Among the many mental health disorders that commonly occur in individuals who suffer from substance use disorder and addiction, anxiety disorders are among the most common. Characterized by the frequent experience of debilitating fear and anxiety, anxiety disorders are unpleasant and can lead individuals to a state of desperation as they search for ways to alleviate their anxieties. But does that mean anxiety and addiction have a direct causal relationship?
What is Anxiety?
The spectrum of human emotion is vast and diverse. And not only is it diverse, emotion is quite transient. On any given day, a person can experience a wide range of emotions, covering a significant portion of the emotional spectrum. Of course, when we consider emotion, we often focus on feelings like happiness, sadness, anger, fear, and a number of other well-known emotions that leave very little room for interpretation. After all, when a person is experiencing happiness, we have a very strong understanding of how that person is feeling and even have an idea of the type of stimulus that causes feelings of happiness. But other emotions are a bit more complicated, warranting some explanation and elaboration. One of those more complex emotions is anxiety.
By definition, anxiety is characterized as an unpleasant state of inner turmoil. More often than not, this “inner turmoil” is accompanied by nervousness and nervous-like behaviors. For example, people who are experiencing anxiety might pace back and forth or feel the sensation of having butterflies in their stomachs. Additionally, there can be a number of physiological symptoms that accompany anxiety, including an increased heart rate, increased respiration, sweating, nausea, high blood pressure, dizziness, and so on.
Like feelings of happiness or anger, anxiety is a feeling that is normal and expected. Though the frequency can vary considerably depending on the amount of stress and the number of stress-inducing situations in a person’s life, most people experience some amount of anxiety at least somewhat regularly. However, it’s important to note that anxiety isn’t the same as fear or stress. While feelings of fear and stress are emotional responses to real or actualized events, anxiety is, by comparison, a feeling that a person might get regarding events that haven’t actually happened, whether the event is imminent — i.e. about to happen — or imagined.
Anxiety Disorder vs. “normal” Anxiety
Although anxiety is a feeling that the vast majority of us experience without warranting cause for concern, anxiety can reach a level of intensity that is, in fact, concerning. This is the difference between natural, “normal” anxiety and the more exaggerated, intensified anxiety that characterized an anxiety disorder.
Anxiety disorders are a group of mental health disorders that are characterized by feelings of intense fear and anxiety. Much like your typical, everyday anxiety, there are physiological symptoms that accompany the anxiety a person experiences as part of an anxiety disorder, including many of the same symptoms like elevated heart rate and blood pressure, sweating, increased respiration, and nausea. But there are certain differences that distinguish an anxiety disorder from everyday anxiety. In particular, an anxiety disorder will affect many other areas of a person’s life and is likely to inhibit a person’s ability to function. Additionally, an anxiety disorder will dominate a person’s mind, making it very difficult or nearly impossible to concentrate because of the imposing feelings of fear.