Anxiety is one of the most common disorders among adults in the United States. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, anxiety disorders affect some 40 million adults aged 18 and older—that’s 18% of the population! Despite it being highly treatable, only one-third of anxiety sufferers receive treatment. Those who suffer carry a much higher risk of depression, suicidal thoughts, and addiction which is the reason to try detox at this Florida based facility for those who need it.
The thing about anxiety is that it’s different for everyone. It’s a blanket term that includes eight different brands of the illness plus related illnesses. Before we can address the risk of addiction that accompanies anxiety, we need a clear picture of just what anxiety is. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (AADA) anxiety includes:
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder: Also known as GAD, generalized anxiety disorder impacts upward to 3.1% (6.8 million) of the population. Women are twice as likely to be diagnosed with GAD.
- Panic Disorder: It is estimated that 2.7% (6 million) of the US population has a panic disorder. Women are twice as likely to develop the disorder, and people who suffer from it are much more likely to have or develop major depression.
- Social Anxiety Disorder: People with SAD equate the disorder to raw, irrational fear. 6.8% (15 million) of the population, equally composed of men and women, cope with SAD. It typically manifests around the age of 13. The ADAA conducted a survey in 2007 that revealed 36% of those affected experienced symptoms for 10+ years before seeking help.
- Specific Phobias:7% (19 million) of Americans report specific anxiety phobias. Onset usually occurs at the median age of 7, and women are twice as likely to be affected.
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: OCD is present in roughly 1% (2.2 million) of the US population. It is equally common among men and women with an onset age of approximately 19.
- Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: PTSD is not limited to veterans and law enforcement, although those in these fields are at a greater risk of developing the disorder. 3.5% (7.7 million) of the population have known cases of PTSD. It is most commonly triggered by rape with 45.9% of women and 65% of men developing the disorder post-trauma. Childhood sexual abuse is the leading predicator of chronic, lifelong PTSD.
- Major Depressive Disorder: With 6.7% (14.8 million) of American adults suffering from a major depressive disorder, it is the leading cause of disability for those aged 15 to 44. The median age onset is 32.5, but anyone can develop a major depressive disorder at any time during their lifespan. Women run a higher risk than men.
- Persistent Depressive Disorder: Sometimes referred to as PDD and formerly known as dysthymia, this form of depression usually sets in for a minimum of two years. It impacts 1.5% (3.3 million) of Americans over the age of 18 with the median onset age being 31.
- Related Illnesses: Anxiety disorders most often co-occur with other disorders or physical illnesses. These include substance abuse, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, headaches, sleep disorders, IBS, adult ADHD, BDD, fibromyalgia, stress, and chronic pain.
For people with anxiety, substance abuse is a real and serious risk. For the average citizen, moderate alcohol consumption isn’t concerning. For the person coping with anxiety, a single glass of wine with dinner or a night at the pub with friends can be a completely different story.
Substance Abuse and Anxiety: The Risk
According to the ADAA, roughly 20% of Americans with an anxiety or mood disorder have an alcohol or other substance use disorder. Alcohol can cause anxiety symptoms to worsen, but most sufferers fail to realize this. In fact, the 20% of Americans who have an alcohol or substance disorder coupled with anxiety are using the alcohol or substance of their choice to self-medicate their anxiety systems.
Anxiety is a harrowing illness. It strikes on a psychological level and cascades into an avalanche of emotions and thoughts. Much like an avalanche, it picks up speed, grows larger, and is uncontrollable. When an anxiety avalanche occurs, the sufferer is at the mercy of the course it takes, and they long for one simple thing that seems all too easily attained by everyone else around them: a calm harbor from the storm, a place where fear and pain cannot enter.
In the majority of sufferers, alcohol or substance abuse occurs after the development of anxiety. The release of dopamine that accompanies the buzz of intoxication or the high of a drug provides a temporary reprieve from the constant pain and uncertainty of anxiety. But the reprieve comes at great cost:
- Alcohol can lessen social anxiety, but as and after its effects wear off, symptoms are amplified and prompt more frequent alcohol use—the predicator to tolerance and dependence.
- Alcohol can ease the anxiety, restlessness, and sleeplessness of PTSD, but it can also cause a substance addiction or an addiction relapse.
- Alcohol or drugs can trigger panic attacks, making it especially dangerous for those with panic disorders, many of whom are undiagnosed.
The type of anxiety disorder a person sufferers from makes little difference in the impact of alcohol or drugs. While a temporary reprieve from the anxiety avalanche results, it will roar forth with greater velocity and viciousness once the substance’s affects wear off. This is what makes alcohol and drug use so dangerous for those with anxiety disorders.
The treatment of substance abuse does not eliminate an anxiety disorder. Both require treatment. For some, anxiety is a byproduct of addiction. For people who had anxiety first, substance abuse and addiction become a more difficult condition to treat as both the addiction and the preexisting anxiety disorder must be equally addressed to prevent relapse. Cognitive behavioral therapy is the most well-established and effective treatment, according to the ADAA.
Anxiety is the most common disorder in our nation. It singlehandedly puts the majority of our nation’s citizens in a greater risk category for developing a substance addiction. Don’t be an unaware statistic. If you suffer from anxiety, say no to alcohol and drug abuse as a means of countering it.