Millions of Americans suffer from anxiety – it’s one of the most common mood disorders overall. However, many Americans also experience addiction to various substances. Substance abuse addiction can occur with cocaine, alcohol, marijuana, and more.
But many Americans aren’t aware of the fact that anxiety and addiction are closely linked. In fact, individuals with anxiety could also be at a greater risk of substance abuse disorder. Today, let’s explore this topic and the relationship between anxiety and addiction more closely.
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What is Anxiety?
Anxiety disorder is a mood disorder characterized by a variety of common symptoms, such as:
- Panic attacks
- A feeling of worry or anxiety/paranoia
- Difficulty sleeping or insomnia
- Difficulty concentrating
- And more
Individuals with anxiety can develop the disorder in adolescents or in later life. Regardless, anxiety is partially genetically linked, so individuals with a family history of anxiety may be more likely to develop this condition themselves.
People can be diagnosed with different types of anxiety disorders, including:
- Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). GAD causes individuals to feel continual, non-specific senses of dread. In some cases, individuals may have their fears dismissed by those who do not understand the disorder
- Social anxiety disorder (SAD). Also called social phobia, SAD is characterized by an unreasonable fear of interaction with other people, as well as (sometimes) fears of appearing in crowded locations or participating in social activities
- Panic disorder, characterized by episodes of overwhelming and uncontrollable fear or terror
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD is an anxiety disorder that can develop after a traumatic incident is experienced or witnessed. PTSD is common among military veterans and those who experience violent or sexual assault episodes, and it may be characterized by flashbacks, difficulty concentrating, and other common symptoms associated with anxiety
Does Anxiety Make Someone More Susceptible to Addiction?
Yes. Anxiety can make someone much more susceptible to alcohol addiction or other forms of substance abuse disorder.
Anxiety increases the level of stress that someone feels in their day-to-day life. In order to cope, such an individual might turn to a substance like drugs or alcohol to dampen the feelings of stress. However, because anxiety makes it difficult to control one’s thoughts, it may also lead someone to abuse substances as a form of self-medication.
Things can become even more dangerous if a person tries anti-anxiety medication only to discover that it doesn’t work for one reason or another. They may take continually higher doses of antianxiety medication or mix it with a substance like alcohol. In these cases and more, the risk of serious injuries or death increases astronomically.
This isn’t to say that every person with anxiety will become addicted to substances or vice versa. But those under the grips of anxiety disorder must be very careful when around substances like drugs and alcohol for their own sakes.
The Link Between Anxiety and Addiction
Many decades of research on anxiety disorders and substance use disorders indicate a proven link of co-occurrence or comorbidity between both struggles.
Greater Likelihood of Substance Abuse
In fact, those with anxiety disorder are approximately twice as likely to abuse some kind of substance as those without.1 This is true regardless of the type of anxiety disorder someone experiences. The most commonly abused substances among those with anxiety disorder were alcohol and marijuana, although drugs like cocaine are also very dangerous.
There’s a distinct difference between adolescent boys and girls and the risk of comorbid anxiety disorder and substance use disorder.2 According to certain studies, boys are more likely to become addicted to nicotine if they already have an anxiety disorder. Girls might be more likely to become addicted to other substances, like alcohol.
In either case, parents need to be on the watch for harmful or dangerous behaviors among their adolescent children. If your children are currently struggling with anxiety disorder, it’s important to get the help they need quickly so they don’t use substances to self-medicate.
Worsening of Anxiety Symptoms
Many people with anxiety disorder turn to substances intentionally or inadvertently to reduce their anxiety symptoms.3 Unfortunately, sometimes, certain drugs – such as alcohol or marijuana – can cause anxiety symptoms to worsen.
For example, someone may feel a panic attack coming on, so they smoke a joint to blunt the effect. However, smoking only causes the incoming anxiety attack to feel even worse. In some cases, this can cause the affected individual to continually pursue greater and greater doses of abusable drugs. This, in turn, can lead to very dangerous risks of serious medical injuries or death.
Treating Anxiety and Addiction
Comorbid anxiety and substance abuse disorder are difficult to deal with alone, let alone together. That’s why individuals struggling with these issues should seek joint treatment programs that simultaneously tackle both problems.
For example, if you or a loved one are struggling with anxiety and/or addiction to one or more substances, you should enter a program that:
- Helps you with anxiety medication and teaches you antianxiety exercises
- Helps you overcome your addiction to various substances
- Helps you develop positive habits to avoid retreating back to substances if you feel the symptoms of your anxiety disorder once again
In such a difficult situation, it’s important to treat both causes of your troubles, not just one. Seeking out the right clinic, therefore, is vital.
Get Help for Anxiety and Addiction with Reputable Dual Diagnosis Treatment
Ultimately, the link between anxiety and addiction is well-understood and irrefutable. Those who are at risk of anxiety or substance abuse disorder are also at risk of the other. If you or a loved one need help treating anxiety or substance addiction, Clear Life Recovery can help.
Our knowledgeable specialists can guide you through our anxiety treatment program or any of our addiction programs. We can assist with inpatient and outpatient alcohol addiction, drug addiction, and other addiction programs perfectly tailored to your needs. Contact us today by phone or online for more information.