Anxiety and Addiction

“Anxiety disorders afflict more Americans than any other type of mental illness. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, more than 18 percent of adults in the U.S. suffer from some form of anxiety disorder.”

Maryland Recovery

Anxiety is a spectrum disorder. It has triggers and situational factors that differ for each person. For people with intense anxiety symptoms like panic attacks or phobias, the dangers are greater. In these cases, prolonged anxiety may lead to substance abuse and addiction.

Addiction and anxiety are firmly connected. For example, social anxiety may be pacified in the moment by the use of alcohol. While a single event may seem harmless, turning to alcohol continuously has serious consequences. If left untreated, substance abuse becomes difficult to break without the help of mental health professionals.

According to Maryland Recovery, a residential addiction treatment center:

It’s not uncommon for someone to misuse drugs or alcohol as a means of trying to suppress their symptoms of anxiety. Here are some alarming stats and facts to keep in mind when talking about anxiety and substance abuse, and how the two often go hand in hand:

  • The lifetime prevalence rate of anxiety is 28.8 percent, while the substance abuse rate is 14.6 percent. This means that nearly 30 percent of the population has suffered from anxiety, while about 15 percent has suffered from substance abuse.
  • The National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates that people with anxiety are twice as likely as the general population to struggle with substance abuse.
  • Both anxiety and substance abuse may be linked to chemical imbalances in the brain, such as low serotonin.
  • Nearly 15 million American adults suffer from social anxiety disorder, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, while about 9 percent of American adults will experience a specific phobia within any 12-month period, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIH).
  • Women are 60 percent more likely than men to experience an anxiety disorder at some point in their lifetime.
  • Hispanics are 30 percent less likely than non-Hispanic whites to suffer from an anxiety disorder during their lifetime, according to the NIH. Non-Hispanic African-Americans are 20 percent less likely than non-Hispanic whites to experience an anxiety disorder.
  • Nearly 23 percent of anxiety disorder cases are classified as “severe,” according to the NIH.
  • Misusing drugs or alcohol can cause symptoms that are reminiscent of those of anxiety, such as sleeplessness, irritability, irrational fears and nervousness.

Whether it’s you or a loved one, having anxiety and an addiction may require professional mental health treatment to address both connected issues. Encouraging this person to take the first step and find help is crucial.

“If you know someone who is struggling with anxiety and substance abuse issues, here are some ways to personally help them as well as how to get them to seek treatment:

  • Be compassionate and nonjudgmental: Give the person your undivided attention, listen to them thoroughly and focus on the positive potential consequences – rather than dwelling on past negative behaviors or outcomes.
  • Watch out for denial or defensive behavior: Many people who are abusing alcohol will keep secrets or be in denial of the severity of their problem. If they have an anxiety disorder on top of it, they might be paranoid about being approached in this manner or delusional about their behavior. They might become argumentative and even combative. In this case, you may want to enlist two or more people, such as family members or friends, to help approach the individual.
  • Try to guide them to find help: Don’t just tell your loved one to seek treatment. Do your part in helping them find the most appropriate option! Help direct them to the therapist, physician, 12-step group or rehabilitation center that will best serve their needs.
  • Offer your ongoing emotional and practical support: Once the person has entered treatment, don’t just wash your hands of the situation. See if you can make the call about their next appointment, or give them a ride there. Can you accompany them to a 12-step meeting? Do whatever it takes to show your continued support as they begin recovering from substance abuse and an anxiety disorder.”

To learn more about treating anxiety and addition, please read the complete post at Maryland Recovery.


Source: Maryland Recovery