Addiction And Generalized Anxiety Disorder

One of the most common co-occurring disorders is substance use disorder and generalized anxiety disorder. The relationship between anxiety and drug addiction is often complicated, with one often being a symptom or the cause of the other. Treatment for co-occurring mental health disorders can come from dual diagnosis treatment.

There is a strong link between mental health disorders and addiction. In particular, substance abuse and generalized anxiety disorder often go hand in hand.

Though there is no clear answer as to what forms first, there is a rising prevalence of co-occurring disorders involving drug addiction and mental illness.

In many cases, co-occurring disorders worsen symptoms of anxiety and addiction. Dual diagnosis is one of the best treatment options for multiple mental health disorders.

Learn more about the relationship between substance misuse and anxiety disorders, as well as what you or a loved one can expect in dual diagnosis treatment.

What Is Generalized Anxiety Disorder?

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is a mental health disorder characterized by constantly feeling intense fear. People with GAD will carry anxiety throughout the day.

Some with a generalized anxiety disorder may have trouble handling responsibilities, such as work, relationships, and socializing with others.

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) states that a person must experience three or more symptoms of GAD every day over six months to be diagnosed with the disorder.

Some GAD symptoms are:

  • restlessness, tension, or agitation
  • trouble concentrating or keeping a train of thought
  • getting easily irritated
  • poor quality of sleep
  • becoming easily tired

Constantly feeling restless or fearful of the day and not getting adequate sleep can lead to many difficulties. Strains in relationships, work performance, and quality of life are common.

As anxiety builds, stress, depression, and loneliness can develop. Some may turn to unhealthy behaviors to relieve themselves, including drug or alcohol abuse.

What Is The Relationship Between Addiction And Anxiety?

Dealing with generalized anxiety can be debilitating. Some turn to drug use to self-medicate. Substances, such as opioids, benzodiazepines, and alcohol, may be used to alleviate symptoms of GAD.

While it may sound appealing to treat anxiety with substance abuse, drugs carry many risk factors. For one, the high from drugs can increase anxiety, confusion, and self-doubt, therefore exacerbating existing symptoms of GAD rather than relieving them.

As physical dependence on a substance grows, some may go to greater lengths to obtain more drugs. This can include abandoning responsibilities, committing crimes, or lying.

All of these actions may invoke more anxiety. Contrastly, GAD may form as a result of a substance use disorder.

Though not an anxious person at first, the lifestyle and impact drugs and alcohol have on the brain can make someone develop feelings of nervousness, fear, and alienation.

Overlap Of Generalized Anxiety Disorder And Addiction Symptoms

When co-occurring disorders, such as anxiety and addiction, are recognized in a patient, it’s never certain which came first.

Anxiety and addiction often feed into each other, so many symptoms of GAD and drug addiction may look the same.

Withdrawal symptoms from drug detox can also cause anxiety through drug cravings, fever-like side effects, and insomnia.

Below, we’ll explore similar psychological and physical symptoms of anxiety and addiction.

Physical Symptoms

Anxiety and drug addiction can lead to a number of physical side effects.

These include:

  • stomach and digestive issues
  • lightheadedness
  • headaches
  • sleep troubles
  • accelerated breathing
  • profusely sweating
  • fast heartbeat

Mental Symptoms

Anxiety and drugs disrupt neurotransmitters in the brain, creating many mental symptoms.

These include:

  • mood swings
  • isolation
  • fear, paranoia, and edginess
  • depression
  • extreme fatigue
  • restlessness
  • panic attacks
  • increased risk of developing other disorders

Common Substances Of Abuse With Generalized Anxiety Disorder

People with anxiety may use many drugs to feel less anxious and tense. Typically downers, such as prescribed or illicit opioids or alcohol, are used to offset irritability.

Drugs in the “downer” family make a person feel relaxed, uninhibited, and drowsy. Compared to stimulant drugs such as cocaine, which have a short-lived high, downers have longer-lasting effects.

However, downers are very powerful, and dependence can grow quickly. Alcohol abuse and detox symptoms from alcohol addiction are harsher in those with GAD.

How Often Do Substance Use Disorder And GAD Co-Occur?

The comorbidity of drug addiction and anxiety is high in the United States. Studies have found that people with social phobias and GAD are more likely to develop alcohol use disorders and other drug disorders.

A study by the American Psychological Association found that two to five of 10 anxious or depressed people also have some type of addiction.

Still, many feel that self-medicating through substances is an appropriate way to deal with anxiety. These disorders have a dangerous effect on each other that can lead to other issues.

Some risks of generalized anxiety and substance abuse are:

  • developing a social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, or other related conditions
  • alienation from family members
  • erratic or socially abnormal behavior
  • higher risk for relapse while in treatment

Dual Diagnosis Treatment For Generalized Anxiety Disorder And Addiction

With the rise of co-occurring disorders, treatment centers have developed new techniques to address unique patients.

Dual diagnosis treatment was developed to help people with two or more mental health disorders.

Clinicians treating people with substance abuse disorder and generalized anxiety disorder may use many different approaches to treat both conditions together.

Below, we’ll explore some of the most common techniques.

Using Medications For Anxiety And Substance Addiction

Medications can level chemical imbalances in the brain that result from an overload of fear and dopamine from anxiety and drug addiction.

Several medications are low to non-addictive and can help treat anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The most common are SSRIs and SNRIs, which include:

  • Prozac
  • Lexapro
  • Zoloft
  • Cymbalta
  • Effexor

Certain types of substance abuse may call for medications, depending on the family history of drug addiction and severity of symptoms. There is also medication for withdrawal symptoms.

Medications used in the drug treatment process may be:

  • naltrexone
  • buprenorphine
  • Suboxone
  • bupropion
  • methadone

Psychotherapy Methods For Addiction And Generalized Anxiety Symptoms

Talk therapy in the form of working with a psychologist, counselor, therapist, or group setting can help you get to the roots of addiction and develop healthy coping mechanisms for anxiety.

When people share their experiences, hear professional input, and learn from others, they often build community, find strength, and develop better habits.

Many treatment programs will incorporate these approaches in substance abuse therapy and anxiety treatment plans.

Some effective forms of clinical and peer-led talk therapies for substance misuse and anxiety are:

  • cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)
  • family therapy
  • support groups
  • 12-step meetings

Recover From Substance Abuse And Anxiety Today

Finding the right inpatient drug program in Massachusetts can help you or a loved one recover from substance abuse and manage anxiety.

We at Spring Hill Recovery Center have inpatient and intensive outpatient programs that can get you started on the path toward recovery.

Reach out to one of our specialists and learn what to expect at our accredited facility.

  1. Better Health Channel — Anxiety Disorders
  2. Centers For Disease Control And Prevention — Mental Health, Substance Use, And Suicidal Ideation During The COVID-19 Pandemic
  3. National Library Of Medicine — Anxiety Disorders With Comorbid Substance Use Disorders: Diagnostic And Treatment Considerations

Written by Spring Hill Recovery Editorial Team

© 2024 Spring Hill Recovery | All Rights Reserved

* This page does not provide medical advice.

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