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What to Know About GAD and Addiction

What to Know About GAD and Addiction

There is often a link between mental health and substance misuse that can go unnoticed without knowing what to symptoms present themselves. This relationship can be complex, with one influencing the other in a variety of ways. Learn more about generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and what to know about co-occurring substance use.

GAD Defined

GAD impacts millions of adults in the United States. This condition often brings up feelings of being overwhelmed, along with persistent fear and an inability to control emotions or feelings. Facing daily task or situations can bring anxiety, often without warning. It can become debilitating over time, which categorizes it as a chronic disorder that needs support for a lifetime.

Co-Occurring Disorders

GAD is more than just generally feeling worried or anxious about life situations. People who suffer from anxiety disorders, including those who have had it since childhood, may seek relief in many ways. Not everyone with GAD develops a substance use disorder, but there are thousands of people who do, simply because dealing with the stress of the symptoms of GAD can be so difficult on a daily basis.


Anxiety is a part of being human. Daily life brings stressors, big and small, but people with GAD feel overwhelmed trying to handle just about everything that comes their way. A person with this disorder can suffer from symptoms lasting a month up to a year. Symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Consistent restlessness
  • Tense muscles
  • Erratic sleep habits

Anyone can suffer from GAD, but there are risk factors that increase the likelihood of experiencing these symptoms. Among these are:

  • Genetic factors: a person with a close relative who suffered from GAD is more likely to have the disorder
  • History of trauma: developing GAD as an adult is more likely when there is a history of trauma in childhood
  • Physical illness: GAD could be a side effect of certain medical conditions including heart disease and hyperthyroidism
  • Brain chemistry: an imbalance in neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, or norepinephrine could contribute to GAD
  • Substance use: alcohol and drug use can either worsen or cause GAD

While a co-occurring substance use and anxiety disorder can be a challenge, it is not impossible to deal with. While a co-occurring disorder adds another layer of complexity to addiction treatment, this does not mean there is no help available. Having the right team and treatment approach in place will have the best result for people who are struggling with anxiety and substance use disorder.

There are so many layers when it comes to figuring out what step to take first in dealing with substance use and anxiety disorders. The first thing you need to do is admit the need for help. We will help take care of the rest. Our professional team of healthcare and addiction recovery professionals will support you as you take the recovery journey step-by-step. Call us 24/7 at our toll-free number: 866-294-9401