Common Causes of Anxiety
Anxiety affects people of all ages and walks of life. It can be influenced by a number of circumstances, and it is so widespread that doctors cannot pinpoint an exact cause — it appears that some people are simply born with anxious personalities, while other risk factors can include family history of mental illness, gender and diet and exercise habits. But in most people, anxiety results from life events or patterns that trigger overactivity in anxiety-producing areas of the brain.
Substance abuse and addiction are consistently strongly linked to various forms of mental health disorders, including anxiety. When you flood your brain with chemicals like drugs and alcohol, you interfere with your brain’s ability to regulate your mood and responses to the outside world. Anxiety arises when the rush of pleasure and happiness from being drunk or high wears off, and your brain is left drained and susceptible to panicky feelings. Anxiety can be a symptom of addiction withdrawal, or it can become a long-term problem as the brain readjusts to sobriety after years spent frequently using drugs or alcohol.
Living through traumatic experiences such as the sudden loss of a loved one, an injury or illness or violence or war are also strongly linked to anxiety. When these events happen, the brain struggles to cope with the emotional aftermath and may be more likely to set off anxious responses to everyday situations. You may become more likely to experience anxious feelings in general, or you may find that particular situations set off a panic response because they bear some similarity to the traumatic experience.
Stress and Burnout
It is natural to respond to some stress with feelings of anxiety. When a stressful situation occurs, our brain registers that we are under pressure and responds accordingly. But when stress becomes a part of your everyday life — whether you have a high-pressure job or are overworked at school or at home — anxiety can also become a regular fixture. Anxiety disorders are therefore likely to appear or recur during stressful times of our lives.
Anxiety and Addiction
While a large percentage of Americans suffer from anxiety disorders to some degree, it is most prevalent among substance abusers and addicts. This is thought to be due mainly to the mind-altering properties that illicit drugs can possess. Many addictive substances are known to cause hallucinations and feelings of paranoia, which enhance anxiety.
People who suffer from anxiety disorder often have an acute and overwhelming attack of panic or fear. Many times, the fear is so intense that it leads to self-medication with sedatives, painkillers or opiate-based drugs. When the cycle continues, an addiction can be created. Behavior Research and Therapy published a study stating that 10-40 percent of people with panic disorder are alcoholics and 10-20 percent of people with panic disorders struggle with substance abuse.
For some people, the use of alcohol and drugs and the withdrawal from them can cause symptoms of anxiety. In these cases, the anxiety symptoms may be substance induced and the symptoms will subside with prolonged abstinence. For others, the symptoms of anxiety persist and may even worsen with prolonged abstinence thus making recovery more difficult. In either case, if the anxiety disorder is not dealt with as part of a substance abuse treatment program, it can be a contributing factor in a future relapse.