Anxiety is a short word fraught with heavy connotations, both for people who struggle with its symptoms and the people who care about them. While most people can easily grasp what anxiety entails, its ramifications can be surprising, particularly the connection between anxiety and substance misuse. For people who suffer from anxiety and addiction as co-occurring disorders, a vital part of recovery includes grasping the full scope of anxiety and what it means for people who have developed an addiction.
What Is Anxiety?
The dictionary definition of anxiety is a feeling of dread or worry about the future. Short-term anxiety is a normal and healthy response to stressful situations such as a job interview or an important exam. In medical terms, however, anxiety refers to excessive and prolonged episodes of fear and nervousness. Physical symptoms such as sweating, shaking, nausea and elevated blood pressure may manifest on top of the emotional response.
Someone who often has recurring or intrusive periods of anxiety may have progressed into a fully fledged anxiety disorder, which can disrupt their daily life. Anxiety disorders become mental health conditions when the person experiences symptoms that are beyond their ability to prevent or control. In other words, people with anxiety disorders can never let go of their stress, and are powerless to stop the effects of their anxiety.
Anxiety disorders cause insomnia, as well as the inability to focus or relax. Even a minor problem can feel like an insurmountable hurdle to someone suffering from an anxiety disorder because their reactions to obstacles are disproportionate to the scope of the situation.
The Cycle of Drugs, Anxiety and Addiction
In stressful situations, people with anxiety disorders often turn to drug and alcohol use in a misguided attempt to self-medicate. The euphoric high drugs and alcohol can create can seem like a temporary respite from the high levels of stress, worry and fear that have become their constant companion. But these effects eventually wear off, leading the user to seek more of these dangerous substances to try to recapture the feeling.
Ironically, the same drugs that provide short-term relief can also deepen anxiety symptoms, since chemical substances can disrupt emotions that are already imbalanced. Anxiety also inhibits people’s judgment, making them less able to recognize when they are endangering themselves with their behavior, or that they have genuine mental health problem that requires professional treatment and therapy, not more drugs and alcohol to dampen their feelings.
Helping a Loved One Who Has Anxiety and Addiction
Helping someone with the co-occurring disorders of anxiety and drug addiction begins by leading them to accept the extent of their problem, and encouraging them to enter treatment and begin the recovery process. At Canyon Crossing, we are a qualified women-only recovery center in Prescott, AZ. If someone you care about is locked in the cycle of anxiety and addiction, contact us to learn more about seeking help. Achieving recovery and freedom from these burdens is possible with our caring, compassionate approach.