living with anxiety

Living With Anxiety and Addiction

Anxiety is the most common mental illness among all demographics of Americans today. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, nearly 20% of adults in the United States report suffering from some form of anxiety. 

While everyone experiences fears and anxiousness in the normal scope of life, clinical anxiety is characterized by persistent, largely unfounded fears that can creep into every corner of our lives and keep us from performing normal tasks at work and in our personal lives. Clinical anxiety can produce symptoms that can affect us both physically and psychologically, and prolonged, untreated anxiety can lead to addiction as well.

The many various symptoms of anxiety require an equally diverse treatment approach. Many people who suffer from anxiety do so in silence and without treatment to help ease the difficulties. This can lead to drug or alcohol use in an attempt to cope with the symptoms of anxiety. Those who suffer from anxiety are nearly twice as likely to develop a dependence on drugs or alcohol. The attempt to self-medicate can often lead to a spiral of addiction that can worsen the anxiety and create an even worse situation. 

Signs And Symptoms Of Anxiety

Anxiety can take different forms with different people, but there are some similarities to look for when identifying an anxiety disorder and no two cases are alike. While some people may have physical symptoms that are dominant, others may have no physical symptoms at all. The psychological toll of anxiety disorders can take a serious toll on those who seem “fine” because there are no outward signs. 

Some of the most common ways that anxiety manifests itself psychologically are listed below:

  • Intrusive fears, often of irrational things, that occur often
  • Withdrawing from relationships due to social fears
  • Paranoia
  • Inability to complete tasks due to hypotheticals 
  • Mind-wandering to “worst-case scenario” constantly
  • Desire to stay in bed due to too many things “piling up”

Anxiety can manifest itself physically in many different ways as well. While these symptoms may be obvious to yourself or others, they can also be nonexistent most of the time then pop up suddenly.  Some of the most common symptoms are:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Lack of energy or motivation
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Irregular sleep patterns 
  • Chest or stomach pains
  • Nausea, dizziness, or trembling

Different Types Of Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety takes many forms and can arise from many different situations. While it may look different in each individual, there are several types of anxiety disorders with identifiable similarities. The following types of anxiety disorders are most commonly identified and associated with addictive tendencies. 

  1. General Anxiety Disorder (GAD)- This type of anxiety is characterized by a general sense of dread with no specific focus or reason. Someone who suffers from GAD may write their anxiety off as “normal worrying” but their anxiety can take a powerful hold on their daily life and last much longer than average. Many of the typical fears associated with GAD have little to no basis in reality. 
  2. Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD)- Social anxiety generally refers to fears of people, crowded places, or interacting with others in social situations. These fears could be associated with specific places (shopping malls, crowded elevators, etc) or be related simply to socializing or being around others in general. Social anxiety is one of the most common types of anxiety and as many as 20 million Americans deal with this every day. SAD can also trigger panic attacks or panic disorder and result in abrupt changes in breathing, heart rate, etc. 
  3. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)– This type of anxiety generally develops after severe trauma. This could include military service, different types of abuse, accidents, natural disasters, or repressed childhood memories. Particularly for women, sexual assault is a common reason for developing PTSD. The Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that as many as 8 million Americans manifest symptoms of PTSD-which can include symptoms such as insomnia, panic attacks, flashbacks, mood swings, and appetite issues. 
  4. Panic Disorder- Episodes of uncontrollable, often overwhelming terror is the most common sign of panic disorder. Panic attacks may include serious physical symptoms such as tremors, emotional swings, dangerous heart rate, and breathing, inability to move or function. While they are rarely fatal, they can bring on intense feelings of doom or desire to self-harm. Panic disorder is often associated with PTSD and can be extremely disruptive if not treated medically. 
  5. Specific phobias– Irrational, often paralyzing fear of specific persons, places, or things are known as specific phobias. These “objects” may be associated with past trauma or simply be a wild manifestation of an anxious brain. These specific phobias can include things like fear of heights (acrophobia), fear of spiders (arachnophobia), fear of tight spaces (claustrophobia), and the fear of flying (aviophobia). As many as 1-in-10 adults have some type of irrational fear that falls under one of these common categories.   

Causes Of Anxiety Disorder

Some anxiety disorders, like PTSD, may have clear inciting incidents. Others may not, and researchers are still exploring the causes and triggers for various types of anxiety. There are, however, some common factors that may prove important in discovering the reason for someone’s anxiety. 

Family History

Having a family member (specifically parents) that struggles with anxiety is one of the most common factors in identifying susceptibility to anxiety. While it is not known how these things can be “passed down”, research shows that factors such as genetic markers, hormonal tendencies, and generational trauma can be common. 

Substance Abuse

While anxiety disorders can lead to self-medication through substance abuse, the opposite can be true as well. The more foreign substances someone is putting into their body, the more likely that may lead to behavioral changes, such as anxiety disorders. The misuse of many types of drugs or alcohol can lead to neurological changes that can trigger anxiety. 

History Of Trauma

Trauma (such as sexual assault, car accidents, death of a loved one, etc) at any point in life can trigger negative psychological consequences, such as anxiety. This could manifest as PTSD due to specific trauma or general anxiety disorder due to repressed or recurring trauma. 

Overexposure To stress

Individuals who are constantly exposed to high levels of stress — emotional, psychological, or physical — are more likely to show symptoms of an anxiety disorder. Regardless of the root cause of the anxiety disorder, it can be very disruptive to everyday life, relationships, and the ability to be a functioning member of society. Anxiety disorders can be further complicated by substance abuse and addiction. 

Substance Abuse And Anxiety

Substance abuse is significantly more likely to occur in someone who has underlying anxiety or mental health disorders. Anxiety disorders have been linked with an increased likelihood of alcohol abuse, relapse, and more severe withdrawal symptoms. 

The existence of an anxiety disorder with a substance use disorder is known as a “dual diagnosis” (or co-occurring disorders). This denotes the presence of at least two separate diagnosable disorders. Each disorder can pose its own set of problems and will require a unique set of solutions. 

The symptoms of anxiety may push people to use drugs or alcohol to address them. Conversely, drug or alcohol abuse can create anxiety-like symptoms and extended use can create different types of anxiety disorders. To address both the root cause and the effects of anxiety and substance abuse, a treatment plan that addresses both issues must be in place. 

Treatment For Substance Abuse And Anxiety

Both anxiety and substance abuse are highly treatable with the right combination of strategy, medication, and professional help. The first step is admitting you have a problem and need outside assistance. At Florida Center for Recovery, we have the right people with the right skills to treat anxiety and substance abuse. 

Our trained professionals will utilize various treatment methods such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), personal and group therapy, and recommending medications if necessary. It is important that both issues receive unique treatments and that every patient has a personalized treatment plan. 

Regardless of the symptoms of your anxiety or the substances, you may be struggling with, Florida Center for Recovery has the tools to help you overcome these difficult issues. 

Contact Us Today To Start Your Recovery Journey!

At Florida Center for Recovery, we have the right people, facilities, and methodologies to help you overcome mental health and addiction struggles. We have had success in treating addictions to many types of substances and with many co-occurring disorders. We also have specialized treatment plans for women, first responders, and military personnel

Our nationally renowned, 12-acre campus is located in beautiful Fort Pierce, Florida. Our campus features a gym, athletic facilities, and the capability to facilitate inpatient or outpatient treatment plans. If you or a loved one are struggling with anxiety and substance abuse disorders, give us a call today. There is no better time than the present to take steps towards a better life.