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Stress is a feeling of emotional or physical tension in reaction to a challenge or demand and may be caused by any event or thought that elicits feelings of nervousness, frustration, or anger. As is described by the Cleveland Clinic, stress is “a normal reaction the body has when changes occur, resulting in physical, emotional and intellectual responses.” Stress is subjective, as every individual is different, and what one person perceives to be stressful another may not. Stress responses are designed to help an individual adjust to new situations. They are useful because they can help an individual remain alert, motived, and prepared to avoid danger. Stress can also produce unwanted symptoms. When a person experiences chronic, long-term stress he or she is at increased risk for developing adverse physiological effects. 


Addiction, also known as substance use disorder (SUD), is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), as a chronic, relapsing neurological disorder. The Mayo Clinic explains addiction as a disease “that affects a person’s brain and behavior and leads to an inability to control the use of a legal or illegal drug or medication.” Substance use disorder can wreak havoc in all areas of one’s life. Because the disease compels the individual to prioritize satisfying his or her substance cravings above all else, an individual can experience a plethora of adverse effects, including physiological complications, relationship fractures, financial strain, legal challenges, employment issues, and more. While the scientific reasoning behind why an individual develops an addiction remains unknown, there are certain risk factors (e.g., environmental risk factors, genetic risk factors, psychological risk factors, socioeconomic risk factors, etc.) that can increase an individual’s susceptibility to developing an addiction. 

Stress and Addiction

There is an unequivocal link between stress and addiction. Addiction is considered a brain disorder, because it involves functional changes to brain circuits involved in reward, stress, and self-control. Studies have found that stress is a key risk factor in addiction initiation, maintenance, relapse, and treatment failure. Everyone relies on different coping mechanisms to deal with stress, and some strategies are more effective than others. One’s risk of addiction rises when attempting to navigate stressful life events with ineffective coping skills (e.g., react impulsively, disconnect, etc.). Further, some may resort to using drugs or alcohol to manage their stress, which can increase one’s vulnerability to addiction. Conversely, the impact of substance misuse on a person’s health, life, and relationships may result in excess stress. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the use of drugs or alcohol can negatively impact one’s ability to manage stress. Hence, addiction and stress are inextricably intertwined. 

Further Information and Support

Navigating the challenges that arise from living with mental illness, struggling with substance abuse, and/ or addiction can not only be all consuming but are often impossible to effectively handle without proper support. If you are concerned for yourself or a loved one regarding mental illness, substance abuse, and/ or addiction we recommend reaching out for help as soon as possible. Bear in mind that you do not have to be on this journey alone. At Upwell Advisors, we offer unique, customized concierge therapeutic services to provide our clients with unparalleled support throughout every step of the recovery process. 

If left untreated, substance abuse, addiction, and/ or mental illness can result in long lasting and potentially life-threatening consequences. The earlier you seek support, the sooner you and your loved ones can return to leading happy, healthy, and fulfilling lives. Please do not hesitate to reach out for guidance. We welcome the opportunity to discuss how we might best be able to help you or your loved one in the recovery process.

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