Skip to main content

Anxiety: The Common Condition in Early Recovery

By September 29, 2021September 30th, 2021Recovery

We all have anxiety, even if it’s just once in a blue moon. This is especially true for those working through an addiction or other mental health issues. There are many different types of anxiety that can affect people differently. Some anxiety is based on an event, circumstance, or situation while other anxiety stems from emotional experiences – making anxiety difficult to predict.

This article will explore what anxiety can look like in early recovery and how you can cope with it.

  1. Why anxiety is so common in early recovery
  2. How it can keep you from moving forward
  3. What triggers anxiety
  4. How anxiety can manifest
  5. Ways to combat anxiety in early recovery

1. Why anxiety is common in early recovery

Many people struggle with anxiety in early recovery. Relapse is common because anxiety can take over the nervous system and it seems like there is no way out.

The borderline between anxiety and a full-blown panic attack can be thin, making anxiety difficult to notice at first. Many people dismiss anxiety as an effect of life changes or the stress involved with early recovery but there is so much we can do to help ease these anxious feelings.

2. How could anxiety keep you from moving forward in your recovery journey

If emotions and stress are not acknowledged, they creep up and manifest in many different ways. Anxiety is one of these ways so it is important to know what triggers you as an individual to prevent the chances of having a slip in recovery. Sometimes, a setback is how we learn and identify the trigger based on the manifested anxiety. We can constantly learn from each situation and put healthy coping skills in place of unhealthy ones.

3. What anxiety can look like in early recovery

Knowing how anxiety can affect you is an important part of coping with anxiety in early recovery.

Triggers to lead to anxiety in early recovery. Anxiety affects millions of Americans every year, but most people don’t know about this because they think it only happens to the weak-minded or those who are easily stressed out. According to statistics, 40 million adults in America suffer from some type of anxiety disorder, and another 25% experience occasional panic attacks and excessive worry. That means 50% of us suffer from anxiety in one way or another.

Finding anxiety triggers can be difficult, especially if anxiety is triggered by things you don’t even realize. Some anxiety triggers could be stress, rapid change, loneliness, new surroundings or new people, being in social settings, and starting a new career.

Stress doesn’t always mean anxiety, as stress can also manifest as anxiety. This happens when you’re under too much pressure at once and cannot cope. Stress manifests as anxiety because it is an unnatural state of being that one must adapt to overtime. Rapid changes in life can also trigger anxiety.

Anxiety is difficult to predict and can affect people differently depending on the type of anxiety they are experiencing. For example, anxiety can cause you to have a panic attack or can cause someone to panic if they feel trapped in a particular situation. When anxiety presents itself as a panic attack, it can be difficult to manage. If anxiety keeps happening at the same time every day, your ability to cope with anxiety can diminish as time goes on if you don’t treat it right away or learn how not to feel anxious anymore. Anxiety may come out as tears when it presents itself as overwhelming sadness and fear or confusion and discomfort in social settings. The anxiety we experience depends on how we perceive the anxiety and the type of anxiety we are experiencing.

4. Different disorders & diagnoses

Types of anxiety we may encounter in early recovery. Anxiety is not limited to social situations as adults, it can happen anytime or anywhere. This is usually due to a subconscious trigger we have yet to process, possibly from childhood. Although there’s no one way that anxiety manifests itself (i.e., obsessive-compulsive disorder), three common ways are generalized anxiety disorder, panic attacks, and social anxiety.

Generalized anxiety disorder

Feelings of worry that are hard to control and last for a long time without explanation. With generalized anxiety, people tend to have difficulty concentrating on specific tasks or events due to feeling anxious all the time about things out of their control. This type of anxiety is very common after being in early recovery because it is hard to focus on the present when anxiety has a grip on your mind.

