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Anxiety Disorders and Addiction - The relationship between them

With our current modern and fast-paced lifestyles, more and more people are suffering from various kinds of anxiety disorders.

In addition, with advances in medicine and psychology, doctors have been able to sub-divide anxiety disorders into more specific categories.

These are based on particular symptoms as well as the patients’ history and circumstance. Understanding the particular disorder will assist in more personalised treatment.

Anxiety Disorders and Addiction Recovery South Africa

What is anxiety?

Anxiety is described as ongoing feelings of fear or worry about current or future events. These feelings are sometimes unwarranted or irrational. In some cases, someone with anxiety can be in a state of fear over nothing at all.

In small doses, anxiety can be normal and even beneficial. It can be considered a way of performing well in a stressful situation such as an exam, a speech or even a driving test. Overall it can be used to help you cope.

However, when anxiety becomes a part of your everyday life, the truth is that it can become quite debilitating.

Anxiety disorders and addiction

Being in a constant state of worry can be mentally, emotionally and even physically taxing. The longer you carry feelings of anxiety with you, the harder it becomes to cope.

It’s often for this reason that someone with anxiety will turn to some form of substance abuse as to ease the way they feel.

Furthermore, addiction can also cause anxiety. This is because drug and alcohol abuse negatively affect the chemical balance of the brain, resulting in a reduced ability to manage stressful situations.

It is easy to see how this can perpetuate the cycle of substance abuse.

The combination of anxiety disorders and addiction is considered a dual-diagnosis and when undergoing addiction recovery, it’s best to receive treatment for both conditions at the same time.

Addiction recovery may be more difficult if the anxiety is not treated too, as the lack of the substance as the crutch will make way for heightened feelings of fear and panic.

Symptoms of anxiety


  • Ongoing feelings of panic
  • Irrational fears
  • Restlessness
  • Nervousness or tension
  • Insomnia
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Rapid breathing or hyperventilation
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty with focusing
  • Heart palpitations
  • Sweaty palms
  • Avoiding social situations


6 Major types of anxiety disorders


  • General Anxiety Disorder (GAD) – the general, irrational fear of minor situations or events
  • Phobia – an exaggerated fear of particular objects such as insects or situations such as closed spaces or heights
  • Agoraphobia – the fear of crowded, public spaces such as shopping centres, public transport and elevators
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) – uncontrollable reoccurring obsessive thoughts or behaviours that are repeated over and over
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – anxiety due to a past traumatic event that triggers memories of that particular situation
  • Panic Disorder (PD) – repeated panic attacks which are accompanied by chest pain, dizziness, palpitations and rapid breathing


Anxiety disorders and addiction recovery

It’s imperative to clinically diagnose an anxiety disorder in order to understand the particular disorder and its symptoms. Having an accurate diagnosis ensures the correct treatment is given.

In addition, understanding that anxiety disorders and addiction often go hand-in-hand is key in providing the best possible treatment during addiction recovery.

Step Away Rehabilitation Centre in Port Elizabeth

Contact us to learn more about our dual-treatment for anxiety disorders and addiction.

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