There are a number of mental health conditions that are categorized under the umbrella term of anxiety disorders. Generalized anxiety disorder or “GAD” is usually diagnosed between childhood and middle age. Yet, anyone at any age can be diagnosed with this disorder. GAD typically manifests itself as mild symptoms of anxiety, which become worse over time.
According to the National Institute on Mental Health, more Americans suffer from anxiety disorders than from any other type of mental illness, with over 18 percent of adults in the US experiencing some form of anxiety.
So, how do you recognize if your addiction is causing you additional anxiety or if you have developed a a diagnosable anxiety disorder?
Symptoms of addiction or having a substance use disorder can aggregate and magnify anxious symptoms very easily. People with addiction issues can develop symptoms of anxiety such as:
- Expecting the worst
- Worrying excessively
- Inability to relax
- Muscle tension
- Hot flashes
In return, the symptoms of one disorder can make the symptoms of another disorder worse. For example, an anxiety disorder may lead to using alcohol or other substances to self-medicate or alleviate anxiety symptoms. The co-occurrence of substance abuse, particularly alcohol abuse, is common among people who have social anxiety disorder.
Anxiety.org summarizes the link between anxiety and substance use disorder as such, “the observation that anxiety causes addiction presents a unique treatment challenge. In fact, it is a challenge similar to most co-occurring disorders: treating substance abuse without treating the co-occurring disorder can lead to higher rates of relapse. Let’s take another look at the study in Psychiatric Services of 326 patients with substance abuse disorder. The study question was how do co-occurring disorders like anxiety and depression influence relapse. In this group, 73 percent of people who were without anxiety or depression remained substance-free six months after treatment. But for people with anxiety accompanying their addiction, only 40 percent remained abstinent at the six-month point.” (anxiety.org)
If you think you might have generalized anxiety disorder, or a type of anxiety disorder, it is recommended to seek professional help to get a diagnosis and continue to see a professional to help manage their conditions. If left untreated, these conditions can become more severe and negatively impact a person’s life for years. If you are actively seeking treatment for addiction and feel as though you might be experiencing symptoms of anxiety, sharing your concerns within a safe setting such as group therapy with your peers might allow others to ensure you that you are not on this journey alone. Advice from peers can go a long way, especially when dealing with feelings of anxiousness. If broaching this subject in a group setting makes you uneasy, speak with your individual counselor. Counselors are trained to be educated regarding anxiety and anxiety disorders, and they can help you address these feelings and emotions on a deeper level.
Our very own Peer Recovery Support Specialist turned Counselor, Matt Peterson, leaves us with a powerful quote about anxiety,
“Anxiety is simply fear of the future. Fear of the unknown. Fear that you are not good enough. Fear of anything that you may or may not be in control of. This can be dangerous for someone in recovery, for fear is a powerful justification to pick back up. Breathe, stay focused on what YOU CAN control, and keep moving forward!”