Dual Diagnosis

How Are Anxiety Disorders and Substance Abuse Connected?

How Are Anxiety Disorders and Substance Abuse Connected?

Anxiety and substance use disorder can be complicated to understand on your own, but they are treatable. Learn how in our blog!

Experiencing both anxiety and substance abuse simultaneously is much more common than most people believe to be true. Throughout the years, dual diagnosis has been more of an interest to researchers. There has been specific interest in what causes dual diagnoses to occur and the best way to treat them.

Both anxiety and substance abuse are the most common mental health issues in the United States. If you are experiencing one of these, there is a big risk of you developing the other as well. In most cases of dual diagnosis with anxiety and substance abuse, drugs or alcohol are used to mask the symptoms of anxiety which then can lead to abuse.  

What Is Anxiety Disorder? 

It's completely common to experience some feelings of anxiety throughout your life, usually related to different fears. However, it starts to become worrisome when it is a constant fear of something or an activity that causes you to have anxiety daily. This anxiety can turn into panic attacks and will eventually begin to interfere with your daily responsibilities, such as going to work or school. 

There are a few different types of anxiety disorders, including:

  • Separation anxiety

  • Phobias

  • Panic Disorder

  • Social anxiety

  • General anxiety disorder (GAD)

They all have a few different symptoms and signs that you can look out for, but they do share some common themes. 

  • Constant feelings of intense worry and fear

  • Feelings of impending doom

  • Rapid heart rate and breathing

  • Sweating

  • Shaking 

  • Problems with memory, which often stem from constant thinking about the fear at hand

  • Experiencing different digestive symptoms

Other Types of Anxiety Disorder

Anxiety falls under many other categories, including:


This is the fear of not being able to leave a certain place or situation due to it either difficulty or embarrassment. If this specific anxiety disorder continues to go untreated, it can escalate to the person not being able to leave their house at all. 

Panic Disorder

The main symptom that comes with panic disorder is constant panic attacks, which can be very detrimental to someone's quality of life. Some of the signs of a panic attack include rapid heart rate, sweating, feeling unable to breathe, and chest pain along with many more. These symptoms can feel so severe that the person may even feel that they are dying. 

Substance-Induced Anxiety Disorder

This anxiety disorder involves panic and stress specifically caused by taking a drug or by stopping from taking the drug. Essentially, the feeling of anxiety that is being experienced is derived from the use of the substance.

What Is Substance Abuse?

Substance abuse is also known as substance use disorder (SUD), which is a dangerous pattern involving the continued use of substances that then causes distress. This includes continuing to use the substance even when going to work, school, or caring for your kids. It starts to have detrimental effects on your everyday life and can then become extremely hard to stop. 

One of the main symptoms that you will experience if you are struggling with SUD is the inability to stop taking the substance without feeling withdrawal symptoms. You might also be lying to friends and family, which you normally wouldn't, just to continue being able to take the drugs. You also might be experiencing very strong cravings for either the drug or alcohol that you can't ignore. 

Most Common Substances Abused
Risk Factors
  • Drug availability 

  • Negative life-experiences 

  • Poverty 

  • Less parental supervision as a child/teenager

  • Having a caregiver or guardian that abuses drugs

How Do They Connect? 

Research shows that about 20% of Americans who struggle with an anxiety disorder also struggle with substance abuse. The symptoms of one disorder can make the other one worse and vice-versa. Having a dual diagnosis is very difficult to manage. In some cases, if someone is struggling with anxiety, they may turn to substance use to self-medicate and relieve some of their symptoms for the time being. However, this usually only helps at the moment and then continues to get worse over time. 

It is important to note that both of these are treatable, and there is a healthy and happy future for you and your family and friends. 

The Edge Treatment Center Provides Effective, Evidence-Based Care for Dual Diagnosis

The first step to starting treatment for an anxiety disorder would be to get diagnosed first by a medical professional, especially if you're experiencing intense symptoms of anxiety. The most common form of treatment for anxiety disorder is psychotherapy, specifically cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). 

This form of therapy focuses on teaching the patients different skills to help them cope with their symptoms and continue to do the things they enjoy. One major component of CBT is exposure therapy, which focuses on encountering your triggers over time so the patient can gain more confidence. Certain medications can also be prescribed, such as anti-depressants that can help with anxiety symptoms. 

At The Edge Treatment Center, we can create a treatment modality to help you with your co-occurring disorder. We can do this through individualized holistic treatment plans because we understand that SUD and Anxiety disorder are to be focused on simultaneously.

For example, the treatment could start with building your community so you have people to turn to within the program, then we can help you rebuild your bond with family and friends, and we teach you ways to feel joy in life again without having to turn to substances.

Why suffer? Anxiety and substance abuse both respond to treatment. Contact our team today!

CTA background

We’re Here to Help You Find Your Way

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, there is hope. Our team can guide you on your journey to recovery. Call us today.

Written by

brian-mooreBrian Moore

Content Writer

Reviewed by

jeremy-arztJeremy Arzt

Chief Clinical Officer

Dual Diagnosis

October 7, 2022