Substance abuse is often a problem for people struggling with separation anxiety. They may look to pills, alcohol, marijuana or illicit drugs to calm their symptoms. Unfortunately, substance use tends to exacerbate symptoms of separation anxiety and have detrimental effects on a person’s overall physical and mental health.

Effects of Substance Abuse on Separation Anxiety Symptoms

Patients who have not yet been diagnosed with separation anxiety may not realize that they have a treatable condition. Instead of seeking professional care that can relieve their symptoms, they may attempt to reduce their anxiety by self-medicating with drugs and alcohol. Once the effect of these substances wears off, the individual often feels worse than they did initially.

Some of the effects of substance abuse on separation anxiety may include:

  • Increased anxiety during and after taking a substance
  • Health risks, including dependence, addiction and overdose
  • Diminished ability to have positive relationships

Statistics on Substance Abuse and Separation Anxiety

Anxiety disorders and substance abuse frequently co-occur, usually because an individual is using drugs or alcohol to relieve anxiety symptoms. About 20 percent of people with an anxiety or mood disorder also have a substance use disorder, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.

Can Separation Anxiety Lead to Drug Addiction?

Some people struggling with separation anxiety may turn to substances to escape or find relief from their symptoms. As the use of an addictive substance continues over time, many people build a  tolerance to the substance, so a higher dose is needed to feel the same effects. Though addiction may be triggered differently for each person, continued and increased substance use is likely to lead to a substance use disorder.

Treating Separation Anxiety with Co-Occurring Substance Abuse

The most positive treatment outcomes for substance use and co-occurring separation anxiety disorders occur when clients receive integrated treatment for both conditions. Treating substance abuse without addressing co-occurring disorders can lead to higher rates of relapse.

A rehab center that specializes in dual diagnosis care and personalized, integrated therapy can help people living with co-occurring separation anxiety and addiction find relief. The Recovery Village has locations across the country staffed with professionals who have experience treating co-occurring substance use and mental health disorders. To learn more, call The Recovery Village today to speak with a representative.


Wu, Ping et al. “The relationship between anxiety disorders and substance use among adolescents in the community: specificity and gender differences.” Journal of youth and adolescence vol. 39,2 (2009): 177-88. January 13, 2009. Accessed April 1, 2019. “Substance Use Disorders.” (n.d.) Accessed April 1, 2019.