Anxiety and Substance Abuse

Anxiety and Substance Abuse

Living with untreated anxiety can be isolating. Millions of people have an anxiety disorder that is either treated or untreated. Anxiety can be a normal feeling, or a mental health disorder that takes away from your quality of life. Sometimes it can feel incapacitating, taking time away from friendships, livelihoods, and family. For many people with untreated anxiety, using a substance is a way to cope with their feelings and self-medicate. This doesn’t fix the problem, and sometimes it compounds it.

What is Anxiety?

Anxiety is a part of being human. We were given the gift of the “fight or flight” response in order to protect ourselves from predators. In the early years of humanity, we might fight when we felt threatened. If we had the right weapons or people in numbers, or simply felt cornered, we had the adrenaline to fight back. If not, we would get the right amount of adrenaline to flee.  You can see how these were once useful tools. They still can be, if we face real and present danger.

Anxiety is an emotion, but most people describe anxiety as a physical state. Your brain may go a mile a minute while you plow through your worries. When you’re feeling anxious, you may feel like you’re “frozen” and unable to speak. You may take big gulps of air and feel like you can’t breathe. Your stomach may clench as your blood pressure rises. Some people even find themselves clenching their jaw when they’re feeling anxious. None of these feelings will help us when we need to speak in public or tackle a big project.

Substance Use and Anxiety

Many people end up using substances to “calm down” or “chill” when their anxiety is overwhelming. This can lead to harmful patterns and eventually addiction. Many people started out by drinking “socially” only to feel like they need it to socialize every time they go out. People also become dependent on other drugs like opioids to “feel calm.”

By stuffing your emotions in substances, you’re not dealing with them. It can actually cause an increase in the times that you feel anxiety. When you spend time not coping with your emotions, you can begin to feel nervous about things you once did with ease. Having the right coping tools can help you learn to live with anxiety without the use of alcohol or drugs. You can learn these things in therapy with the help of a mental health professional.

Getting Help

If you or somebody you love struggle with anxiety, substance use, or other mental health challenges, there is help available. Live your best life! We can help you face the challenges to get live a healthier, happier life. Call us at 949-245-9812 to learn more about our programs.