Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health issue in the United States. Over 18% of Americans 18 years and older are affected by some form of anxiety in adulthood.
Of those diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, about 20% are also struggling with some form of addiction to alcohol or drugs. These co-occurring conditions significantly affect a person’s quality of life.
When severe, addiction could lead to serious illness or death if left untreated.
With such a large percentage of those with addiction living with anxiety, the realization that there is a major tie between the two becomes readily apparent. Although they both occur independently of one another, most times, an anxiety disorder can lead to addiction, while addiction can cause mild to severe anxiety symptoms. The symptoms of one disorder can often make the symptoms of the other worse.
The good news is that if you’re living with both, there are treatment options available fit to meet those with a dual diagnosis.
Let’s explore the tie between addiction and anxiety disorders further.
First, it is necessary to note that experiencing occasional anxiety is a normal part of life.
People diagnosed with anxiety disorders frequently experience intense, excessive, and persistent worry and fear about everyday situations.
For most, anxiety disorders involve repeated episodes of sudden feelings of intense anxiety and fear that can quickly turn into panic attacks. These feelings of anxiety interfere with daily activities, are difficult to control and can last minutes to hours depending on the severity.
Anxiety itself is categorized into various types of disorders, including:
- Social anxiety
- Separation anxiety
- Generalized anxiety disorder
- Panic disorder
- Selective mutism
- Specific phobias
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Substance-induced anxiety disorder
It is also important to note that anxiety can be tied to other mental health disorders such as obsessive-compulsive disorder or depression.
Symptoms of anxiety can range from mild to severe depending on the person.
The most common symptoms of anxiety are:
- Feeling nervous or tense
- Intrusive fear
- Rapid heart rate
- Feeling weak
- Feeling tired
- Trouble concentrating
- Difficulty sleeping
- Gastrointestinal issues
- Difficulty controlling worry or fear
- Having the urge to avoid things that trigger anxiety
Addiction and anxiety are tied together in many ways depending on the person and their unique situation.
For some, anxiety symptoms can cause someone to want to self-medicate with addictive substances to numb their anxious thoughts and fears. Many people use drugs or alcohol to cope with anxiety. For example, someone may want to consume alcohol or opiates to relax and experience a sense of calmness that they otherwise could not get outside of self-medication.
For others, addiction can cause anxiety. For example, cocaine affects the part of the brain that corresponds to stress. When taken, it increases the production of stress hormones, often inducing unexpected but apparent anxious thoughts and feelings.
Those who have experienced trauma are more likely to develop anxiety and addiction together. Both family history and an imbalance of chemicals in the brain could lead a person to be genetically predisposed to either or both disorders concurrently.
Treating addiction alone will not cure anxiety. The same is true in reverse. Both anxiety and addiction must be treated separately but concurrently for the best long-term health and wellness results.
Some of the best treatment options include:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy
- Prescription medication (non-narcotic)
- Behavioral counseling
Co-occurring disorder treatment is the most innovative way to relieve anxiety symptoms and reach sobriety goals. If you are living with addiction and experiencing symptoms of anxiety regularly, you may be living with both conditions. Our team at Miramar Recovery in Laguna beach can provide comprehensive dual diagnosis support and treatment options fit for your specific mental health needs.