There are a lot of people who are struggling because of anxiety, and many of them are also addicted to drugs and/or alcohol. Researchers have known for a very long time that they often go hand-in-hand. Sadly, a lot of people never get the treatment they need to help improve their conditions and recover.
Anxiety disorders can be debilitating. It should come as no surprise that so many people turn to drugs and alcohol as a way to cope. For a lot of them, it becomes a way to self-medicate their symptoms so they feel better, at least temporarily.
Co-occurring disorders like anxiety have gotten much too common. It is easy for people to believe that they are stuck in their situations with no real way out. We want to help them understand the significance of the link between anxiety and addiction and learn how they can get the treatment they need.
Co-Occurring Disorder Statistics and Facts
A lot of people who are addicted to drugs and alcohol do not realize they have co-occurring disorders. This means that they have a mental health issue that could be the main reason behind their substance abuse problems. They started using drugs and alcohol as a way to cope with their symptoms.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse has stated that there are 7.7 million people who have both a mental health issue and substance abuse disorder. They also provided the following statistics:
- There are 42.1 million people with mental illnesses, and of that number, 18.2% of them also have a substance abuse disorder.
- There are 20.3 million people who have substance abuse disorders, and 37.9% of them also have mental health conditions.
- 9.1% of those who have co-occurring disorders get the treatment they need to recover.
- It is far more common for people to receive mental health treatment only (34.5%) or substance abuse treatment only (3.9%).
- A whopping 52.5% of people never get either type of treatment.
- This is often because they did not know where to get the help they needed (23.8%).
- 23% believe that they could handle their conditions on their own without treatment.
What is Anxiety?
Most people have experienced anxiety on some level. They may have had it when they had a problem at work, or when they were faced with an important decision they had to make. But an anxiety disorder is much different; it is more than just fears or worries that are only there temporarily. Someone with an anxiety disorder will experience these feelings all the time, even when there appears to be nothing to be anxious about.
The symptoms of anxiety can greatly interfere with people’s lives in every aspect. They may struggle with getting or keeping jobs, have difficulty in their relationships or find school work extremely difficult to focus on.
What Causes Anxiety?
There are many factors that can lead to someone being diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. According to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America, anxiety can be caused by:
- Genetic factors – Anxiety tends to run in families, so if a person has a close relative who suffers with it, they may have a higher chance of having it as well.
- Biological factors – Hormone and neurotransmitter imbalances can lead to anxiety disorders in some people.
- Personality factors – Some people are simply prone to be more anxious than others. This type of personality may have developed because of what adults modeled for these individuals during childhood.
- Life events – People who have lived through traumatic events may find that they eventually get diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.
What Types of Anxiety Disorders are There?
The term, anxiety disorder, is a blanket term used to cover a range of mental health issues that all fall into this category. There are various types of anxiety disorders, and they include:
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Generalized anxiety disorder, or GAD, refers to chronic anxiety and exaggerated worry. This is a constant state of feeling anxious, even when there appears to be no reason for it.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD, refers to the constant presence of obsessions and repetitive behaviors. Handwashing, counting, cleaning and checking are just some of the behaviors people engage in with the hope of calming their symptoms.
Panic disorder is a type of anxiety disorder that involves repeated episodes of fear that occur suddenly, without warning. Panic attacks often have physical symptoms as well, such as an upset stomach, heart palpitations and even chest pain.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is a mental health condition that can develop after a person is exposed to some type of trauma. Veterans who have seen military combat are often diagnosed with PTSD, but it can happen to anyone following a traumatic event.
Social Phobia (Social Anxiety Disorder)
Social phobia is a type of anxiety disorder that produces self-consciousness and overwhelmingly worried thoughts in normal social situations. For some people, it may be limited to just one type of social interaction, such as having to speak publicly. But it can also be more broad as well.
What Types of Drugs do People with Anxiety Tend to Use Most?
People who struggle with anxiety may not choose to use stimulant drugs because they can actually make their symptoms worse. Instead, they typically opt for depressant drugs, such as:
These drugs will slow the system down, giving them the relief they want from their symptoms, at least temporarily. People usually find that the relief does not last long, and they need to increase how much they are using, or add additional drugs or alcohol into the mix.
Getting Dual Diagnosis Treatment for an Anxiety Disorder and Substance Abuse
In order for addiction recovery be successful for someone with anxiety or any other co-occurring disorder, dual diagnosis treatment is needed. Many rehabilitation facilities offer this type of care because otherwise, people are very likely to end up relapsing in the future.
Dual diagnosis treatment addresses both the substance abuse problem and the mental health condition at the same time. People learn how their mental health has driven their choices to abuse drugs and alcohol as a form of self-medication. But the best part is that with proper treatment of anxiety, those individuals will have less reason to abuse substances.