Sweaty palms, a knot in your stomach, racing heart, shortness of breath—if any of this sounds familiar you may have anxiety. For many, this is a daily way of life. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the nation impacting about 40 million adults in the United States. The ADAA also reports that women are twice as likely to suffer from an anxiety disorder than their male counterparts.
During the course of the day people may say ‘I have anxiety’, however, this doesn’t always mean they have an anxiety disorder. Anxiety is defined as nervousness, worry, or unease associated with a particular event or situation. And while experiencing anxiety is normal in certain circumstances, those individuals who live with an anxiety disorder experience these difficult feelings on a more regular basis.
What Exactly Is An Anxiety Disorder?
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5), defines anxiety as ‘excessive anxiety and worry occurring more days than not for at least six months about a number of events or activities.’ The feelings of anxiety are associated with the following symptoms and at least three or more must be present (for at least six months) to meet the criteria:
- Restlessness or feeling on edge
- Fatiguing easily
- Struggling to concentrate or focus
- Being irritable
- Tense muscles
- Sleeping problems
In addition to these anxiety symptoms, there are more that people with anxiety tend to experience. The following list outlines some of the most common:
- Experiencing nervousness, tension, or the inability to be still
- Racing heart (increased heart rate)
- Breathing rapidly or hyperventilating
- Having shakiness or trembling
- Having stomach issues
- Feeling controlled by thoughts of worry
- Avoiding or wanting to avoid things or situations that cause anxiety
- Experiencing a sense of doom or danger when there is no threat
These symptoms vary from one person to the next with some experiencing only a few of these symptoms and others nearly all. There are also differences between genders and how these symptoms manifest in each.
Women are more likely than men to be diagnosed with each of the different types of anxiety disorders. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) these include generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder, and phobia-related disorders.
Understanding Types of Anxiety Disorders
There are a few different types of anxiety disorders. Some of these types have associated disorders as well.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
Individuals with GAD experience worry and anxiety most days over the course of six months. The worry can be about anything including family, work, school, health, social engagements, and many parts of daily life. Depending on the severity, this type of anxiety can often interfere with everyday life.
Characterized by the sudden onset of intense fear and worry, individuals with panic disorders experience panic attacks that come on quickly and reach their peak within minutes in most cases. These attacks can be triggered by something or occur out of seemingly nowhere.
Phobia-related disorders manifest as an intense fear of an object or situation. The fear experienced by individuals with phobia-related disorders is out of proportion to the situation or object.
Some of the more common phobia-related disorders include:
- Social anxiety disorder
- Specific or simple phobias such as those to flying or heights
- Separation anxiety disorder
Other types of anxiety-related disorders include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
No matter what type of anxiety disorder you may have, day to day can be a challenge just to get through. The exact symptoms and just how intense they vary from person to person. However, one thing remains the same, it is difficult to live with an anxiety disorder of any kind.
But so many do.
The ADAA also reports that only 36.9% of individuals with an anxiety disorder get the treatment they need. That leaves many on their own attempting to manage these difficult symptoms. Some will eventually seek help from their primary care doctor while others will begin to self-medicate to keep these feelings at bay.
If you or someone you love is living with an anxiety disorder it’s vital to understand that anxiety is highly treatable through various means. However, it’s important to seek help before other co-occurring disorders begin to manifest. As mentioned, there are a number of people with anxiety disorders who self-medicate to ease the uncomfortable symptoms.
Through alcohol or drugs—both prescription and illicit—many with anxiety turn to these substances for help. And what may initially help with the reduction of the anxiety symptoms can soon turn into a problem of its own. If you or someone you love is using alcohol or another substance to help cope with anxiety, Futures Recovery Healthcare can help. Futures is experienced and successful in treating both alcohol use and substance use disorders as well as anxiety.
