Anxiety Disorders Plague Almost 13 Million Americans

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Updated 07/20/2022

There are a number of different debilitating disorders that fall under the category of anxiety disorders.

Post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, generalized anxiety, phobias – all of these can have both physical and mental symptoms that make it difficult to impossible for the patient to function in the world.

A US Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) survey based on data from 2008-2012, found that for the almost 13 million Americans who had faced an anxiety disorder at some point in the year prior to the survey, maintaining employment and managing the details of their lives often proved to be a daily struggle. But according to the US Department of Health and Human Services, about 4.3 million of these patients had full-time jobs and were fully functioning on their own, proof that treatment and support services work.

Treatment Helps

The US Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) estimates that almost 4 percent of full-time employees over the age of 18 struggle with an anxiety disorder – and that’s no small number. Despite the fact that extreme fear, physical symptoms of panic, and overwhelming worry and/or obsessive thoughts may characterize their disorder, people can learn to manage these symptoms through therapy and medication.

Pamela Hyde is a SAMHSA administrator. In an agency news release, she said: “People with anxiety disorders can have a hard time gaining employment and sometimes dealing with certain situations. But fortunately, with treatment and support they can make enormous contributions to the workplace and the community.”

A Common Ailment

In addition to the 3.7 percent of full-time workers who struggle with an anxiety disorder, an even higher percentage of part-time workers are living with anxiety issues and symptoms as well, accounting for the remainder of the 13 million people with these disorders. According to the SAMHSA study:

  • About 1.7 million part-time employees were living with an anxiety disorder (or 5.6 percent of part-time employees).
  • Approximately 1 million anxiety patients were unemployed (or 6.9 percent of all unemployed workers in the US).
  • About 5.9 million people were completely out of the workforce (or 8.9 percent of that population).
  • Bottom line: About 5.7 percent of all Americans over the age of 18, or about 13 million people, struggled with anxiety disorders/symptoms in the past year.

Said Hyde: “…employers, unions, educators, health providers and all segments of the community need to work together so that we can help people surmount the challenges of anxiety disorders and lead full, productive lives.”

Anxiety Disorders and Substance Abuse

The experience of a mental health disorder like an anxiety disorder and a substance abuse disorder is exceedingly common. In fact, it is estimated that people living with an anxiety disorder are twice as likely as their peers to develop a substance abuse problem as well.

Why? Some patients may feel that using illicit drugs or alcohol helps them to manage the fears and worries that characterize their anxiety disorder, and while this may work initially and in small doses, ultimately, it causes even more problems: like a drug dependence and an increase in their anxiety symptoms.

Other patients may develop an addiction to their prescription medications. Patients who struggle with anxiety may be prescribed anti-anxiety medications that are addictive (e.g., Xanax, Ativan) and abuse those drugs, ultimately developing an addiction. Behaviors that characterize abuse of a prescription sedative include:

  • Taking more pills than the doctor ordered
  • Crushing the pills prior to taking them
  • Combining the use of the medication with other drugs, especially alcohol, to amplify its effects
  • Using any amount of a prescription drug without a prescription from the doctor

No matter how it happens, the existence of both an anxiety disorder and a substance abuse disorder requires intensive and comprehensive intervention and care.

Treatment for Co-Occurring Disorders

Whenever a patient is living with both a mental health disorder and a substance abuse disorder, co-occurring disorders treatment is recommended. This style of treatment provides intensive therapeutic and medical care to patients that addresses the issues related to both their drug and alcohol addiction and their anxiety symptoms. Because each patient’s experience with anxiety and with drug use is unique, their experience in treatment will be unique as well. In general, however, co-occurring disorders treatment should provide access to:

  • Medical detox: Medical care for any withdrawal symptoms associated with detox from the drug of choice may be necessary.
  • Medication: Many people will benefit from taking medications to assist them in managing their anxiety symptoms, especially during the early parts of recovery.
  • Assessment and evaluation: This process helps to identify the unique details contributing to the person’s experience of anxiety and the potential obstacles to long-term recovery from both substance abuse and their mental health symptoms (e.g., trauma, physical symptoms, etc.). This will help the therapeutic team to create an effective treatment plan.
  • Therapy: Family therapy, personal therapy, group therapy, 12-step meetings, and alternative therapy – there are a number of different types of therapeutic interventions that can help patients learn how to stop abusing all substances, manage anxiety symptoms, address their issues from the past, and move toward a more balanced future.
  • Aftercare: Once rehab is over, patients will need to continue to remain connected with their recovery from both disorders through treatment and follow-up care.

Learning more about anxiety disorders, substance abuse issues, and treatment options can help you to overcome any issues you may be facing in managing your health. Contact The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake for more information.

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