Generalized anxiety disorder and substance use

It is well known that Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) often overlaps with other emotional and behavioral problems, including depression, other anxiety disorders, and substance use disorders.

Although the exact mechanism of the concurrent development of generalized anxiety and substance use disorder in individuals is still unclear, self-medication is believed to play an important role. When an individual decides to independently use a certain substance to relieve or control specific symptoms, it is called “self-treatment”.

Self-medication can usually temporarily relieve uncomfortable feelings or emotions, thereby enhancing its use.

However, recent studies have shown that the use of alcohol or drugs to cope with anxiety symptoms can be particularly problematic because it carries an additional risk of eventually developing into substance use disorders.

The link between GAD and substance use disorders

Although GAD is known to affect women at a higher rate, concurrent GAD and substance use disorders are more likely to affect men.

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According to the report of a recent national survey on substance use disorder, individuals who have both GAD and substance use disorder are more likely to have a family history of alcohol or drug use disorder than people who have GAD alone.

The existence of substance use disorder is related to more serious anxiety symptoms and overall impairment of daily functions.

Compared with adults with “uncomplicated” GAD, adults with GAD and substance use disorders are more likely to report inattention, describe more conflicts with their loved ones, and admit to being more at performing daily duties difficulty.

Knowledge about treatment

Although individuals with both GAD and substance use disorder have a higher rate of other comorbid psychiatric disorders (such as bipolar disorder, panic disorder, or social anxiety disorder) than individuals without substance use disorder, the rate of seeking treatment is The same, and relatively low, across groups.

Regardless of the existence of substance use disorders, this large-scale study found that nearly half of people diagnosed with GAD did not receive treatment. Individuals who ultimately seek treatment do not seek treatment until an average of two years after the onset of anxiety symptoms.

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However, there are Yes Effective treatment for GAD and substance use disorders. Depending on which disease is considered the primary disease and the severity of each disease, the treatment of one disease may be performed after the treatment of the second disease, and the treatment of the two diseases may be performed by different clinicians at the same time , Or the treatment can be integrated so that the disease is treated (or at least monitored) by a single treatment provider at the same time.

If you find yourself using drugs or alcohol to control anxiety, this is unlikely to be the solution to the problem. Although certain substances may help relieve anxiety in the short term, their effects are temporary. And the use of these substances can produce psychological or physical dependence, which can cause or worsen other life problems, and ultimately aggravate your anxiety symptoms.

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If you (or your loved one) are worried about your use of drugs to cope with anxiety, you should understand the signs of drug use problems and how to try to change these behaviors.

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Consider discussing your specific situation with a mental health provider or your doctor; the clinician will be able to help you evaluate your symptoms and understand which treatments available might best suit your needs.