Anxiety as the Root Cause of Addiction

I read a study from two years ago that suggested anxiety as the root cause of addiction. That study really resonated with me because I grew up in a very stressful home. Our home was dominated by the disease of alcoholism. I also believe this atmosphere of anxiety leads to a self-concept of being unworthy.

But maybe your home was dominated by someone addicted to religion, power, work, money, etc. Addiction is the same regardless of the avenue we choose to follow our addictions. I believe everyone is affected by addiction at home or work or church or whatever.

Once you learn your “role” in the addiction, you are set to respond that same way in all present and future relationships. In another post, I will write about the roles we chose in that family of origin.

Some current articles about anxiety:

Cost of perfectionism–by Pavel Somov:

“Perfectionists pay a high psychological price of anxiety, worry, depression and/or dysthymia (low grade depression) (Maxmen & Ward (1995).  According to Flett and Hewitt (2002) “perfectionists are more likely than nonperfectionists to experience various kinds of stress,” and they tend to exacerbate their own stress (p. 257).”

Insensitive children survive stressful homes and schools better–by Michael Ungar:

“While most parents want their children to be sensitive, kind, caring individuals, there’s some troubling research on primary school children that has been done by Thomas Boyce and his colleagues at the University of British Colombia (not far from the site of the 2010 Winter Olympics). Testing for stress reactivity using biological markers like cortisol levels during testing, Boyce and his colleagues have shown that a biologically predisposed sensitive child, one who is likely to feel emotional slights or be prone to anxiety, actually does better than most children when there is little stress in her environment. Give her a good home, an easy school routine, and she’ll outperform her less anxiety-prone peers. That may be because such children are also likely to be creative, expressive individuals, and those characteristics endear them to their parents and teachers. If you have a sensitive child, the good news is that as long as her world is safe and predictable, she is likely to do just fine.”

An experiment with monkeys and anxiety–by Adi Jaffe:

“A number of researchers at Wake Forest University school of Medicine looked at the social organization in 4 groups of monkeys. They then took either a dominant or subordinate monkey and put it in a cage next to a group of unfamiliar monkeys. The monkeys couldn’t hurt each other, but they could yell and scream, which they did, creating an emotionally stressful situation for the lone monkey.”

“After this stressful event, the researchers gave the monkey a chance to relax, human style: They were brought back to their normal housing and allowed to pull either on a lever that gave them food, or a lever that gave them a dose of cocaine. Want to guess what happened?”

Brain chemistry ties anxiety and alcoholism

by University of Illinois at Chicago (2008, March 5). Brain Chemistry Ties Anxiety And Alcoholism.

“Doctors may one day be able to control alcohol addiction by manipulating the molecular events in the brain that underlie anxiety associated with alcohol withdrawal, researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine and the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center report in the March 5 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience.”

“The association of anxiety with increased alcohol use is a key factor in the initiation and maintenance of alcohol addition,” says Dr. Subhash Pandey, UIC professor of psychiatry and director of neuroscience alcoholism research, the lead author of the study.”

“Previous research has shown that people with inherently high levels of anxiety are at an increased risk of becoming alcoholics. In addition, withdrawal of alcohol in chronic users is often accompanied by extreme anxiety.”

“Alcoholics may feel a need to continue to drink alcohol in an attempt to self-medicate to reduce their anxiety and other unpleasant withdrawal symptoms,” said Pandey.”

“Pandey and his colleagues have discovered the molecular basis for the link between anxiety and alcohol addiction, which may help in identifying new therapeutic strategies for the treatment of alcohol addiction.”

Photo credit.


  1. I don’t want anyone manipulating my brain. I want to relax by having a life I can relax in, in a world I can relax about. What fascinates me right now about abating withdrawal is the role nutrition can play in it. Supplementing antioxidants and proteins makes a big difference for a lot of addicts, and I wish I’d known that when i went through it.


  2. I grew up in a home where I was anxious–walking on eggshells even at a young age. So I learned to be evasive and be a survivor. Glad that I am less anxious today, thanks to Al-Anon.


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