Alcohol Addiction and Anxiety

What is anxiety?

Anxiety is defined as anticipatory tension or vague dread persisting in the absence of a specific threat. It is a physiological state characterized by cognitive, somatic, emotional, and behavioral components. These components combine to create the feelings that we typically recognize as fear, apprehension, or worry. It is characterized by the primal urge to "fight or flee" upon sensing a threat.

A person experiencing anxiety will have both voluntary and involuntary behaviors directed towards avoiding that which they feel is a threat to them.

As a result of trying to escape from or avoid that which causes them anxiety, people tend to deal with it through sometimes lamentable means such as substance abuse and alcoholism.

What is alcoholism?

Alcoholism in medical definitions is a disease characterized by the lack of or impaired control of the consumption of alcohol. Alcoholism is also commonly used to describe the continuous consumption of alcohol despite its effects on a person’s health or its consequences on a person’s social life. Medically, it is termed as a disease which results in the persistent use of alcohol despite negative effects on an individual’s health.

As a person who is experiencing anxiety tries more and more to escape from what he dreads, he or she becomes increasingly dependent on the effects of alcohol – drunkenness and insobriety which is characterized by the reduction of a person’s ability to think clearly and therefore numbs the fear or anxiety he or she feels – and as a result becomes an alcoholic.

"Alcoholics may feel a need to continue to drink alcohol in an attempt to self-medicate to reduce their anxiety and other unpleasant withdrawal symptoms," said Dr. Subhash Pandey, UIC professor of psychiatry and director of neuroscience alcoholism research.

What is an addiction?

An individual suffering from anxiety could also resort to substance or drug abuse to escape from their fears which could result to mental or physical dependence and/or addiction.

Addiction is defined as compulsive physiological and psychological need for a habit-forming substance. It is a term used to describe a recurring compulsion by an individual to engage in a specific activity despite harmful consequences to the individual’s health, mental state or social life. It was initially accepted as a pharmacological term referring to the use of a drug and a person’s (even mammals’) ability to "tolerate" successively large doses of a certain drug with the same effect.[6]

Despite varying medical definitions – some medical practitioners would accept dependency and addiction as two different things or "levels" of substance abuse, saying that addiction is the next level of dependency – addiction commonly means the continuous use of a drug despite an individual’s best interest.

What is withdrawal?

Although drug addiction and alcoholism are sometimes the result of some individuals’ lack of the ability to properly deal with anxiety, addicts and alcoholics who suddenly stop or lessen their intake of drugs or alcohol also experience anxiety. This is called withdrawal.

Withdrawal has different effects. Prolonged use of alcohol or drugs develops a tolerance in the body and as the body adapts to the drugs effects, physical dependence begins. This adaptation does not disappear overnight. When usage of a drug is stopped, these adaptations remain and withdrawal symptoms kick-in and are usually the opposite of the drugs effects.

More often than not, withdrawal brings about rebound effects. When the drug use is discontinued, the original ‘ailment’ or ‘sickness’ that the drug was supposed to cure originally, comes back – often worse than before. It is most common among anti-depressant users who say that their depression or anxiety are worse than their original state before taking medication.