body.
The Connection Between Stress and Addiction
Stress is a key risk factor in addiction. It may be what causes someone to turn to drugs or alcohol in the first place. All kinds of stress can be harmful to people, from medical trauma to work stress or stress at home.
It’s known that people who have poor coping skills already are at risk of addiction. When combined with stress, they have an even greater likelihood of addiction.
Unfortunately, many people who are under stress turn to self-medicating. Self-medicating is when someone uses medications, like prescription drugs, or alcohol to try to cope with their stress levels. Impulsive self-medication may be harmless in the short term for some people, but when it occurs regularly, it is likely to lead to health issues and a great risk of addiction.
Stressful Events Aren’t Harmful, But Stress Is
Even though a stressful event may not be harmful in and of itself, the way a person responds can be. That’s why learning new coping strategies and management tools is so important and something that is focused on during substance abuse treatment sessions. Those who struggle with dual diagnoses, such as depression and addiction, can benefit from learning better ways to manage their stress.
Smoking, taking drugs, and drinking are all coping strategies, but they can be replaced with positive actions instead. What is most important is learning to cope in a positive way to reduce the risk of addiction and the harmful effects of stress on the body.
Reach Out to Georgia Addiction Treatment Center for Help
At Georgia Addiction Treatment Center, we know that stress can have a major impact on a person’s risk of addiction and the addiction itself. We want to help. We can assist you in finding a treatment program for yourself or someone you love, so you can get on the road to sobriety. Call today at 833.641.0661 or reach out online to learn more.