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Identifying and Diagnosing Anxiety Disorder in Patients Battling with Addiction

As if anxiety were not already difficult enough to handle, having this disorder in combination with addiction can produce some devastating symptoms.
When most people are exposed to stressful situations or experiences, they can call on a variety of healthy and comforting responses. This may not be the case with someone who suffers from an anxiety disorder. Not only is there a connection between anxiety and addiction, but addiction treatment should take place simultaneously.

 

What is Anxiety Disorder?

Anxiety Disorder
Anxiety Disorder

An accepted definition of anxiety is the feeling of dread or worry, particularly regarding an event with an unknown outcome.
It is a common misconception that a person with an anxiety disorder is simply unable to “get over” a stressor or has the tendency to overreact to certain situations. This is a disorder that comes in many forms, and its effects can be life-altering.

Some of the most common types of anxiety disorders include:

 

Generalized Anxiety Disorder: GAD is a form of anxiety characterized by a nearly continuous feeling of dread with no particular cause. With GAD, worries can shift from one subject to another, and the resulting fears can be powerful, whether based in reality or not.
Social Anxiety Disorder: Sometimes called social phobia, millions of people have an overwhelming fear of social situations and interacting with others. This can include a fear of speaking in public, being in crowds, and meeting new people. SAD can also go hand in hand with other anxiety disorders, such as panic disorder.
Panic Disorder: This is a disorder that is characterized by isolated episodes of overwhelming fear. Although a panic attack is rarely fatal, a person could experience respiratory distress and elevated blood pressure. As many as one million people experience panic attacks annually.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: OCD is another common type of anxiety disorder that affects more than 2 million Americans. The disorder causes a person to suffer from stress related to obsessive thoughts, which can interfere with daily life and even lead to a panic attack.
• Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: An anxiety disorder can develop after a person experiences or witnesses a traumatic event such as a violent crime, sexual assault, military combat, or severe accident. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, about 8 million Americans experience PTSD symptoms characterized by irritability, insomnia, flashbacks, and paranoia.

While these are different anxiety disorders, the signs and symptoms of an anxiety attack are similar. These include:

 

Signs and Symptoms of an Anxiety Attack
Signs and Symptoms of an Anxiety Attack

• Fear
• Disorientation
• Restlessness
• Feelings of dread
• Inability to relax
• Sweating
• Rapid heartbeat
• Nausea and vomiting
• Fatigue
• Insomnia
• Tense muscles
• Difficulty breathing

Is There a Connection Between Anxiety and Addiction?

There is a relationship between anxiety and addiction, but it can be a complex one. For example, the symptoms of one disorder can make the other worse. An anxiety disorder can also lead a person to misuse alcohol or drugs as a way to self-medicate. Interestingly, a person who has a genetic predisposition to an anxiety disorder can increase the chance of a mental health issue occurring if he or she develops a substance use disorder.

Identifying and Diagnosing Anxiety Disorder in Patients Battling with Addiction
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