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The Link Between Anxiety and Substance Abuse in Women

A woman with anxiety talking to her therapist with her head in her hands.

Nervousness, panic and tension follow you around your daily life like a shadow. And if you’re one of the millions of women in the country with an anxiety disorder, you know these feelings all too well and just want a way to escape them.

But with anxiety, finding an escape or a way to cope isn’t always simple. All you want is a way to stop the fear, panic and restlessness that are sending shockwaves through your life. For many women, escape from these symptoms comes in the form of substance abuse. In fact, roughly 20 percent of women in America with an anxiety disorder also struggle with substance abuse.

With numbers like that, it’s natural to wonder if there’s a link between anxiety and substance abuse in women. In this post, we’re going to dive into the answer and provide helpful information about treatment options.

Women and Anxiety

Before we dive into the connection to substance abuse, it’s important to understand what makes women’s anxiety unique. Did you know that women are twice as likely to have an anxiety disorder? But why is this the case? Part of the answer can be explained by what’s unique about a woman’s brain chemistry.

Anxiety disorders take advantage of your body’s natural fight or flight response. The chemicals and hormones in the female brain can make this fight or flight response last longer. This increases the risk of developing an anxiety disorder and can make symptoms more challenging to deal with.

Plus, women go through more hormonal changes throughout their lives. Aside from puberty, pregnancy and menopause can cause major hormone shifts that have been linked to anxiety. And unfortunately, women are more likely to experience physical or sexual abuse compared to men. Traumatic events like these can fuel anxiety and actually make it harder for your brain to process emotions.

The Link Between Anxiety and Substance Abuse

When a woman is suffering from an anxiety disorder, the symptoms can feel overwhelming. There’s a restless feeling that you can’t seem to shake. And the intense panic you experience each day has you wishing there was something you could do to stop it. For many women with an anxiety disorder, drug and alcohol abuse usually starts as a way to cope.

At first, self-medicating with drugs or alcohol can relieve anxiety. But as this habit continues, your brain builds a tolerance to the substance. As a result, more drugs or alcohol are needed to give you the relief you’ve grown accustomed to. The problem is that this often traps women in a cycle of substance abuse when they were just trying to manage their anxiety symptoms.

How Substance Abuse Can Backfire

If you’re a woman who is struggling with an anxiety disorder, drugs and alcohol might seem like a good way to manage your symptoms. But in many cases, taking drugs or alcohol for your anxiety can actually make your symptoms worse.

An important aspect of anxiety to understand is that it builds momentum. One anxious thought or moment of panic can lead to another, and it’s easy for that cycle to continue until you feel paralyzed. It’s common for drugs and alcohol to cause a spike in anxiety once your high wears off, making your fear, panic and nervousness worse than it was before you drank or took drugs. What started out as a way to cope with your anxiety ends up fueling the disorder and making the symptoms more severe.

The Importance of Dual Diagnosis Treatment for Women

There was once debate about what should be treated first: the mental health disorder or the addiction. Now, we know that the two are deeply connected and need to be treated together with dual diagnosis treatment.

Dual diagnosis treatment is a way for you to gain a better understanding of how your anxiety and substance abuse are related. Some of the main benefits of dual diagnosis treatment for women include:

  • Support and guidance in getting to the bottom of your anxiety and substance abuse
  • Development of healthy coping skills to manage your anxiety disorder
  • Insight and understanding into how your anxiety disorder and addiction affect each other

Get Treatment for Your Anxiety and Substance Abuse at Footprints Beachside Recovery

Many women who are struggling with an anxiety disorder and substance abuse don’t seek treatment, feeling ashamed and fearing what they may find out about themselves. But at Footprints Beachside Recovery, we understand the unique challenges you’re facing and can provide the compassionate care you deserve.

At our boutique addiction treatment center in Florida, you’ll find hope for a brighter future. Our gender-specific treatment program gives women the opportunity to heal in a safe and supportive environment. Although it might feel like it right now, you don’t have to go through your struggle with addiction and anxiety alone.

We know that every woman’s history with anxiety and addiction is unique. That’s why we take the time to get to know your story. It’s our goal to give you an individualized treatment plan to guide your recovery. If you want a healthier way to cope with your anxiety, contact our expert team today.

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