Anxiety & Addiction

What is Anxiety? 

An anxiety disorder is a mental illness that causes feelings of unease, worry, insecurity, or fear. Anxiety is a symptom of multiple disorders, but it is possible to suffer disorders related to chronic anxiety or have generalized anxiety alone. 

Feeling anxious about current or upcoming events in life is perfectly normal. But some people find themselves experiencing feelings of anxiety in settings where that should not be happening. Or they may experience feelings of anxiety for long periods of time. That might be a sign that something is wrong, and that this is not a common case of the nerves.

Anxiety disorders can happen to anyone, at different ages, and can come in many different diagnoses. While the intensity and kinds of symptoms experienced may change from person to person, the most common ones are:

  • Nervousness and tension
  • Feelings of imminent danger, panic or doom without there necessarily being any threats
  • Increased heart rate and respiration (hyperventilation)
  • Shaking, trembling, or chills
  • Weakness or tiredness
  • Problems with concentration and/or only thinking about what’s causing worries
  • Changes in eating and sleeping habits (either too much or too little)
  • Experiencing gastrointestinal problems
  • Unusual changes in mood (irritability, moodiness, etc)
  • Feeling the need to avoid things, people, or places that might trigger anxiety

What is most important to understand is that suffering from an anxiety disorder is not just feeling anxious. Instead, it means that the person is not able to truly calm down or control their worries. Often, the disorder triggers levels of anxiety that are not “reasonable” to the situation. 

While we often talk about anxiety on its own, it is important to understand that there are multiple disorders that fall under the anxiety disorder category. Agoraphobia, panic disorder, social anxiety, substance-induced anxiety disorder, and phobias are some of the illnesses classified as anxiety disorders. It is much more complex than simple feelings of anxiety and should be taken seriously, considering its possible effects.

Anxiety in Maryland And The U.S.

Anxiety is the most common mental disorder in the U.S. right now. Almost 1 in every 5 people in the country suffer from it (specifically, 18% of the population). In fact, even on a global scale, anxiety is the most frequently diagnosed disorder. Specific phobias, major depressive disorder, and social phobia are the most common disorders in the world.

Most anxiety disorders can start to manifest even when the person is still young. In the U.S., 8% of children or teenagers can start developing an anxiety disorder as they start experiencing symptoms before the age of 21. The average age of onset for anxiety disorders is actually 11 years old. 

Although it is treatable and it is the most commonly diagnosed disorder, most people do not get treated for it – only 36.9% of those suffering from it receive treatment. Across all age groups in the U.S., it is only the third disorder most often reported by those who did receive mental health services. The prevalence of anxiety disorder symptoms for one year is 16%, while the rate for lifelong prevalence is at 28%. 

Major depression episodes (MDE), which are also linked to anxiety, have been registered in the state of Maryland even among youths. In Maryland, 9.4% of youths were diagnosed with severe MDE in the past year. Nonetheless, about 55.6% of them were not treated for it. Adults also don’t always receive treatment in Maryland. 59.5% of them reported not receiving treatment for any of their mental illnesses, not just those suffering from anxiety. 

Anxiety And Addiction

Unfortunately, it is not rare for people to experience both anxiety and addiction, and cases are quite common. Just as it is with anxiety, addiction is also considered a brain disease, referred to as a substance use disorder (SUD). To better understand it: addiction disorders affect the way the brain is wired. It also damages parts of it that are linked to decision making, judgment, behavior, managing chemical and neurological balances, etc.

Studies related to anxiety and addiction specifically have stated that the link between the two disorders is relatively strong. A study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information found that 17.7% of participants suffering from SUDs were also diagnosed with anxiety, and simultaneously, 15% of people previously diagnosed with anxiety also suffered from a co-occurring SUD. 

The same study stated that marijuana, cocaine, amphetamine, hallucinogens, and sedatives were more often the drugs of choice of people suffering from anxiety disorders and addiction, in that order. When compared to alcohol use disorder, the link between anxiety and drug addiction was considered stronger by the study. 

