Home » addiction » Addiction and stress: causes and solutions

It is common knowledge that when you are stressed you are quick to light a cigarette. But how exactly stress leads to addiction is unknown to most. In this blog, you will read all about addictions and stress.

First, we will discuss what an addiction is, covering addictive substances, habituation and withdrawal. Then we will explain the possible causes of addiction and we will take a closer look at the relationship between stress and addiction. Finally, we provide advice on how to get rid of your addiction.

What is an addiction?

Addiction is when you are physically and mentally dependent on a drug and cannot let go of the thoughts of getting it. If you cannot get the drug, you will experience withdrawal symptoms. A drug that is addictive can be anything. Below is a list of the most common addictive substances or activities.

Addictive substances or activities


Habituation in addiction

Habituation occurs when the effect of the addictive substance diminishes as you use it more often. In this way, you need more and more to achieve the same effect.

Withdrawal symptoms

If your body is used to an addictive substance and you stop taking it, your body may react violently. We call this reaction withdrawal symptom. Examples are sweating, fever and sleeplessness.

Causes of addiction

There are various possible causes that lead to addiction. The most common causes are discussed below.

Personal characteristics

How susceptible you are to addiction varies from person to person. Nowadays, it is likely that your biological factors play a role in this. One person’s “addiction switch” may be activated after just one gamble, while another’s may take a year to develop. Other characteristics that influence a possible addiction are your personality and character. A person who is easily influenced is more likely to become addicted than a person with a strong personality.

Environmental factors

The stimulation of your environment plays a major role in addiction. If you grew up in a household where smoking is normal, you are more likely to smoke yourself. Another factor related to your environment is peer pressure. Something is offered by your peers and you are afraid to say no. Or you do something because everyone else is doing it. Or you do something because everyone else does it.

Availability of resources

Do you have to go to a lot of trouble to get the drug? If certain addictive substances are easy to obtain, the threshold for reaching for them is also lower.


Stress can also be the cause of your addiction. How stress can cause addiction is explained below.


The relationship between addiction and stress

Stress can cause addiction and maintain an addiction. Here, we will look at the relationship between addiction and stress.

Addiction as a reaction to stress

Everyone reacts differently to stress. One person drinks an extra glass of wine or beer after work, another goes to a gambling hall to take his mind off things. Our brains sometimes play funny tricks on us in times of stress. All the ways you use to relieve stress are addictive in the long run, and most addictions are very unhealthy.

The weak moment

When you ask an alcoholic or drug addict when the addiction started, it almost always started with a stressful period.

After one beer, piece of chocolate or cigarette, it’s hard to resist the next one, because when you’re happy you give in faster. If you have genes that make you susceptible to addiction, it is considerably easier to develop an addiction in these kinds of situations.

Origins of addiction

We sometimes use addictive substances to reduce pain, sadness, tension and stress. This can lead to an addiction. Once you have experienced that your stress is reduced by using an addictive substance, you will use it more often.

Reward system brain

You need addictive substances because they affect the reward system of your brain. In times of stress, the stress hormone cortisol is produced. Cortisol ensures that you become addicted more quickly. The substance, as it were, appeals to your reward system in the body. Rewards give you a positive boost and you are looking for them, even more, when you are not feeling well and experience a lot of stress. So stress also contributes to your addiction via a roundabout route.

Solutions to addiction: kicking the habit

It is difficult to get rid of an addiction. Below are some solutions to better cope with or get rid of your addiction.

Dealing with stress

Do you know that you are susceptible to addiction? Then make sure you always have a plan for the periods when you experience a lot of stress. Stress can arise from one moment to the next. You need to know what to do to deal with it before you unwittingly develop an addiction.

Reduce or stop addiction

As difficult as it may be, quitting the addiction is the best choice. Start immediately and do not postpone it. Ask those around you if they can help you with this, find plenty of distractions and ignore the urge to give in to the addiction.


There are various options for asking for help. A general practitioner can offer you support in stopping your addiction. In severe cases, therapies or clinical treatment can help you further. There are also medications that can help to stimulate kicking the habit. These medicines inhibit cravings for a particular addictive substance or have a calming effect. Always discuss the use of medication with your doctor first.

Frequently asked questions about addiction


When is an addiction?

If you recognise yourself in this text, but you are not sure whether you are an addict or not, then we have prepared a checklist for you to see whether you are an addict or not.

  • You notice that you are using more than you intended.
  • You cannot stop the addiction and notice that you get withdrawal symptoms if you try.
  • You spend a large part of the day thinking about the addiction and the addictive substance.

Once an addict, always an addict?

The ease with which you can kick an addiction varies from person to person. The longer you are addicted, the more difficult it is to get rid of. You will always be susceptible to your addiction, so make sure that you do not allow yourself to be tempted into such a situation again.

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