Definition of anxiety

How To Deal With Anxiety in Recovery

Dr. Norris Von Curl, II, MD

Dr. Norris Von Curl, II, MD

There is no doubt there are substantial roadblocks not only during the drug treatment process but also during the early stages of recovery once drug treatment is completed. One of the most significant of those roadblocks those new in sobriety can experience is dealing with a co-occurring mental disorder. These disorders often are the root causes of why people develop an addiction to drugs and alcohol, and substances are often used as a means to cope with the overwhelming stress they cause.

One of the most common co-occurring disorders those in recovery have to contend with is anxiety. For those afflicted with anxiety, their days are filled with intense fear and panic–and it can feel like the world is closing in on them. Dealing with anxiety in recovery–especially early recovery–can be difficult. By understanding the mechanisms of anxiety and the types of anxiety that can be experienced, those who are in early sobriety can work with experienced addiction professionals in order to develop a sound strategy to combat their anxiety during their recovery.

Understanding Anxiety

Anxiety disorders are one of the most common illnesses in America. According to statistics provided by the National Institute of Mental Health, affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18% of the American population. While anxiety disorders are highly treatable, it is estimated that only one-third of those suffering from anxiety actually seek treatment. As stated in the introduction, anxiety disorders render those who have them with intense fear. For those who experience anxiety, they will experience panic episodes that often occur without warning and are unpredictable in regards to when the next episode will happen.

Symptoms include heart palpitations, dizziness and chest pains, among others.  A panic attack may also be accompanied by an impending sense of doom and may occur during sleep. While a panic attack generally lasts for a relatively short period of time (usually ten minutes), the symptoms may last longer. Because of the intense fear and stress that is created, many who struggle with anxiety will often turn to drugs and alcohol. It is estimated that approximately 20 percent of those who suffer from anxiety have a co-occurring substance abuse disorder, and they are two to three times more likely to have an alcohol or other substance abuse disorder at some point in their lives compared to the general population.

What Are Healthy Ways People Can Deal with Anxiety in Recovery

During the drug treatment process, clients will gain tools and strategies to employ in order to deal with anxiety in recovery. Some of the most important tips to minimizing anxiety in recovery are as follows:

Adopting a Proper Diet

One of the most important building blocks of reducing anxiety is adopting a healthy and balanced diet. The connection between proper diet and minimizing anxiety is the fact that optimal nutrition will keep blood sugar levels stable. When people experience a drastic drop in blood sugar, the body responds with what is called a stress response. As a result, the body secretes stress hormones that will increase the production of blood sugar which can create anxiety-like symptoms.

To minimize this risk, people in recovery need to adopt a diet that includes more protein and healthy fats. People should also eat several smaller portions daily and keep healthy snacks around to keep blood sugar levels steady. It is also recommended that people avoid food and beverages that are loaded with sugar or refined carbohydrates.

basket of healthy food


Another way to effectively deal with anxiety in recovery is to get good quality sleep each night. One of the best ways to set your body up to get the sleep it needs is to significantly reduce or eliminate caffeine. As already stated, you should also be sure that your blood sugar levels are stable. Fluctuations in blood sugar disrupts sleep cycles, and people can wake repeatedly during the night. Additionally, people need to adequately prepare themselves when they go to bed each night. They should put their cell phones, iPads and other devices away. The room should be at dark as possible. If the room isn’t completely dark, getting an eye mask to wear or installing blackout curtains will help.


Perhaps the best antidote for anxiety is exercise. Exercise releases endorphins which are the brain’s natural “feel good” drug and promotes calm and relaxation. Exercise doesn’t have to be formal and it doesn’t have to take up significant time during the day. Simple ways people can get exercise is by going for a 20 minute walk around the neighborhood or by doing some calisthenics in the living room. For people who are looking to decrease anxiety in their recovery, they need to simply sit less and move more.

Got Magnesium?

A great way to balance moods in recovery and decrease anxiety is to get more magnesium. This is a mineral which is considered nature’s alternative to Xanax and is responsible for over 300 biochemical reactions in the body. Many people are deficient in magnesium in their diet since much of the food that is grown is in magnesium-depleted soil. In order to get the recommended levels of magnesium in the body, people who are in recovery can take a magnesium supplement and incorporate the following foods in their diet:

  • Spinach
  • Chard
  • Pumpkin Seeds
  • Yogurt
  • Almonds
  • Black Beans
  • Avocados
  • Figs
  • Bananas

Additionally, people who in recovery can take a magnesium supplement or take an Epsom salt bath.

Are You Struggling To Get Sober?

If you are struggling with anxiety and an addiction to drugs and/or alcohol, it is extremely important that you find a drug treatment facility that has the proper programs and compassionate mental health support. The experienced addiction professionals at First Steps Recovery utilize a wide variety of proven treatment services and techniques that will empower you to face your addiction head on and win. Don’t wait another day to address your addiction; call First Steps Recovery toll-free today and begin your journey to lifelong recovery–starting right now.


Meet Our Team
Meet Our Team

From our certified therapists and nurses to our emotional support animal "Cooper", our entire team is dedicated to the health and success of our clients throughout our program and beyond.

Help Is Available. Speak With Someone Today.

Our admission team is available to help 24/7.
Skip to content