Anxiety is a widespread mental health disorder often brought on by trauma, stress, significant life changes, and other circumstances. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that in 2019 approximately 10.8% of all adults in America over the age of 18 experienced some form of anxiety or depression. Of those, 8.1% showed noticeable symptoms of anxiety.
Anxiety is often a side effect of substance use disorder (SUD) and using various prescription or illegal drugs. A 2013 research paper from the Medical University of South Carolina states that “converging evidence from epidemiologic and treatment studies indicate that anxiety disorders and substance use disorders commonly co-occur, and the interaction is multifaceted and variable.” Anxiety can manifest in many ways, and untangling the cause and effect of anxiety disorders and SUD can be challenging.
Anxiety is an uncomfortable feeling that often takes the form of dread, fear, or uneasiness. Sometimes these feelings are directed towards a specific source. At other times, a general sense of doom clouds thinking and leads to behavioral changes often caused by a desire to cope with the anxiety. For example, if anxiety worsens when someone is out in public, they may stop attending social events they previously enjoyed.
Several mental health disorders have anxiety as a significant component, including those listed below:
Anxiety symptoms exist on a spectrum where many experience differing intensity and symptoms of the disorder. Most people have felt some anxiety when they face uncomfortable situations like speaking in public, but this feeling is usually short-lived and does not reach the point of a mental illness. However, others experience these feelings to the extent that every aspect of their daily life is affected, causing a severe disability. Many things can cause anxiety, but it commonly develops due to the following:
Most people know what an anxiety attack looks like because they are relatively common, and every form of media has depicted stereotypical panic and anxiety attacks. However, sometimes the signs and symptoms of anxiety can be more subtle. The type of anxiety disorder a person has will determine how these symptoms manifest. Below are some examples of physical and behavioral changes that might occur when someone is experiencing everyday anxiety or has one of the following anxiety disorders:
Generalized Anxiety Disorder:
Social Anxiety Disorder:
Everyone feels anxiety at certain points in their life, which can even be a good thing because it can prepare us to face dangerous situations. However, for most people who experience anxiety daily or weekly, they may experience unhealthy long-term and short-term effects. In the short-term, anxiety mainly impacts the “flight, fight, or freeze” response but could also include the following:
Long-term effects can range from mild to severe depending on the person but may include:
One of the most common treatments for anxiety is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). When co-occurring with substance use disorder or other conditions, other psychotherapies can treat both simultaneously, including mindfulness and meditation-based therapies. Medications usually treat specific symptoms like panic attacks. They may include: