Generalized Anxiety and Addiction

Generalized Anxiety, Anxiety Disorders, and Addiction – Anxiety is a natural reaction that is produced from the brain’s “fight or flight” response mechanism. For instance, people may feel anxious in dangerous situations or before making major decisions.

For some, though, anxiety is not merely a transient concern—it tends to be pervasive and may increase in severity over time. As a result, symptoms start to interfere with a person’s functioning and day-to-day activities and responsibilities such as academics, work, and relationships. What’s more is that many individuals with these conditions turn to drugs and alcohol to cope with the symptoms, which can lead them into a devastating addiction.

What Is Generalized Anxiety Disorder?

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), is a condition hallmarked by chronic anxiety and excessive worry and stress, even in situations where there is little to provoke it.

People who are diagnosed with GAD exhibit undue anxiety or distress on a regular basis for at least six months. These worries can be related to any number of issues, including health, work, social interactions, and everyday life circumstances. Indeed, this anxiety can, in turn, result in noticeable problems in many of these same areas of life.

GAD symptoms may include the following:

  • Feeling restless or on edge
  • Being easily fatigued
  • Being irritable or agitated
  • Feeling muscle tension
  • Having difficulty concentrating and focusing
  • Difficulty controlling anxious feelings
  • Feeling overwhelmed during tasks
  • Having insomnia or sleep disturbances

Other Anxiety Disorders Associated with Addiction

Panic Disorder

Panic attacks can be wholly spontaneous but are most often initiated by some particular fear of a situation, thing, or person, such as flying in an airplane during extreme turbulence.

Panic can be a very debilitating condition and is characterized by sudden, repeated episodes of intense dread and feelings of impending doom or having a lack of control. These feelings are often accompanied by physical symptoms comparable to death-like terror, including an accelerated heartbeat and palpitations, shortness of breath, chest pain, dizziness, sweating, crying, and trembling or shaking.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

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Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a condition characterized by chronic, unwanted thoughts and obsessions as well as compulsive, repetitive behaviors. These behaviors may include excessive hand-washing, cleaning, counting, neatly ordering everything in one’s environment, and the strict performance of routines in an effort to repress these thoughts.

Anxious feelings, however, only get a brief reprieve through the practice of these rituals, and yet, not performing them exacerbates anxiety. Moreover, a person with OCD experiences little or no pleasure from performing these behaviors and may only receive short-term relief from the stress caused by the intrusive thoughts associated with them.

Common symptoms of OCD include the following:

  • Germophobia, or a fear of germs or contamination, resulting in excessive washing
  • Unwanted or forbidden thoughts and feelings involving sex, religion, or self-harm
  • Aggressive thoughts aimed at oneself or others
  • Having things placed symmetrically or in a precise order, arranging things in an exact way
  • Repeated checking on things, such as frequently assuring oneself that the door is locked or that the oven is turned off
  • Compulsive counting

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a condition that can manifest after a person has lived through a psychologically catastrophic event in which physical or profound emotional harm occurred in some way. Such events include physical or sexual assault, childhood neglect, natural disasters, and military combat.

The feeling of fear and anxiety during and after a traumatic event is natural and serves the purpose of protecting us from harm. However, individuals with PTSD chronically experience these feelings during situations that are in reality non-threatening.

Signs and Symptoms of PSTD

Not every person who experiences trauma suffers from PTSD, and not everyone with PTSD has been directly exposed to a life-threatening event. For instance, some people can develop PTSD after the death of a family member or other loved one.

Symptoms usually onset within three months of the event, but sometimes lay dormant until years later. In any case, symptoms must persist for more than 30 days and be severe enough to interfere with relationships, academics, or career.

Diagnosing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

To be diagnosed with PTSD, a person must present with each of the following for at least one month:

  1.  At least one reexperiencing symptom such as a flashback or nightmare
  2. At least one avoidance symptom, such as avoiding places or events that remind the person of the experience
  3. At least two reactivity or arousal symptoms, such as being easily startled or having explosive outbursts
  4. At least two mood or cognition symptoms, such as having negative thoughts about oneself or the world, or having feelings like shame or self-blame

A phobia is an intense fear of a specific object (e.g., needles or blood), a living thing (e.g., spider or snake), or situation (e.g., flying or being in a confined space). Anxiety may be considered normal in many of these circumstances, but people with phobias experience terror that is grossly out of proportion to a situation’s actual potential for danger.

People with a phobia may exhibit the following signs:

  • Having an illogical or unrealistic worry about being exposed to the object or circumstances they fear
  • Making a concerted effort to avoid the object or situation
  • Experiencing abrupt and intense anxiety when encountering the object or situation
  • Enduring unavoidable objects or conditions while experiencing severe anxiety and fear

Most people get nervous in the spotlight, but for individuals with social anxiety, their concerns can cause them to evade most normal social situations, including school, work, and even family gatherings. People with social anxiety can also suffer from agoraphobia, a condition that, in extreme cases, can result in a person being self-imprisoned in his or her own home.

Social anxiety disorder  This condition, which is sometimes referred to as social phobia, is characterized by an intense fear of social situations or circumstances in which the person has to perform or speak in front of others. They worry that others will unfavorably judge behaviors related to their anxiety and that they will end up feeling humiliated.

Most people get nervous in the spotlight, but for individuals with social anxiety, their concerns can cause them to evade most normal social situations, including school, work, and even family gatherings. People with social anxiety can also suffer from agoraphobia, a condition that, in extreme cases, can result in a person being self-imprisoned in his or her own home.

Separation anxiety disorder  This condition is hallmarked by a fear of being apart from a person or persons to whom one is emotionally attached. This condition is more prevalent in children, but adults can also experience it. The person worries that some harm or other adverse event will occur when their attachment figure is away, and this fear compels them to avoid being separated from this parent or caregiver.

Anxiety Disorders and Substance Abuse Treatment

Substance use disorders (SUDs) occur much more often in patients with anxiety disorders than those in the general population. Anxiety disorders, when left unaddressed, often lead people to experiment with intoxicating substances as a means to self-medicate. Symptoms induced by these substances, such as depression, irritability, and general malaise, often make anxiety disorders worse and can perpetuate a cycle of substance abuse and mental health struggles.

Addiction does not typically exist in a vacuum. Rather, it tends to co-exist with another mental health condition such as anxiety or depression. For this reason, a co-occurring mental illness must be addressed concurrently with substance abuse, and not treated as a separate entity.

Both anxiety and substance abuse can be treated through participation in an integrated, evidence-based program. Recovery in Tune offers comprehensive, outpatient addiction treatment that includes behavioral therapy, counseling, peer group support, health and wellness programs, and aftercare planning for the long-term maintenance of sobriety.

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