Often, a well-meaning doctor will prescribe medications to help ease anxiety symptoms. However, it’s important to understand that the medications used to treat anxiety disorders can make them worse. Benzodiazepines or benzos, as they’re often called, can be highly addictive. Benzos include Xanax, Valium, Klonopin, Librium, Ativan, etc. This is an example of how a substance use issue can occur along with the anxiety disorder.
When this happens it is referred to as having co-occurring disorders. For example, if someone has an anxiety disorder and an alcohol use disorder (AUD), they have co-occurring disorders. And when it comes to anxiety, this is not unusual. In fact, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reveals there are 7.7 million American adults with mental health and substance use disorders (SUDs).
Why one person has anxiety or a SUD and the next doesn’t isn’t entirely clear, however, there are certain risk factors associated with having both an anxiety disorder as well as factors that increase your chance of developing a SUD or AUD.
Risk Factors for Anxiety Disorders in Women
Risk factors that are associated with an increased chance of having an anxiety disorder include both physical, medical, environmental, and genetic.
- Exposure to negative or traumatic events during childhood
- Family members with anxiety or depression
- Excessive stress related to an illness, death, job loss, or ongoing worry
- Living with other mental health disorders such as depression
- An alcohol or substance use disorder
There are also some physical illnesses and medical causes that have been associated with a person’s increased risk of an anxiety disorder. These can include:
- Heart disease
- Respiratory issue
- Thyroid problem
- Chronic pain
Women are more frequently diagnosed with each of the different types of anxiety disorders. And while the above risk factors contribute, there are risk factors associated more with women than men.
Research shows that women have an increased risk of anxiety from environmental factors. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that women are impacted more by certain conditions. These are conditions that unfortunately lead to an increased risk of anxiety disorders.
- Long-term care of others
- Hormonal changes
- Gender-based violence
- Lower socioeconomic status
- Income inequality
In addition, the WHO reports that women are the largest single group impacted by PTSD as a result of the high rates of sexual violence against women.
Whether or not you have any of these risk factors or not, if you are living with anxiety you just want to find a way to make it stop. And you’re not alone in that desire. Anxiety can rob one’s life of so much. From enjoying everyday activities to just being able to function, anxiety can wreak havoc on your life. It’s important to realize that anxiety is a very treatable condition and you too can get the help you need. Even if you feel hopeless now or have a co-occurring AUD or SUD, there is help and you too can heal from both of these disorders.
Addiction treatment centers that are experienced in addressing co-occurring disorders have expertise in treating individuals with multiple disorders. Futures offers treatment for co-occurring mental health disorders, AUDs, and SUDs.
Getting Help for Anxiety Disorders and Addiction
When you’re in the throws of anxiety it may seem hopeless. If you also have an AUD or SUD, you may feel even more despair. It’s important to know that both anxiety disorders and substance use disorders are treatable. And while there may not be a cure or quick fix, a life without anxiety and substance abuse is possible.
Many of the treatment programs for an AUD or SUD and a co-occurring mental health disorder, like anxiety, are similar. Finding an addiction treatment center that understands how vital it is to treat both co-occurring disorders together is crucial to improving your chances of long-lasting recovery.
Psychotherapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) have been shown to be successful for both anxiety and substance use disorders. Gaining stress management and coping skills is important for both anxiety and SUDs or AUDs too. From aerobic exercise and yoga to meditation and prayer, learning new ways to handle stress and anxiety triggers can help to both lessen anxiety and also support recovery from alcohol or another substance.
Support groups also help individuals with anxiety and an AUD or SUD. Groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Refuge Recovery, SMART, and Celebrate Recovery are great options for those with co-occurring disorders too.
If you or someone you love is living with anxiety and an AUD or SUD, Futures is here to help. Offering multiple pathways for recovery, our compassionate, experienced team helps each person with co-occurring disorders who come to us find the help they need. Our empathetic, dedicated team supports you on each step of your recovery journey.
Contact Futures confidentiality online or call us at 866-804-2098 and find hope today.