woman struggles with anxiety and alcohol abuse

With all co-occurring disorders, each component informs the other. Anxiety can cause you to want to drink to anesthetize yourself to deal with reality, and having a drinking problem can make you anxious. Drinking may temporarily make the anxiety disappear, but it often returns with fury. Using alcohol as a coping mechanism is no more effective than trying to put on a Band-Aid in the shower. It will only stay in place for a short time. When the alcohol begins to wear off, those predisposed to feel anxious return to their old ways. Their confidence ebbs and then flows down the drain. If you are struggling with both anxiety and alcohol use disorder (AUD), you may want to consider a dual diagnosis treatment center.

How Anxiety and Alcohol Play Off Each Other

Alcohol is a temporary fix for your feelings of anxiety. Prolonged use of alcohol affects your ability to respond to stressful situations effectively and healthily. This may trigger anxiety. AUD affects the part of the brain that regulates negative emotions, making it an inadequate ally in managing anxiety. Rather than keeping it under control, it only serves to worsen it. If you are relying on alcohol to relieve the pressure of these anxious moments, over time, you will need more and more alcohol to do the job. This is not an effective way to deal with it.

How Substance Abuse and Mental Health Are Related

Some mental health conditions are more likely to occur alongside substance abuse disorders. Research into co-occurring disorders is trying to identify more of them, but some of the prevalent mental health disorders that show a link are below:

  • Anxiety disorders - 18% of the general population have a co-occurring anxiety disorder. Marijuana use has been shown to have a link with social anxiety disorder. Generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder also show an increased risk with co-occurring disorders.
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) - ADHD has been linked to substance abuse disorder in young people, gravitating toward using drugs earlier than their peers. Due to the number of hyperactivity, inattention, and impulsivity symptoms observed in those who have ADHD, the risk of substance abuse is much higher than others in their respective age groups.
  • Mood disorders - 20% of those with a substance abuse disorder have a co-occurring mood disorder like depression or bipolar disorder.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) - People with PTSD are four times as likely to meet a substance abuse disorder criteria.
  • Personality disorders - 10-15% of people have a personality disorder. Those who undergo treatment for addiction are 35-73% more likely to have one. Some of the personality disorders include borderline, antisocial, avoidant, and paranoid personality disorders.

3 Factors in Developing a Co-Occurring Disorder

Substance abuse and mental health disorders make strange bedfellows because they don’t seem to want to leave each other alone. They want to multiply and cause havoc in your life. Anxiety leads to depression. Depression leads to drinking heavily. Drinking leads to using prescription painkillers. The cycle is endless. The following three factors help explain why co-occurring disorders are commonplace:

  1. Self-medicating - People turn to alcohol and drugs to cope with symptoms of mental health disorders. Then when the drug or alcohol intake increases over time, either caused or exacerbated by the substance abuse, other disorders can surface.
  2. Overlapping risk factors - The common risk factors for substance abuse disorders and mental health disorders frequently overlap. This happens due to genetics and environmental factors that make it more likely to develop a co-occurring disorder. Exposure to trauma is another element to point to when trying to find the cause.
  3. Drug-induced brain changes - Substance abuse can alter how your brain functions. The areas affected correspond to those associated with mood, anxiety, impulse control, and even schizophrenia.

Reach Out to San Antonio Recovery Center Today

At San Antonio Recovery Center, we offer a full continuum of care from detox to aftercare in our two residential treatment centers that operate 24/7. We can be reached online or at 866.957.7885 for you to take the first step on your journey to wellness and recovery.

Now is the time to focus on your recovery.


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