Anxiety & Addiction

What Is Anxiety, Really?

According to the American Psychological Association, Anxiety is an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure. In and of itself, anxiety is a normal reaction to stress. It calls our attention to the perceived problem at hand and moves us to take action to remedy the situation.

How Does Anxiety Impact Addiction?

It is common for people who suffer from anxiety to self-medicate or misuse alcohol or drugs in an attempt to cope with their symptoms. The National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates that those with an anxiety disorder are two times as likely to suffer from addiction as the general population.

Furthermore, substance abuse is more common in people suffering from anxiety disorders than in the general population. According to Psychiatric Times, anxiety disorders have been linked with higher lifetime rates of alcohol abuse and higher relapse rates after alcohol rehab. In addition, individuals diagnosed with anxiety may experience more severe withdrawal symptoms.

Alcohol and drug addiction ultimately increase the symptoms of anxiety. The person gets caught in a vicious circle: once they use more alcohol or drugs, the physical and psychological symptoms of anxiety strengthen, which makes them increase their drug intake to function normally. This results in increased tolerance to the drug and a cycle of substance abuse that leads to increased physical dependency and addiction.

Anxiety vs. Anxiety Disorders, What’s The Difference?

Anxiety is a problem when it becomes overwhelming or unmanageable and it comes up without reason or warning. Anxiety disorders are mental illnesses that have a big impact your life. People may avoid participating in day-to-day life in order to avoid anxiety. They may experience a lot of uncomfortable physical feelings and physical health problems. Many people say that they know their anxiety isn’t based in reality, but they feel like there is nothing they can do to curb symptoms. Anxiety disorders can be treated. It’s important to seek help if you’re experiencing frequent, uncontrollable anxiety.

Anxiety Disorders

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

GAD affects 6.8 million adults, or 3.1% of the U.S. population, yet only 43.2% are receiving treatment.
Women are twice as likely to be affected as men.

Panic Disorder

PD affects 6 million adults, or 2.7% of the U.S. population.
Women are twice as likely to be affected as men. GAD often co-occurs with major depression. Alcohol or drugs often cause panic attacks, and having panic disorder is a risk factor for a relapse among people with a substance abuse disorder. Alcohol abuse commonly begins before or at the same time as panic disorder symptoms.

Social Anxiety Disorder

SAD affects 15 million adults, or 6.8% of the U.S. population.
SAD is equally common among men and women and typically begins around age 13. According to a 2007 ADAA survey, 36% of people with social anxiety disorder report experiencing symptoms for 10 or more years before seeking help.

Symptoms of Anxiety

  • nervousness, restlessness, or being tense
  • feelings of danger, panic, or dread
  • rapid heart rate
  • rapid breathing, or hyperventilation
  • increased or heavy sweating
  • trembling or muscle twitching
  • weakness and lethargy
  • Overwhelming feelings of fear, panic, uneasiness, nervousness, or worry
  • Loss of concentration or focus
  • Dizziness/fainting
  • Extreme fear of crowds
  • Inability to relax or sit still
  • Insomnia and poor rest
  • Excessive sweating
  • Chest pain
  • Choking sensation
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Muscle tension or soreness

How To Treat Anxiety As A Dual Diagnosis?

Treating substance abuse will not eliminate an anxiety disorder, so it’s usually necessary to treat both together, particularly to lessen the chance of relapse. Those suffering from addiction and anxiety disorders are at an increased risk for prescription medication abuse as well as potentially dangerous interactions when they use prescription medication. Doctors prescribe medications with low abuse potential that are considered safe, should a relapse occur. The choice of medication always depends on a person’s individual circumstances.

PA Alcohol Rehab Offering Integrated Programs

Bradford Recovery Center’s Pennsylvania drug rehab centers offer integrated programs for individuals with co-occurring addiction and anxiety diagnoses. Our individualized treatment plans are tailored to the unique need and experiences of each new client.