Managing Anxiety in Recovery from Addiction and Eating Disorders

Managing Anxiety in Recovery from Addiction and Eating Disorders

Managing Anxiety in Recovery from Addiction and Eating Disorders

AnxietyAnxiety and anxiety disorders are a very real part of the struggle one faces when living with an eating disorder, addiction, or co-occurring disorders. Anxiety is more than just the feeling of stress. It is a combination of heightened nervousness, restlessness and constant worry, which is often disruptive to an individual’s daily life. However, it can become a trigger for ongoing self-destructive behaviors, if not treated and managed correctly.

Learning new habits and leaving behind the food or substances that a person with an eating disorder had routinely used to cope with discomfort, anxiety or stressful situations require a comprehensive program of education and opportunities for practicing the new habits.

Individuals recovering from co-occurring disorders may experience anxiety as they withdraw from drugs or alcohol. They may be anxious about giving up their substance because they are not sure how they will cope. They may encounter anxiety as a side effect of withdrawal from certain substances. Those with an eating disorder often experience anxiety around food, food intake, weight and a distorted body image.

Research suggests that individuals who receive simultaneous treatment of their co-occurring disorders that includes Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT), and mindfulness are better equipped to manage their anxiety on a day to day basis.

Current research shows that CBT is well suited for managing eating disorders because at the core of an individual with an eating disorder is a cognitive over evaluation of their physical self. CBT addresses this constant mental chatter with effective skills and alternative behaviors. Learning mindfulness helps the person notice when they are feeling anxiety, having negative thoughts or possibly nearing a relapse and practice being present with the anxiety and self-soothing rather than getting swept away in the worry and future oriented thoughts. CBT requires active participation from the clients. Here are some additional coping skills that are taught:

  • Coping with cravings and urges through alternative coping responses
  • Managing negative thinking
  • Managing thoughts about using, eating or drinking
  • Problem solving
  • Refusal skills
  • Planning for emergencies and coping with a relapse

The opportunity to fully participate in your own recovery is a very critical and empowering process. Your participation, along with the support from professionals who can guide you through identifying the symptoms of anxiety and how to best manage them, will allow you to   make the behavioral changes real and meaningful. In addition to feelings of empowerment, learning to “rely on a power greater than yourself” infuses faith and trust into your life.