Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is a specific type of anxiety disorder that can co-occur with drug abuse, alcohol abuse, and substance addiction.
Research shows that substance use disorders (SUDs) are some of the most common types of disorders to co-occur with GAD.
The most effective treatment for co-occurring anxiety and substance addiction is a dual diagnosis program, which can offer an integrated approach that treats both the anxiety and substance abuse.
What Is Generalized Anxiety Disorder?
Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is a type of anxiety disorder that affects millions of adults and adolescents in the United States.
Unlike specific anxiety disorders, such as social anxiety disorder or separation anxiety disorder, GAD is characterized by general, chronic experiences of anxiety, worry, and restlessness.
Symptoms Of Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Generalized anxiety disorder is characterized by a number of persistent, sometimes debilitating symptoms that can affect school, work, physical well-being, and one’s general way of life.
Symptoms can include:
- difficulty relaxing
- feeling very nervous or on-edge
- becoming easily irritated or annoyed
- excessive restlessness
- not being able to control or stop worrying
- excessive worry about multiple things
- having sleep problems
- experiencing muscle tension
- becoming easily fatigued
Signs Of Drug Or Alcohol Abuse
Many types of drugs can cause or worsen symptoms of GAD when misused. In addition to this, drug and alcohol abuse can also be detected by changes in mood and behavior.
Signs of drug or alcohol abuse may include:
- lying about using drugs
- taking prescription medications in ways other than prescribed
- unusual mood swings
- avoiding friends, family, or other loved ones
- relying on drugs or alcohol to function during the day
- neglecting physical health and hygiene
- being unable to cut down on how much you drink or use drugs
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Signs of drug use can vary by substance. Chronic drug or alcohol use can also lead to severe drug dependence and increase the risk for developing an addiction.
What Causes Co-Occurring Addiction And Generalized Anxiety?
The underlying causes of co-occurring anxiety and addiction can be linked to a variety of factors that may vary from person to person.
Shared risk factors for anxiety and substance abuse include:
- family history of mental illness and substance abuse
- history of trauma
- stressful home life
- difficulty managing stress
- genetic factors
People most often develop a generalized anxiety disorder in early to mid-adulthood. Drinking or drug use may become a balm for people with anxiety, as an unsupportive coping mechanism.
Having anxiety is considered a risk factor for substance use disorders. And the same is true the other way around, in part due to the strain substance abuse can have on a person’s life.
How Common Is Substance Abuse And Anxiety?
Research published in the Clinical Journal of Psychiatry suggests an estimated 40 percent of people with GAD will go on to develop drug or alcohol dependence at some point in their life.
Generalized anxiety disorder and addiction statistics:
- Prevalence: Generalized anxiety disorder affects an estimated 6.8 million adults, with women twice as likely to have it as men.
- Self-medication: Self-medicating symptoms of GAD are strongly associated as a leading driver of drug and alcohol abuse—even more so than some other anxiety disorders.
- Treatment: Only 7.8 percent of people with co-occurring disorders in the United States reported receiving past-year integrated mental health and substance abuse treatment.
Millions of people in the United States struggle with co-occurring disorders. Only a small percentage go on to receive specialty care for mental health and substance abuse.
What Are The Most Effective Treatments?
Recovering from substance abuse can be challenging without receiving adequate treatment for both a person’s mental health issues and substance use.
Dual diagnosis treatment is a type of specialty care that integrates both mental health and substance abuse services to support long-term addiction recovery.
Dual diagnosis treatment may involve:
- medically supervised detox
- behavioral therapy
- dual diagnosis group therapy
- family therapy
- mindfulness-based stress reduction
Research shows that an integrated approach to the treatment of co-occurring disorders is the most effective treatment.
This can help prevent relapse and provide the tools people need to maintain recovery over the long-term.
Finding Dual Diagnosis Treatment For Anxiety And Addiction
Dual diagnosis treatment is offered by some mental health and addiction treatment centers on an inpatient and outpatient level.
By calling our helpline, we can:
- identify dual diagnosis treatment options near you
- verify your insurance
- help you find a treatment program that’s right for you
Recovery is possible. Call us today to find a dual diagnosis treatment program for yourself or a loved one.
Addiction Resource aims to provide only the most current, accurate information in regards to addiction and addiction treatment, which means we only reference the most credible sources available.
These include peer-reviewed journals, government entities and academic institutions, and leaders in addiction healthcare and advocacy. Learn more about how we safeguard our content by viewing our editorial policy.
- Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA)—Facts & Statistics
- Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA)—GAD-7 Anxiety Scale
- National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)—Substance Use Disorders
- National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)—Anxiety Disorders
- U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)—Common Comorbidities with Substance Use Disorders Research Report
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: NCBI—Generalized anxiety disorder and psychiatric comorbidities such as depression, bipolar disorder, and substance abuse