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All of us suffer from anxiety at some point or another. And not all anxiety is bad. Anxious feelings are part of our innate way of dealing with stress. Known as the fight-or-flight response, anxiety is meant to protect us from danger and make us more alert so that we can respond faster to emergencies.

However, there is another side to anxiety. Some people go through intense episodes of anxiety that affect their day-to-day functioning. If this emotional distress develops into panic attacks, phobias and other obsessional behaviors, it can have a debilitating effect on a person’s mental and physical health.

Because anxiety disorders are some of the most common mental health problems in the U.S., it’s important to understand them and their relationship to substance use.

What are Anxiety Disorders?

Anxiety disorders are a group of mental illnesses that cause constant and overwhelming anxiety and fear. They can make it difficult to do normal activities, such as going to school or work. Many people living with anxiety disorders will go through great lengths to avoid the things that make them nervous.

There are several types of anxiety disorders. Here are the most common:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Panic disorder
  • Social anxiety disorder
  • Phobias
  • Separation anxiety

How Common are Anxiety Disorders?

Anxiety disorders are extremely common. Over 40 million adults (19.1%) in the U.S. have an anxiety disorder. And, approximately 7% of children between the ages of 3 and 17 experience issues with anxiety. Most people develop symptoms of anxiety before turning 21.

So why are anxiety disorders so common among people today? While there is no definitive answer, it’s believed that the following issues contribute to higher rates of mental illness:

  • Social media
  • Poor sleep habits
  • Societal pressures
  • Living alone
  • Reduced stigma and underreporting in the past

The Connection Between Anxiety and Substance Use

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) reports that people with anxiety disorders are 2-3 times more likely to have a substance use disorder. Why do these disorders go hand in hand? There are a couple reasons for this.

First, a person who is dealing with anxious thoughts and feelings may use substances in an attempt to self-medicate. For example, they might drink to feel more comfortable in social situations or smoke pot to ease their mind.

There are also some genetic factors that may lead to a predisposition for both substance abuse and anxiety. Furthermore, drug dependence and anxiety involve similar areas of the brain, particularly when it comes to the production and regulation of dopamine.

Anxiety and Addiction Treatment Center in Arizona

Treating both the anxiety disorder and the substance use disorder simultaneously is the recommended approach. It can be difficult to stay sober while trying to manage the symptoms of an anxiety disorder, and it can be difficult to manage the symptoms of anxiety when trying to recover from addiction.

Wolf Creek Recovery offers comprehensive drug rehab in Arizona for co-occurring conditions. We use a combination of medication, behavioral therapies and holistic therapies to help our clients reach full healing.

Our Phase One, Phase Two and Extended Care programs provide a full continuum of care where you can learn, grow and recover in a safe, supportive setting. Contact our admissions team to speak with someone who understands firsthand what you’re going through.