What is Anxiety?

a doctor talking to her patient about anxiety treatment program utMost people have feelings of anxiety at times of excitement or stress, such as before a big event, an important due date or a social engagement. These feelings of anxiety come from the brain’s production of flight or fight chemicals, such as adrenaline, that in our ancestors were produced during survival situations. In our relatively safe modern society, they are produced in response to less urgent triggers — but for most people, they come and go in response to particular, contained situations.

Anxiety disorders occur when the brain produces these feelings at times when there is no reason to do so. Disordered anxiety is characterized by chronic feelings of fear or worry that are not focused on any one object or situation. Those suffering from this mood disorder experience persistent, excessive and unrealistic anxiety about everyday matters. It can interfere with schooling, careers, relationships, and everyday activities. Recent surveys have found that as many as 18% of Americans may be affected by an anxiety disorder. Psychology Today says that one out of 75 Americans between the ages of 18 and 64 will experience a panic disorder at least once in their lifetime.

Specialized treatment is available to help people get these unwanted feelings under control and live life without the barrier of anxiety. Recovery Ways provides anxiety treatment in Salt Lake City, Utah, as part of our treatment programs for co-occurring mental health and substance abuse concerns.

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Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

May experience excessive anxiety for months and can feel irritable, fatigued, muscle tension, insomnia, difficulty concentrating, restlessness, and on edge. It can be debilitating but treatment can help them improve. The National Institute of Mental Health says about 6.8 million U.S. adults have GAD. GAD tends to start in childhood, get worse with time, and affects women more than men. The U.S. Surgeon General published a report stating that 25% of people with GAD will develop panic disorders.

To treat anxiety and substance abuse issues Recovery Ways offers the following programs:

Panic Disorder

Have panic attacks or unexpected periods of intense fear that can cause an irregular or increased heart rate, trembling, sweating, feeling unable to breathe and impending doom. They tend to avoid places they have had panic attacks at before, worry about when the next attack will occur, feel out of control during a panic attack, and have repeated attacks of intense fear. Most attacks last for about 10 minutes and the average person will have at least one attack per week for at least four weeks.

Social Anxiety Disorder (Social Phobia)

Feel frightened by social or performing situations where they expect to feel rejected, embarrassed, judged, or offend others. They often have difficulty talking to others or being with others, feel nauseous around others, worry for days or weeks before a social event, feel very self-conscious in front of others, have difficulty making and keeping new friends, and are very afraid of others judgement.


Certain objects, events, and places can create powerful irrational fear. Most people have a specific phobia with several triggers. Depending on the number of triggers and the type of phobia, the phobia can take over the person’s life in their attempt to avoid it.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Intrusive and repeated rituals or thoughts that cause fear and seem impossible to control. They are compulsively repeated behaviors such as hand washing, organizing, or counting items that can take over the person’s life. Performing these behaviors brings temporary relief but soon after the anxiety returns. The Wexner Medical Center says OCD affects about 2.2 million Americans.

Symptoms of Anxiety

The symptoms of anxiety will vary on the type and intensity of the anxiety. Most anxiety disorders include a persistent, excessive fear in situations that are not threatening and these similar symptoms.

  • Lack of energy
  • Feelings of dread
  • Muscle aches
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Inability to stay asleep or sleep soundly
  • Inability to get out of bed
  • Trembling
  • Panic attacks with increased heart rate, breathing, and sweating
  • Restlessness
  • Gastrointestinal issues (nausea, cramping, vomiting)

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

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.

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Treating Anxiety and Substance Abuse

At Recovery Ways, we recognize that anxiety and substance abuse often go hand in hand. Research shows that one in three people with anxiety also suffer from substance abuse or dependence. So, each patient is thoroughly assessed to ensure that both the chemical dependence and mood disorder are being treated. Recovery Ways provides the therapy necessary to help patients adjust and cope with their feelings of anxiousness. Through one-on-one mentoring, group mentoring, and medical intervention when necessary, patients learn to break through the feelings of their anxiety disorder and see a new way of living more clearly.

Treating mental health issues and anxiety coupled with addiction.
All anxiety treatment and other treatment programs at Recovery Ways include individualized care and personalized treatment plans, multiple weekly group and individual therapy. We know that anxiety can be a major factor in relapse, so we make it a priority to give patients all the resources they need to continue treatment for anxiety and substance dependency after they leave our program.

Anxiety and Addiction Treatment in Utah

Recovery Ways, accredited by the Joint Commission, offers treatment excellence to those suffering from substance use and mental health disorders including anxiety treatment in the Salt Lake City, Utah area. If you or your loved one is struggling with anxiety and addiction, please contact us today for help finding a dual diagnosis program. To reach our admissions team please call 888.986.7848.