Anxiety and Addiction

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Anxiety & Addiction Treatment

Anxiety disorders and substance use disorders are some of the most common mental health problems in the United States. Anxiety disorders affect 28.8% of US adults in their lifetime, while substance use disorders affect 14.6% of US adults in their lifetime.

The co-occurrence of these mental health disorders can be commonly seen. In fact, people with an anxiety disorder are about twice as likely to develop a substance use disorder. Although addiction is often viewed as a lack of willpower, it is actually characterized as a mental health disorder just like anxiety.

What Are Anxiety Disorders?

Worry and occasional anxiety are normal and usually temporary parts of life. Anxiety disorders, however, are characterized by constant worry or fear that begin to interfere with everyday life. The symptoms of anxiety can be displayed in a physical or mental way.

The types of anxiety disorders include: 

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) – persistent worry over everyday things in life that is out of proportion to the actual circumstances
Social Anxiety Disorder – high levels of anxiety, fear, or avoidance of social situations because of feelings of embarrassment, self-conscious, or being judged
Panic Disorder – panic attacks are common with this disorder and can manifest in physical symptoms that mimic a heart attack like chest pain, shortness of breath, or feelings of impending doom
Specific Phobias – major anxiety when exposed to a certain object or situation that is desired to be avoided that can provoke panic attacks
Selective Mutism – inability to speak in certain circumstances due to fear but the ability to speak in other circumstances that cause no fear or nervousness (most common in children)
Agoraphobia – fear and avoidance of places or events that may cause feelings of being trapped, helpless, or embarrassed
Separation Anxiety Disorder (SAD) – major anxiety due to excessive fear of separation from parents or loved ones that is most common in children

Causes & Risk Factors of Anxiety Disorders

There is no one cause of an anxiety disorder, but certain factors can increase the risk of developing this mental health disorder.

Risk factors include but are not limited to:

Other mental health disorders – presence of other mental health disorders can increase the risk of developing anxiety disorders
Drugs and alcohol – the use of substances can trigger anxiety or cause anxiety. Even caffeine can increase anxiety symptoms
Genetics – having blood relatives who struggle with anxiety or another mental health disorder increases the risk of developing an anxiety disorder
Trauma – traumatic experiences and events that lead to PTSD can increase the risk of anxiety and anxiety symptoms
Stress – prolonged and excessive stress can increase the risk of developing anxiety and can contribute to the cause of anxiety disorders
Personality – perfectionism, being hypercritical, having difficulty with criticism, and the tendency to feel negative emotions can increase the potential for developing anxiety disorders
Anxiety Causes and Risk Factors in San Diego CA

Causes & Risk Factors of Addiction

Multiple factors can increase the risk of developing an addiction to drugs or alcohol, but there is no one cause for this disorder.

Risk factors or causes can include:

Genetics – having blood relatives who struggle with addiction can increase the risk of developing an addiction
Mental health disorders – underlying mental health conditions can increase the risk for addiction. Addiction can also cause the severity of the mental health condition to worsen.
Lack of family support – abuse or neglect from parents or loved ones can increase the risk of addiction and can cause the use of drugs or alcohol to cope with emotions
Early use – starting to drink or use drugs at a young age can impact the way the brain develops making the risk of developing a mental health condition or addiction greater
Peer pressure – availability of the substance in social groups and among friends can increase the risk of developing an addiction to drugs or alcohol (especially among young people)

Dual Diagnosis: Anxiety & Addiction

Dual diagnosis is characterized as having both a mental health disorder and an addiction to drugs or alcohol at the same time. Anxiety and addiction are among the most prevalent psychiatric disorders in the United States and commonly occur at the same time. The co-occurrence of anxiety and addiction can cause more severe symptoms of both disorders and greater limitations in daily life.

A risk factor for addiction is anxiety disorders, while a risk factor for anxiety is addiction. Using drugs or alcohol to treat symptoms of anxiety can actually make anxiety symptoms more severe and create a vicious cycle. Mental health disorder symptoms can emerge after abusing drugs or alcohol.

Dual Diagnosis of Anxiety and Addiction in San Diego CA

Treatment for Anxiety & Addiction

Dual diagnosis treatment is the best solution when an individual is suffering from anxiety and addiction at the same time. Treating both disorders at once provides a better success rate. If the mental health disorder is left untreated, often after finding recovery from addiction the mental illness symptoms can get worse.

If you or a loved one are struggling with anxiety and addiction, reach out to Healthy Life Recovery today. Healthy Life in San Diego, CA, offers dual diagnosis treatment to best treat both disorders at the same time. Therapeutic and holistic modalities are used to treat addiction and anxiety.

Dr. Sanajai Thankachen

Medically Reviewed By:

Dr. Sanjai Thankachen

Dr. Sanjai Thankachen graduated from Adichunchanagiri Institute of Medicine in 2000. He completed his residency in psychiatry in 2008 at Creedmoor Psychiatric Center in New York. Dr. Thankachen is currently working with Pacific Neuropsychiatric Specialists in an outpatient practice, as well as working at multiple in-patient psychiatric and medical units bringing his patients the most advanced healthcare treatment in psychiatry. Dr. Thankachen sees patients with an array of disorders, including depression, bipolar illness, schizophrenia, anxiety, and dementia-related problems.

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Dr. Sanajai Thankachen

Edited for Clinical Accuracy By:

Sean Leonard, Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner

Sean Leonard is a board-certified psychiatric nurse practitioner. He received his master’s degree in adult geriatric primary care nurse practitioner from Walden University and a second postmaster specialty in psychiatry mental health nurse practitioner from Rocky Mountain University. Sean has experience working in various diverse settings, including an outpatient clinic, inpatient detox and rehab, psychiatric emergency, and dual diagnosis programs. His specialty areas include substance abuse, depression, anxiety, mood disorders, PTSD, ADHD, and OCD.

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