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The Link Between Anxiety Disorder and Substance Abuse

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The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) reports that nearly one-quarter of all people experiencing an anxiety disorder also experience a co-occurring substance use disorder. In fact, anxiety disorder and substance abuse are two issues that have shared close ties for as far back as time goes. It is no secret that those who have an anxiety disorder such as generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social phobia, or obsessive-compulsive disorder, tend to face a number of challenges that compromise their overall wellbeing. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) reports that nearly one-quarter of all people experiencing an anxiety disorder also experience a co-occurring substance use disorder.

How Does an Anxiety Disorder Influence Substance Abuse?

It is not so commonly known that abusing drugs and alcohol can trigger the onset of anxiety disorder symptoms, which can make a troublesome situation much worse. Regardless of if a person had an anxiety disorder or a substance use disorder first, the combination of the two occurring simultaneously is where things can get extremely difficult. Depending on the type of anxiety disorder an individual has, they are going to experience a number of symptoms that have the potential to negatively influence their physical and mental health. When these symptoms go unaddressed, they can intensify in severity and trigger an individual to use drugs or alcohol to cope. 

Excessive Worry

People who have anxiety often experience excessive worry. The things they may worry about may not even be rational, but the physical and mental response that develops as a result of them can create a sense of losing control. Anxiety disorders that are left untreated (or are not being properly treated) can cause a person to experience excessive worry on a regular basis. Worrying, regardless of what it is about, causes people’s appetites to change, sleep patterns to become altered, and influences their mood and demeanor. Not getting enough sleep, not eating well, feeling irritable, sad, or constantly being preoccupied with worry can become so overwhelming that drinking or using drugs to obtain a sense of relief can start seeming like a viable option.

Having Panic Attacks

Many people with anxiety disorders suffer from panic attacks. A panic attack typically comes on suddenly and produces a strong sense of impending doom or demise. While some panic attacks are spurred on by specific occurrences, many develop out of the blue, creating an even more contentious situation. During a panic attack, an individual might turn to drugs or alcohol to help mitigate the symptoms they are experiencing. Or, if they feel that a panic attack is coming on, they may start using it before it occurs. Attempting to avoid the fear and unrest that come with panic attacks can easily lead to a pattern of substance abuse. 

Problems Concentrating

Being unable to concentrate as needed can create several problems for a person. It can also lead to an increase in irritability and frustration. Having an anxiety disorder often causes people to struggle with concentrating on the things around them, as their minds may already be preoccupied with worries, concerns, intrusive thoughts, or more. Abusing a drug like Adderall or cocaine may seem to kill two birds with one stone, as it can help increase concentration while also numbing negative emotions surrounding the inability to concentrate. 

How Can Substance Abuse Affect Anxiety?

In some cases where an anxiety disorder and substance abuse occur at the same time, the primary issue is substance abuse. Whether a person develops anxiety because of their substance abuse or their substance abuse makes their anxiety worse, it is likely that experiencing both at the same time will cause some level of chaos.

Drugs and alcohol can affect anxiety in a number of ways, especially depending on what kind of mind-altering substance is being abused. 

Stimulants and Anxiety 

Stimulants are drugs that stimulate the central nervous system. Drugs like Adderall, cocaine, crack, and meth are all stimulants. When stimulants are being abused, they produce effects that include:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased respiratory rate
  • Excessive talking
  • Endless energy

This dramatic shift upwards for the central nervous system may be euphoric for some time but often leaves people feeling jittery and paranoid. Symptoms of anxiety such as excessive worry, feeling of impending doom, and trembling can all develop once a stimulant high has ceased. Continuing to abuse stimulants can cause anxiety symptoms to become constant, making the situation more complicated.

Depressants and Anxiety

Having an anxiety disorder and substance abuse problem can become a common combination for people who abuse depressants like alcohol, heroin, or other opioids. That is because, unlike stimulants, depressants work to slow the central nervous system. Therefore, in between highs, individuals become more likely to experience symptoms of anxiety as their brains and bodies work to continually function. This is common in those who abuse depressants, but even more common in those who are addicted to them.

Anxiety Disorder and Substance Abuse Treatment in Redondo Beach

If you are experiencing an anxiety disorder and substance abuse problems, reach out to us at Clear Behavioral Health right now. Our team of specialists will work directly with you to develop a care plan that meets your unique needs.

Do not wait any longer. Call us today.

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