Types of Anxiety and Addiction – Anxiety is a normal reaction that manifests from the brain’s “fight or flight” response mechanism. For example, people may feel anxious in hazardous situations or before making important decisions. But for some, anxiety is not just a temporary worry – it tends to be pervasive and may increase in intensity over time. As a result, symptoms begin to interfere with daily activities and responsibilities such as school, work, and relationships.
There are several types of anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, phobia-related disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Types of Anxiety
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), is a disorder marked by chronic anxiety and excessive worry and stress, even when there is little to aggravate it.
People with GAD exhibit undue anxiety or distress on a near-daily basis for at least 6 months. These worries can be regarding any number of issues, such as personal health, work, social interactions, and everyday regular life circumstances. And indeed, this anxiety can, in turn, cause notable problems in many of these same areas of life.
GAD symptoms may include the following:
- Feeling on edge and irritable
- Being easily fatigued
- Having sleep disturbances
- Having difficulty concentrating and focusing
- Feeling muscle tension and restlessness
- Difficulty controlling anxious feeling
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a disorder characterized by chronic, uncontrollable and unwanted thoughts and obsessions as well as compulsive, repetitive behaviors.
These may include hand-washing, cleaning, counting, and the strict performance of routines in an effort to inhibit these thoughts.
However, these feelings are offered only temporary relief through the practice of these rituals, and yet, not performing them exacerbates anxiety. Moreover, a person with OCD receives little or no pleasure from performing the behaviors or routines but may feel short-term relief from the anxiety caused by the intrusive thoughts.
Common obsessive and compulsive symptoms of OCD include the following:
- Fear of germs or contamination, resulting in excessive cleaning or hand-washing
- Unwanted nor taboo thoughts and feelings involving sex, religion, or harm
- Aggressive thoughts toward self or others
- Having things placed symmetrically or in a perfect order, arranging things in a precise way
- Repeated checking on things, such as repeatedly reassuring oneself that the door is locked or that the oven is turned off
- Compulsive counting
Panic disorder can be a very debilitating anxiety disorder and is marked by sudden recurrent episodes of intense dread and feelings of impending doom or lack of control. These feelings are accompanied by physical symptoms that exhibit death-like terror, including racing heart/palpitations, shortness of breath, chest pain, dizziness, sweating, trembling or shaking.
Attacks can be purely spontaneous but are often triggered by some specific fear of a situation, person, or thing, such as flying in a plane during turbulence.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a disorder that may manifest after a person has experienced a shocking or terrifying event in which physical harm transpired or was threatened in some way. Such events include, but are not limited to physical or sexual assault, natural disasters, and military combat.
While feeling anxiety or fear during and after a traumatic event is normal and meant to protect us from harm, people who continue to experience problems associated with these feelings long-term may become anxious or frightened during non-threatening situations and subsequently be diagnosed with PTSD.
PTSD Signs and Symptoms
Not every person who is exposed to trauma suffers from PTSD, and not everyone with PTSD has been exposed to a life-threatening event. For example, some people can develop PTSD after the death of a loved one.
Symptoms usually begin within three months of the event, but sometimes can begin years later. In any case, Symptoms must continue for more than a month and be severe enough to interfere with relationships or work
To be diagnosed with PTSD, a person must exhibit all of the following for at least one month:
- At least one re-experiencing symptom such as a flashback or bad dream
- At least one avoidance symptom, such as staying away from places or events that
- remind one of the experience
- At least two arousal and reactivity symptoms, such as being easily startled or having angry outbursts
- At least two cognition and mood symptoms, such as having negative thoughts about oneself or the world, or having feelings like guilt, shame or blame
A phobia is an intense fear of a certain object (e.g., needles or blood) or living thing (e.g. spider) or situation (e.g., flying or being in a high place.) Anxiety is often normal in some of these circumstances, but people with phobias experience fear out of proportion to the true danger potential of the situation.
People with a phobia may exhibit the following signs:
- Having an irrational or unrealistic worry about exposure to the object or situation they fear
- Taking action to avoid the object or situation
- Experience sudden and intense anxiety when encountering the object or situation
- Enduring unavoidable objects or situations while suffering from intense anxiety and fear
Social anxiety disorder (SAD), also known as social phobia, have an intense fear of social situations or circumstances in which they have to perform or speak in front of others. They worry that behaviors associated with their anxiety will be adversely judged by others and that they will feel humiliated.
This worry can cause persons with SAD to avoid many social situations, including school, work, and gatherings. People with SAD can also experience agoraphobia, a condition which in extreme cases can result in a person being confined to his or her home.
Separation anxiety disorder is characterized by a fear of being apart from people to whom one is attached. This is more common in children but adults may also experience it. The person worries that harm or another attachment-threatening event will occur when their attachment figure is away, and this fear leads them to avoid being separated from the parent or other person.
Types of Anxiety and Substance Abuse Treatment
Substance use disorders (SUDs) occur significantly more often in patients with anxiety disorders than among those in the general population. Specifically, social anxiety disorder has been strongly associated with alcoholism and PTSD has been linked to both alcohol and drug abuse.
Anxiety disorders when left untreated often leads people to experiment with psychoactive substances as a means to self-medicate.
Symptoms caused by these substances, such as depression, irritability, and general malaise often exacerbate anxiety disorder and thus, help perpetuate a cycle of substance abuse and mental illness.
Addiction does not usually exist in a vacuum – moreover, it usually co-exists with another mental health condition such as anxiety. For these reasons, a co-occurring mental illness must be treated in conjunction with substance abuse, and not as a separate entity.
Both anxiety disorders and substance abuse can be treated through participation in a long-term, comprehensive, evidence-based addiction treatment program. This program includes behavioral therapy, individual and family counseling, group support, and ancillary services such as yoga and music and art therapy.
Treatment is offered both as residential (inpatient) and intensive outpatient formats. Inpatients benefit from around-the-clock medical supervision and emotional support, while outpatients can take advantage of increased flexibility to attend to personal responsibilities such as work and family.
Recovery from mental illness and addiction is a lifelong process, but it can begin now with our help.
Related: How to Help an Addict