Understanding Dual Diagnosis

A person who suffers from anxiety and addiction is considered a dual-diagnosis patient. This means that they suffer from two disorders simultaneously, one being a substance use disorder, and the other, a psychiatric one. This condition is also called comorbidity, and these disorders are called “co-occurring” disorders (CODs). 

About 60% of people who suffer from a substance disorder have also been diagnosed with a mental illness. This means that co-occurring cases of mental disorders like anxiety and addiction happen more often than single-diagnosis ones. The possible “pairings” for dual-diagnosis cases can be comprised of any substance use disorder and any other psychiatric disorder, such as depression and alcoholism, anxiety and drug addiction, etc.

Receiving an early diagnosis for an anxiety disorder is a way to prevent both severe symptoms of the illness as well as the development of substance abuse disorders. A study published by the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology found that children who received treatment for anxiety were less likely to turn to substance abuse years later. If there is a family history of either disorder and symptoms start occurring, it might be a sign of a disorder developing.

Both disorders affect each other, but it might be tricky to know which one might have started first. The reasons why someone might turn to substance abuse are examples of how anxiety and substance abuse can be linked: needing to escape fear, wanting to not feel nervous, or simply acting on impulse after being worn out by anxiety symptoms. Likewise, consuming drugs or alcohol at an early age might help speed up the process of development of a substance use disorder.

Is There Treatment For Anxiety and Addiction?

Dual-diagnosis disorders such as anxiety and addiction can be treated. Treatment for these cases will require that they be diagnosed, addressed, and tracked separately since they are different disorders. But the treatment program should be properly prescribed and followed in order to be fully effective, so as to avoid making symptoms of the anxiety disorder worse and avoid a substance abuse relapse. 

The kind of treatment will depend on the severity of both the anxiety and addiction disorders. Initially, in the case of recent substance use, detoxification might be required. This can be done both “naturally” or with medical assistance, as withdrawal symptoms might be too intense for the patient. For those who suffer from anxiety, it is both likely and probable that they will experience increased anxiety during detox. 

The Treatment Program Options For Anxiety and Addiction

Once detoxification is done, the treatment can begin. If the patient meets the diagnostic criteria, inpatient treatment might be recommended. In this case, the patient would receive round-the-clock medical supervision as they have to stay in the facility until the program is over. They would go through psychiatric and medical assessments and treatment, and they’d participate in any extra activities provided by the clinic.

Anyone that does not need inpatient treatment, or patients who have undergone inpatient treatment and want a gradual transition into their routines, can choose an outpatient program option. During these programs, individuals can go back home every day. They only need to come to the clinic for their sessions and appointments. This way, they can keep to their daily lives and obligations while also receiving treatment for anxiety and addiction.

There are different service settings for the outpatient treatment category, including programs like partial hospitalization and intensive outpatient programs. The former requires almost daily visits that can last up to 12 hours or so. The latter, only a few, short visits per week with a usual minimum of thrice a week for three hours on average.

Besides medical and psychiatric aid, activities such as group therapy, counseling, and even nutrition and exercise plans can help. Treatment for both anxiety and substance abuse goes beyond the program and lasts a lifetime. Therefore, it is important to take advantage of multiple activities that can help improve mental health and deal with the process of becoming sober. 


Get Help Right Now at The Freedom Center

No matter what disorder you might be struggling with or how many, treatment is a possibility. If you are looking for treatment for yourself or a loved one, we at The Freedom Center can help. We offer multiple options that can include a dual diagnosis plan. Our medical team will make an assessment in order to design the perfect treatment plan for your needs.

From psychiatric help to group activities and holistic treatment, we believe in using every tool possible to help you become addiction-free. Visit our website to learn more about our center and contact us today by calling (888) 530-5023. We can discuss all of your questions and concerns so you can be sure you are making the best choice for yourself and for your treatment.

Break Free From Addiction

At our substance abuse treatment center in Maryland, we do our best to meet each individual where they’re at. Each person comes with a different mold - a different struggle. The best way we can help them is to offer them care that is unique to their own situation; there is no one-size-fits-all method to substance abuse treatment. This is why individualized care is so important to us. If you or a loved one are interested in finding out more, you can contact us here. 

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