Panic disorder

Anxiety can presents itself as a full-blown panic attack, which can be difficult to treat because anxiety makes it difficult for people to manage their own emotional state during episodes. Panic attacks are not always successfully treated by medication alone and sometimes, anxiety is the only thing resulting from having anxiety. There is no known cause for panic attacks but they can be treated with medication and cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT).

Social anxiety

What anxiety feels like in social settings vs in a new career is different from someone who has what we call social anxiety disorder. Social anxiety disorder is a specific type of anxiety that presents itself as a fear of social situations. A person with this anxiety has an intense fear of being embarrassed, judged, ridiculed, or looked down upon in social situations. Many times people with anxiety disorders do not know how to manage their anxiety and end up relapsing into addiction simply because anxiety overtook their lives and they didn’t know what to do next.

5. Ways to combat anxiety in early recovery

Anxiety is not something you should feel ashamed of; instead, it’s important that we understand how our brains work so we can find ways to cope with them when they arise. A few of them being keeping busy, holding yourself accountable with a therapist, not being afraid to ask for help, creating & sticking to a routine, and using meditation & mindfulness techniques.

Stay busy

Doing something to occupy your time, such as cleaning out your closet, reorganizing the furniture, or doing a load of laundry can be helpful. It’s no secret that anxiety leaves us feeling tired and restless at the same time – so by focusing on a task you should find some relief from your anxiety symptoms.

The main point is not to spend too much time thinking about your anxiety but to take your mind off it. Focusing on what you’re doing and take each day as it comes.


Before anxiety takes over, find an anxiety therapist you trust to whom you can talk. By talking through your anxiety with a professional and establishing coping mechanisms for when anxiety does come up in between therapy sessions, it will become easier and then you won’t feel like anxiety has taken over. Therapy is scary at first because we’re not exactly sure what we’re going to get out of it but it’s worth giving therapy a chance if we want to be free from anxiety and learn how to manage the difficulties in our lives.

Reaching out to others

You should reach out when anxiety takes over your every thought. Your anxiety may be the result of not knowing who to turn to in early recovery when anxiety comes up. And that’s okay! Anxiety is normal, and it will come up early for most people who struggle with co-occurring anxiety and depression.

Try telling a friend about what you are feeling so they can support you through this difficult time. Reach out when anxiety arises in order to get back on top of things before they get worse. When you tell someone about anxiety, you’re also telling them that anxiety exists and it’s OK to talk about this sometimes unspoken mental illness. This will help others in early recovery feel more comfortable talking about anxiety when anxiety comes up.


Meditation is a great way to find peace when anxiety comes up because it allows you to dive within yourself and accept the feelings. The practice can be done in many different forms. When we meditate we’re actually retraining our brain to stop anxiety quickly before it takes over.


You can try mindfulness, which is when you pay attention to purpose in the present moment, non-judgmentally. Instead of focusing on anxiety coming up, you keep your eyes open and acknowledge everything that’s happening without judging it or thinking about it too much.

By taking each day one step at a time, anxiety is less likely to take over. This can also be referred to as living in the moment instead of worrying about what anxiety will do next.

CBT tools

Behavioral techniques such as ‘playing the tape through’ can be great CBT skills to use in any situation bringing up fear or anxiety.

By asking yourself these provoking questions and thinking about them CBT takes anxiety head-on and anxiety doesn’t get the best of you. Repeating this process over and over again will train your brain to think in a more anxiety-proof way, which is why CBT techniques are great for anxiety management.


These are just a few coping techniques for those suffering from anxiety to try when it arises during early recovery. Remember that you’re not alone and anxiety is very normal, especially when quitting any substances. But it is definitely something to pay attention to and regulate.

Anxiety creates more anxiety if it isn’t acknowledged and treated properly. It’s very important to not be afraid to ask for help or find coping strategies that work. Anxiety can make you feel like there is no way out when it will really pass if you allow it to. We have anxiety for helpful reasons, but anxiety isn’t always helpful in the long run. Because anxiety cannot solve problems, anxiety can only remind us of problems.