Are You Addicted to Distress and Anxiety?

Was your childhood filled with stressful and distressing situations? If so, you're a candidate to develop addiction to distress and anxiety.
Are You Addicted to Distress and Anxiety?
Gema Sánchez Cuevas

Reviewed and approved by the psychologist Gema Sánchez Cuevas.

Last update: 21 December, 2022

Are you bored in your relationship? Do you have a tendency towards self-sabotage when everything is going well? If you answered “yes” to these questions, then you may be addicted to distress and anxiety. Thus, you must review your family history to either confirm or discard it.

Many people have a tendency to seek the company of others who are toxic because nicer people bore them. This dichotomy isn’t absurd at all. The answer has to do with your early childhood and your first relationship models: your parents. You may have been exposed to many family situations, such as infidelity, screams, stress, and basically a lot of drama.

In a completely unconscious way, the relationship model you had and your childhood experiences explain the reason why you look at some people and reject others when it comes to selecting a life partner. So, who would you choose to pair up with when you’re addicted to stress and anxiety?

In search of distress and anxiety

A person crying.

If you suffer from addiction to stress and anxiety, it may be because your parents had a quite stormy relationship. At the least, you may have experienced it that way. What’s clear is that you grew up around a lot of drama.

Most likely, your parents were two emotionally immature people who didn’t realize that stress and anxiety permeated the entire space and that it affected everyone around it. Were you anxious about them fighting? Did one of them try to turn you against the other? Did they display passive-aggressive attitudes back and forth?

Despite all this, you love your parents. In fact, when one of them misbehaved, the other spouse would tell you, for example, “You must love dad, he’s a good person deep down“. This is just what you learned about love when you were a child: love anyone who’s just like that.

“Every form of addiction is bad.”

-Carl Gustav Jung-

The booster-reward mechanism

When you’re born into the type of family we described above, you most likely develop a booster-reward mechanism where anxiety, distress, and adrenaline are present every time your parents fight; either when they yell at each other or when there’s abuse.

In contrast, there’s peace and quiet when everything is fine. It leads to serotonin and dopamine secretions that lead you to develop an addiction to anxiety.

Addiction to distress and anxiety – boredom

The problem with an addiction to anxiety is that anyone who loves you and treats you well ends up being boring. Thus, you think you don’t really love that person and you either leave them or cheat on them.

This is a mistake. Are you sure you don’t really love them? Because you do love that person most of the time. The thing is that you don’t identify niceness with love and perceive it as boring.

Many people with addiction to distress and anxiety associate love with constant adrenaline highs, not with peace and even boredom. This is why they’re often angry for no reason, they’re unfaithful, and find any excuse to instill adrenaline in their relationship because they grew up with it.

This is a big problem, no doubt. Mainly because it keeps you from building a healthy relationship and feeling good about it. However, although it may seem very difficult to overcome an addiction to anxiety, you can do it if you seek help.

Addiction to anxiety can make you leave good relationships in order to find others that’ll plunge you into an emotional roller coaster.


A woman crying.

Addiction to distress and anxiety is merely that: an addiction. Therefore, becoming aware, evaluating the situation from other perspectives, and consulting a psychologist will help you identify when you’re falling into your own trap.

When a person bores you and you’re aware it’s a trap, you’ll know better than to make a hasty decision and end the relationship. You won’t easily flee or abandon that person for someone else who helps you produce the adrenaline rush, stress, and discomfort you think you need.

Addictions are difficult to overcome but not impossible. Many people stay in toxic relationships that obviously don’t make them happy. Relationships where lies, infidelities, and manipulation are the usual norm and don’t leave room for peace and quiet.

It’s normal to develop this addiction if your childhood was distressing. However, you can reprogram the harmful conception you have of love with professional help.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Becoña Iglesias, E., & Cortés Tomás, M. (2016). Manual de adicciones para psicólogos especialistas en psicología clínica en formación.
  • Cuervo Martínez, Á. (2010). Pautas de crianza y desarrollo socioafectivo en la infancia. Diversitas: Perspectivas en psicología6(1).
  • Newman, K., Harrison, L., Dashiff, C., & Davies, S. (2008). Relaciones entre los tipos de padres y comportamientos de riesgo en la salud del adolescente: una revisión bibliográfica integrada. Rev. Latino-Am. Enfermagem16(1), 142-150.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.