The Link Between Anxiety and Addiction
Anxiety contains a wide range of symptoms and conditions, and it affects millions of people across the world. When confronting anxiety in tandem with addiction, it is important to grasp the full scope of anxiety and how it’s linked to substance abuse.
For most people, the concept of anxiety means having feelings of worry or dread, especially about an upcoming event where the outcome is unknown. These events can range from exams, to job interviews, to sports games, and important conversations.
However, this understanding of anxiety rarely scratches the surface of what it actually means. There are a number of mental health conditions that are categorized together under the umbrella term of anxiety disorders. The core component of these disorders is that they drastically impact the affected person’s life in a negative way. Their symptoms often render people powerless to prevent or even control them once they have taken effect. People who suffer from anxiety disorders differ from people who experience anxious moments in that those with a disorder cannot stop the effects of their anxiety disrupting their everyday life. Anything the person with an anxiety disorder engages in can be interrupted with a debilitating sense of panic, stress and foreboding. Whereas, a person who happens to have an anxious moment will be able to go about their day normally once the crisis passes.
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) states that anxiety disorders “frequently travel in the company” of alcohol or drug abuse. Substances are often used as a manner of self-medicating to numb the effects of anxiety. Substances can work to make a person feel calmer, less inhibited, and more comfortable. Though the drugs or alcohol may bring short-lived relief, they can also create more anxiety.
Anxiety, when linked with addiction, takes away a person’s ability to know when too much is too much, or that any amount of a dangerous substance such as cocaine, can be lethal. They may lose the perspective that they have an anxiety disorder that needs treatment and therapy, and that drugs and alcohol are not conducive to their long-term relief.
Helping someone suffering from co-occurring anxiety and addiction can begin by first recognizing the behavioral changes that take place. If someone starts losing interest in things they once enjoyed, if their personality changes, and if they depend upon the use of alcohol or drugs, behavioral health treatment should be introduced as an intervention. Anxiety medications may be required as well as therapy like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) as a means to treat the anxiety while they are also being treated for substance abuse.
Long-term recovery from a co-occurring disorder such as anxiety and addiction is absolutely possible. The right tools are available daily and help is ready now. Remember that those suffering from an anxiety disorder cannot relieve their anxiety by being comforted nor admonished and shamed. What they feel isn’t passing; it’s constant. With the right level of support, they can overcome anxiety and addiction to lead happy, healthy, productive lives.