All too often, people mention anxiety as if it is some kind of a buzzword. However, true anxiety disorders are far more than a topic of the moment. Anxiety is a very real, tangible and physical disorder that can impact daily life. There are clinical criteria to diagnose anxiety with specific symptoms and treatments. Struggling with an anxiety disorder can be quite common, so it is important not to trivialize the diagnosis or the people who live with it every single day.


Anxiety is More than Just Fear or Worry

Fear and worry are a part of everyone’s life at some point. The anticipation of a test, job interview or medical procedure can cause anyone to feel anxious. However, with an anxiety disorder, the feelings of fear or worry do not necessarily go away, even after the event or interaction. Anxiety can continue indefinitely, cause lack of sleep, other physical symptoms and inhibit day-to-day life.

Anxious feelings often become disproportionate to the object, interaction or event itself, and can interfere with daily function. For example, a person with anxiety may avoid certain people, places or situations related to their fears. Additionally, their anxiety extends much deeper than exterior behaviors or visible signs. The physical symptoms caused by anxiety can be incredibly debilitating as well. 


What is an Anxiety Disorder?

Anxiety disorder is the common term used for generalized anxiety disorder, as well as social anxiety disorder, various phobia-related disorders and panic disorder. While each type of anxiety has its own criteria, many of the symptoms are similar and include: 

  • Feeling agitated, restless or anxious
  • Irritability
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Rapid breathing
  • Sweating heavily
  • Feelings of panic, dread or danger
  • Muscle tension
  • Feeling weak, easily fatigued
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Insomnia
  • Changes in appetite
  • Digestive problems
  • Avoidance of anxiety-related things
  • Irrational worries about ordinary things

Despite having so many symptoms, anxiety disorders do not have to disrupt daily life. They can be diagnosed with specific criteria based on specific symptoms and are treatable. Living with an anxiety disorder does not need to be a constant nightmare. There are ways to cope with anxiety disorders. 


Coping with Anxiety Daily

Living with anxiety can be difficult. Most often, no one else is aware that the person with anxiety is suffering. Silently, they experience internal physical and mental symptoms, often without being consciously aware of it themselves. Someone with anxiety may lie in bed at night “stressing out” or worrying about something for hours without being able to get to sleep. They might be unable to eat normally, experiencing actual physical symptoms which prevent them from doing so. 

Typical coping mechanisms may include avoidance, including becoming physically ill or intentionally finding an excuse to avoid the dreaded issue. Unfortunately, these coping mechanisms often exacerbate the problem rather than solve it. Learning to cope with anxiety is best achieved with appropriate treatment from licensed professionals.


How are Anxiety and Substance Use Linked?

Another coping mechanism that some people with anxiety use is to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol. Whether it is to escape the fear or to escape the associated symptoms, anxiety is the most common co-occurring disorder with substance use.

While substance use is not a healthy solution to any problem, those with anxiety are looking for at least a temporary escape from the fears, worries and physical symptoms that make them a prisoner in their own minds and bodies. Unfortunately, substance use can compound the problems associated with various anxiety disorders, as well as create all-new problems.


Can Anxiety be Treated Along with Substance Use Disorder (SUD)?

The good news is that the treatment of anxiety and SUD is possible. Typically, the first line of treatment for anxiety is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT,) which is also a common form of talk therapy used in the treatment of SUD. The concept of CBT is to recognize thoughts, as well as how they impact behaviors. In doing this, a person can learn to remove negative thoughts and therefore the negative behaviors and feelings.

In some cases of anxiety disorder, medication is also prescribed. Because some of the medications can cause dependency or addiction, some patients hesitate to seek treatment. However, some medications are not addictive, yet still very effective and can help someone with an anxiety disorder. Finding and following the treatment plan of a psychiatrist or other qualified medical professional is key to managing anxiety.


Anxiety is a very real, very debilitating condition that affects millions of Americans. It is not just a buzzword to be thrown around or be taken lightly. There are very specific symptoms and criteria to diagnose an anxiety disorder, as well as specific treatments that can help. While those struggling with anxiety may turn to substances to cope, there are better ways to deal with the disorder. At New Life Addiction Counseling & Mental Health Services, we recognize that anxiety is a commonly co-occurring disorder with substance use. Our compassionate staff is prepared to help you heal from both anxiety and substance abuse. Call our Pasadena, Maryland, outpatient treatment program at (844) 290-4947, where we focus on giving you the tools you need to heal and move forward with your life. We understand that each person is different and personalize your care accordingly.