Having a drink or two with dinner or a couple of drinks with friends is usually no cause for alarm for the majority of people. Things are different when talking about someone who has an anxiety disorder. When a person has an anxiety disorder, alcohol and other substances may actually increase their feeling of anxiety. Research has shown that there is a link between alcohol abuse, substance abuse, and anxiety disorders.
In fact, it is estimated that around 20 percent of Americans who are battling with anxiety or mood disorders, including depression, are also battling with substance abuse and alcohol abuse. The same is true in reverse. Around 20 percent of those who are battling alcohol and substance abuse have an anxiety or mood disorder.
Which Comes First, Substance Abuse or Anxiety Disorder?
In the majority of cases, people who have substance abuse disorders and anxiety disorders developed and experienced the disorders independently. However, both disorders feed off each other and can create a vicious cycle. The symptoms of the anxiety disorder can make the substance abuse disorder worse. It is not uncommon for individuals to use alcohol and other substances as a way to alleviate the symptoms of the anxiety they are feeling.
Substance Abuse and Social Anxiety Disorder
The co-occurrence of social anxiety disorder and substance abuse, especially alcohol abuse, is common. People with social anxiety disorder see alcohol as a way of lessening the anxiety. However, the reality for many of them is that the alcohol makes the anxiety worse. Soon, social drinking to ease social anxiety morphs into alcohol abuse.
PTSD and substance abuse go hand-in-hand for a lot of people. PTSD creates extreme feelings of anxiety and fear. So people turn to drugs as a way of alleviating their fear and alleviating their anxiety. However, substance abuse, depending on the substance that is being abused, can actually make PTSD symptoms worse. In most cases, health professionals are going to treat PTSD and substance abuse as a form of codependent treatment. This is because the intrusive thoughts and the sleep disturbances associated with PTSD can make an individual relapse into substance abuse after they have completed rehab.
Panic attacks are another form of anxiety disorder that cause some to turn to alcohol and drugs as a form of self-medicating. This is counterproductive. Alcohol and certain addictive substances can actually cause a person to have a panic attack. For individuals suffering from panic attacks, it is not uncommon for the panic disorder symptoms to begin before or at the same time alcohol or drug abuse begins.
Treating substance abuse on its own will not eliminate anxiety disorder. Treating anxiety disorder on its own will not make substance abuse disappear. For this reason, it is often necessary to treat them both together to minimize the chances of a relapse. Doctors may prescribe their patients medications that have a low abuse potential to prevent a relapse from occurring. Therapists may use techniques designed to treat individuals who are dealing with coexisting disorders to find the relief that they need.