Anxiety Attacks and Addiction

Anxiety is a common experience that affects millions of people, regardless of income, age, gender, race or status. Although an anxiety disorder shows itself in a number of ways, anxiety attacks, also known as panic attacks, are one of the most unpleasant symptoms.

If you are coping with anxiety attacks and substance abuse, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Anxiety attacks are frightening experiences that can affect every part of the body. Symptoms of an anxiety attack include racing heart, sweating, trembling, dizziness, nausea and chest pains.
  • When an anxiety attack occurs, people may feel faint or smothered, or they may have odd feelings of unreality. They often feel like they are experiencing a heart or asthma attack and fear they are dying. Some people report an experience of being strangled or drowning.
  • It is common and understandable for anxiety sufferers to become fearful of the symptoms of an attack.
  • Research indicates that anxiety disorders and substance abuse are strongly linked. People with anxiety disorders are two to three times more likely to develop substance dependence (alcohol addiction or drug addiction) than people without anxiety.
  • Severe anxiety is often induced by sustained use of drugs or alcohol. Even moderate use can increase feelings of anxiety.
  • It isn’t difficult to understand why people with anxiety disorders often reach for something to make them feel better and to “take the edge off.” However, drinking alcohol or taking drugs makes anxiety worse, not better.
  • It is true that drugs and alcohol are often used to self-medicate anxiety and other mental anguish. However, sometimes abuse of drugs and alcohol comes first, triggering an anxiety disorder that wasn’t present (or apparent) before.
  • Withdrawal from drugs or alcohol usually causes a high level of anxiety, including severe anxiety attacks. This often leads to use of more drugs or alcohol to calm the anxiety, becoming a dangerous pattern that quickly spirals out of control.
  • Using drugs or alcohol to treat anxiety is not a good idea for anybody, especially adolescents. This is because drugs and alcohol interfere with cognitive and emotional development, with socialization and maturity, leading to increased anxiety and other mental disorders.
  • Substance abuse coupled with an anxiety disorder might look like a daunting cycle to break, but with time and commitment, both problems can be treated simultaneously and successfully.

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