Causes & Effects of Anxiety

Understanding Anxiety

Learn About Anxiety

Anxiety disorders are mental health conditions that can cause fear, chronic apprehension, and panic. Mostly everyone will experience anxiety from time to time, however, symptoms of anxiety disorders are powerful enough to affect an individual’s everyday life and enjoyment. Anxiety disorders tend to cause individuals to avoid situations or places that could otherwise be entertaining or productive. In many instances, those who have anxiety disorders lose out on life experiences because of their fears. Battling a substance use disorder and a co-occurring mental health condition such as an anxiety disorder can be extremely challenging to overcome

Some types of anxiety disorders include:

Generalized anxiety disorder causes a person to suffer from intense apprehension and worry on a regular basis. These individuals tend to feel as though something awful will occur at any moment, even if those individuals subconsciously understand that there is nothing to fear. This disorder makes it impossible to “relax” or “calm down,” because the brain continually registers threats.

Social anxiety disorder, which is also known as social phobia, causes an individual to suffer from intense anxiety surrounding social situations. In numerous cases, the individual might fear being judged, even if there is actually no one judging him or her. This type of anxiety disorder can start before any social contact occurs, as the individual anticipates a handful of upsetting scenarios that might arise. Social anxiety disorder can cause isolation; however, like all anxiety disorders, it can be treated.

Separation anxiety disorder is present when an individual experiences intense fear and worry regarding separation from loved ones or special places like one’s home or hometown. This type of anxiety disorder can cause an individual to always worry about their loved ones, and might even cause that individual to go to any length, no matter how uncomfortable, to ensure that loved ones are near. The idea of separating from these people or places alone can cause upsetting levels of anxiety or unhealthy coping.

Specific phobia is a powerful and unreasonable fear of a specific thing or situation. The individual with specific phobia believes that the object or situation in question will cause an insurmountable amount of harm. This fear continues even if the individual can logically comprehend that there is no real danger present. In some instances, phobias might lead to sudden health threats. For example, someone who is fearful of needles or blood might refuse obtaining life-saving medical care. Or, an individual who has a phobia regarding spiders might avoid going into certain places of his or her own house (such as the attic, basement, or garage).

Panic disorder occurs when an individual suffers from continued panic attacks. Panic attacks can feel like abrupt, overpowering moments of fear or illness. Common characteristics of panic disorder can include rushes of intense fear, shortness of breath, shaking, sweating, lightheadedness, sharp body pains, and heart palpitations. These panic attacks can also trigger feelings of being out of one’s body, which are known as depersonalizations, or a feeling of being outside of reality, which is known as derealization. The intensity of these attacks can vary from individual to individual and situation to situation.

Anxiety disorders can quickly overtake the life of an individual and also the lives of that individual’s loved ones. The person who suffers from anxiety might act odd in a flight/fight/or freeze response to situations that would not regularly impact less anxious individuals. Sadly, many individuals who are afflicted with these disorders attempt to ease their anxiety in any way possible, which can include unhealthy ways. These individuals can often face a primary diagnosis of substance use disorder with a co-occurring anxiety disorder. The good news is that anxiety can be treated.

With the appropriate support that is offered by licensed, experienced counselors or psychiatrists, many individuals start to experience relief in just a few weeks. Treatment for anxiety disorders has made tremendous progress in recent years, and wellness is attainable.


Anxiety Statistics

Forty million American adults, or 18% of the U.S. adult population, experience one or more anxiety disorders as stated by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA). Many of those adults find that their anxiety disorder is a condition that co-occurs with a substance use disorder.

Causes & Risks

Causes and Risk Factors of Anxiety

Many things can determine an individual’s risk for developing one or more anxiety disorders, including when one of these disorders exists alongside a primary diagnosis of a substance use disorder. Some of those risk factors include:

Genetic: If an individual has direct relatives, like grandparents, parents, or possibly even aunts and uncles who battle anxiety disorders, he or she is more susceptible to developing an anxiety disorder as well. The most severe anxiety disorders may be more likely to be passed down from parents to children.

Environmental: If an individual is already predisposed to developing an anxiety disorder, a handful of environmental factors might increase his or her risk of that anxiety becoming unmanageable. Severe stressors, including automobile accidents, family or community violence, job loss, or the death of a loved one can add to the development of these disorders. Even low levels of continued stress, including a less-than-satisfactory job or continued financial strain, can add to the chances that these disorders will develop. Social anxiety disorder and agoraphobia may be more likely to occur in individuals who have experienced negativity within their childhood or suffered childhood abuse. Phobias can be connected to stressful events that included the object or situation that is feared.

Risk Factors:

  • Parents who were overprotective
  • Traumatic experiences at any point in life
  • History of sexual or physical abuse
  • Highly neurotic personality
  • Physical or emotional sensitivity to anxiety
  • Inhibited behavior

Signs & Symptoms

Signs and Symptoms of Anxiety

Every form of anxiety disorder will lead to specific symptoms, especially when a substance use disorder is the presenting condition and an anxiety disorder is co-occurring alongside of it. Additionally, since each person is unique, the signs of anxiety in one individual might not look the same as they do in another individual. Some symptoms and signs of anxiety disorders that you might be able to identify in yourself or a loved one include:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Refusal to leave home or other “safe” places
  • Avoiding tasks such as driving or activities that involve feared areas
  • Restlessness or inability to sit still
  • Fear or refusal to separate from loved ones or attachment figures
  • Ignoring responsibilities
  • Avoiding other people or social situations
  • Inability to complete tasks

Physical symptoms:

  • Shaking
  • Lightheadedness
  • Muscle tension
  • Fatigue or exhaustion
  • Stomachaches or headaches
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Difficulty sleeping or staying asleep
  • Sweating

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Thoughts of running away
  • Nightmares or night terrors
  • Inability to control apprehension and worry
  • Depersonalization
  • Derealization
  • Paranoia
  • Feeling as though one’s mind has gone blank

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Low self-esteem
  • Mood swings
  • Irritability
  • Hopeless or helpless feelings
  • Fear, despite logical knowledge of safety
  • Inability to control apprehension and worry

Lasting Effects

Effects of Anxiety

Without proper care, anxiety disorders might lead to a number of unfortunate effects, such as:

  • Family conflicts
  • Additional mental health diagnoses
  • Social isolation
  • Decrease in job performance
  • Decreased quality of life
  • Self-harm
  • Decline in physical health
  • Alcohol or substance abuse or addiction (when the individual uses substances to cope)
  • Relationship conflicts or loss of important relationships

Co-Occurring Disorders

Co-Occurring Disorders

Those who battle anxiety might also struggle with other mental health conditions. Depression is particularly common in those who have anxiety, as untreated anxiety will start to take its toll. In many instances, those who are struggling with a substance use disorder will experience a co-occurring anxiety disorder. Some of the most common co-occurring disorders that accompany anxiety can include:

  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Personality disorders
  • Depressive disorders
  • Impulse-control disorders
  • Substance use disorders
  • Personality disorders
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Eating disorders
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My Anxiety was taking control of my life. After discovering Serenity Knolls, I admitted myself to get help and learn better coping mechanisms. Their treatment professionals helped me to manage my mental health and I have had a much better quality of life since.

– Christina S.