The relationship between addiction and anxiety disorder is complicated. It's a bit like trying to determine which came first, the chicken or the egg. People who have a mental illness, such as an anxiety disorder, are more likely to be addicted to one or more substances, and people who are addicted are more likely that the general population to also have mental health issues.
Anxiety disorders are more than feeling worried or concerned about things. Everyone feels that way at times, and it's a normal reaction to uncertainty or changes in one's circumstances. A person with an anxiety disorder feels frightened for an extended time in situations that other people are able to cope with. The problem is severe enough to affect their everyday lives and relationships.
About 10 percent of the population lives with an anxiety disorder, which makes it the most common form of mental illness. People of all ages may be affected. Women are diagnosed more often than men with anxiety issues, possibly because women are more likely to report feeling anxious and having difficulty coping to their doctor. In the general population, just under 17 percent of people have an addiction, but that number increases to between 20-65 percent in people who have serious mental health problems.
People with anxiety disorders may become addicted to alcohol, tobacco, or cannabis as a way to self-medicate. They are looking for something that will make them feel calmer and more in control of their circumstances. A person living with an anxiety disorder may become addicted to alcohol, although it is a depressant or find that smoking marijuana helps them feel they are able to cope with situations in their lives. Once they experience some relief from their anxiety symptoms, they are more likely to use the same substance to repeat the experience. This may be the beginning of a slip toward an addiction in addition to the anxiety disorder.