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What is a Substance-Induced Anxiety Disorder?

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Drug Use Can Cause Anxiety

Anxiety disorders are mental health disorders that cause extreme feelings of anxiety, worry, or fear.

In order to be diagnosed as an anxiety disorder by a clinician, the symptoms must also interfere with daily life.

Substance-induced anxiety disorders are anxiety disorders that are produced by the use or abuse of substances such as alcohol or drugs.

Symptoms may appear during use or as a withdrawal symptom when the drug leaves the body.

Just like other anxiety disorders, a substance-induced anxiety disorder must also interfere with everyday life and functionality in order for a clinician to diagnose it.

Often, people use drugs or alcohol to find relief from pressures of everyday life or as a coping mechanism in an attempt to alleviate mental health issues.

However, sometimes the effects of these substances can increase anxiety or panic.

Unfortunately, continued substance use can lead to the development of a substance-induced anxiety disorder.

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What are Symptoms of Substance-Induced Anxiety Disorder?

There are many shared symptoms between anxiety disorders and substance-induced anxiety disorder.

The first indicator of a substance-induced anxiety disorder is the abuse of a substance or the withdrawal of a substance.

The following are symptoms of substance-induced anxiety disorder:

  • Excessive worrying
  • Increased heartrate
  • Chills and sweats
  • Chest pain
  • General uneasiness
  • Emotional distress
  • Shaking and tremors
  • Trouble concentrating and focusing
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Difficulty sleeping

These symptoms will persist as you continue to use the substances that caused the disorder in the first place.

In addition to substance-induced anxiety disorder, substance use can cause other mental health disorders and physical health problems.

Many people continue to abuse substances because they do not realize the substance is the primary cause of their anxiety or because they wish to avoid the distressing symptoms of withdrawal.

It is important to note that when withdrawal symptoms are persistent and frequent; it is considered an addiction.

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Common Substances That Cause Substance-Induced Anxiety

Substance-induced anxiety can be caused by virtually any substance. However, there are substances that are known to have an increased likelihood of causing substance-induced anxiety.
Substances are organized into distinct categories based on their effects. These categories are: depressants, stimulants, opioids, and hallucinogens.
Common substances for each category include:

  • Depressants – Alcohol, Barbiturates, Benzodiazepines
  • Stimulants – Cocaine, Methamphetamine, Amphetamine
  • Opioids – Heroin, Morphine, Fentanyl
  • Hallucinogens – Psylocibin (Mushrooms), Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), N,N-Dimethyltryptamine (DMT)

All of these substances affect every individual differently due to numerous factors, including genetics, environment, mood, mental health, and the amount of substance that is consumed.

Medication Treatment of Substance-Induced Anxiety Disorder

Substance-induced anxiety disorder can be treated through a combination of medication and various types of therapy. Physicians typically prescribe antidepressants and anxiety medications, depending on the severity of the disorder and what substances were abused.
A more recent medication treatment includes a type of anticonvulsant medication. It can help regulate moods in addition to alleviating anxiety from substance-induced anxiety disorder.
Antidepressants are placed into five categories: Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI), Serotonin and Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRI), Tricyclic Antidepressants (TCA), Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOI), and Atypical Antidepressants.
Each class of antidepressants works in the brain differently, but the goal of antidepressants is the same: to treat depression and anxiety symptoms.

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Nonmedication Treatment of Substance-Induced Anxiety Disorder

Psychotherapy is a form of psychological treatment or intervention that can help you change behaviors and thought patterns, especially maladaptive behaviors and ways of thinking.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy, or CBT, is a form of psychotherapy that is often used to treat substance-induced anxiety disorder. CBT can change your way of thinking in order to change unwanted behaviors.
The purpose of psychosocial interventions is to address the substance-induced anxiety disorder in a manner that stops the cycle of abuse. When you initially stops using substances, you will likely experience the unpleasant symptoms of withdrawal.
A medical detoxification supervised by professional clinicians is usually recommended. Withdrawal from some substances such as alcohol and heroin can cause serious physical and mental health effects and/or death.
Becoming sober and independent from the grip of substance abuse and addiction will help alleviate the anxiety it was causing. Once the substance abuse has ceased, cognitive-behavioral therapy can more effectively treat substance-induced anxiety disorder.

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