Tag Archives: Anxiety Disorders

Long-Term Prescription Stimulant Use: What Are the Risks of ADHD Medications?

The millennial generation is the first in history to be routinely prescribed stimulant medications like Adderall, Ritalin and Concerta to treat the symptoms of ADHD. Not surprisingly, many in this generation are also suffering from issues with stimulant drug abuse. Studies show that the recreational use of ADHD medications is the second-most common form of illicit drug use among college-aged adults, just behind marijuana.

The rise in young adults taking ADHD medications is shocking. In fact, in the four-year period between 2011 and 2015, the number of American workers who tested positive for amphetamine drug use increased by 44 percent.

Because stimulant ADHD medications are prescribed by doctors, many users mistakenly believe that there is little to no danger associated with taking them long-term. In reality, however, these drugs have a powerful effect on users, and extended use should never be taken lightly. Let’s take a closer look at the effects of long-term ADHD medication use.

Long-Term Adderall Abuse and the Brain

Stimulant ADHD medications increase energy levels and focus by artificially increasing the amount of specific neurotransmitters in the brain. The primary neurotransmitters affected by Adderall, for instance, are:

  • Dopamine
  • Norepinephrine
  • Serotonin

Over time, the brain adjusts to these elevated levels of neurotransmitters and loses its ability to produce enough of them without the use of drugs. Habitual amphetamine users, for example, often suffer from low dopamine levels, which greatly reduces the ability to feel joy or pleasure without chemical assistance. When the user’s tolerance to the effects of stimulants increases, they often become unable to function normally without them.

Those addicted to Adderall and Adderall-like drugs experience a number of troubling psychological symptoms upon stopping use, including:

  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia
  • Lack of motivation
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Mood swings
  • Aggression
  • Suicidal thinking

Many researchers believe that the emotional and psychological effects of long-term ADHD medication abuse are the greatest risks users face. In extreme cases, prescription stimulants have been known to trigger the onset of serious mental illnesses like schizophrenia, psychosis and bipolar disorder. Those with a preexisting mental health disorder are at an elevated risk for developing negative side effects after long-term stimulant medication use.

The Dangers of Childhood Stimulant Use

Childhood Prescription Stimulant Use - Reflections Rehab
Those who take prescription ADHD medications at a young age are at a unique risk for developing future issues with drug abuse. In addition to the effects that stimulants have on brain chemistry, they also play a powerful role in a person’s behavioral and emotional development.

Because Adderall and Ritalin help to increase energy levels and motivation, those who take these drugs during childhood often report that they never developed the ability to accomplish tasks and goals while unmedicated. While many outgrow their ADHD symptoms upon reaching adulthood, many childhood Adderall users find that they are unable to function effectively without drugs.

It is important to remember that even though ADHD medications can be used therapeutically and legally, there is always the possibility that long-term use can have serious, lifelong consequences.

Research on Long-Term Stimulant Use

Studies have suggested that the therapeutic effects of prescription ADHD medications begin to disappear when taken for longer than two years.

This research suggests that the long-term treatment of ADHD symptoms with amphetamine drugs may be ineffective. While not all health care professionals share this opinion, the growing body of research cannot be ignored.

A study published in 2017 in The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry found that long-term Adderall and Ritalin use was ineffective for long-term ADHD treatment. In addition, this study found that ADHD medications may also suppress psychological development well into adulthood.

Symptoms of Stimulant Medication Abuse

There are a number of physical side effects associated with the abuse of ADHD medications. Over the long term, amphetamine abuse can lead to problems in both the heart and cardiovascular systems. The most common of these problems include hypertension (high blood pressure) and tachycardia (irregular heart rate). Although rare, amphetamine abuse can even lead to sudden cardiac arrest and death.

Other side effects of long-term Adderall abuse include:

  • Headaches
  • Constipation
  • Hyperactivity
  • Insomnia
  • Heart disease
  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Weight loss
  • Tooth decay
  • Heart palpitations
  • Respiratory trouble
  • Dizziness

Recognizing ADHD Medication Abuse

Again, because doctors routinely prescribe amphetamine medications to Americans with ADHD, it can be difficult to recognize when the use of such drugs has become problematic. Recognizing the warning signs of amphetamine abuse is the first step toward correcting the problem before it’s too late.

Signs that a loved one has developed a harmful amphetamine habit include:

  • Prioritizing stimulant medication use over one’s responsibilities
  • Taking more of stimulant medication than prescribed
  • An inability to function without stimulant drugs
  • Misrepresenting one’s psychological symptoms in order to obtain ADHD medications
  • An inability to either stop or control one’s use of ADHD medications
  • Transitioning to the use of street amphetamines or methamphetamine

Overcoming Prescription Stimulant Use

Breaking an addiction to stimulant drugs is incredibly difficult, especially when the use of such drugs began in childhood. A key part of any effective drug abuse treatment program is identifying the underlying problems that led to addiction.

Those abusing drugs like Adderall and Ritalin may need help coping with their attention issues naturally. Often, these underlying issues stem from other undiagnosed psychological disorders. Therapeutic tools such as group counseling and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can aid those struggling with addiction in achieving stronger mental health.

If you or someone you love is struggling with an addiction to prescription stimulants, know that there are people who can help. Contact a member of our team at Reflections Recovery Center today, and discover how our men’s rehabilitation program can help you retake control over your life.

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Compulsivity and Addiction: How Compulsive Behavior and Substance Abuse Are Related

Characters with compulsive tendencies have been depicted often throughout the years in television, film and theater. Modern examples include the character Adrian Monk of the television series “Monk” and Robert McCall of “The Equalizer” film franchise. A more classic example would be Felix Unger of “The Odd Couple,” as seen on Broadway and on the small and silver screens.

Although none of these three characters have problems with drug use or alcoholism, people with compulsive tendencies are generally at greater risk of substance abuse than the rest of the population.

People can also fall prey to compulsive exercising, gambling, shopping, dieting and eating, but in this article, we would like to focus on when compulsivity collides with drug or alcohol use. Why? The combination could unravel one’s life and even turn deadly.

If you know someone who compulsively drinks or uses drugs, find out why you need to act quickly to get this person help before their physical and mental health goes significantly downhill.

What Causes Compulsive Behaviors? 

Compulsive behaviors are borne out of a desire to manage anxieties. For instance, someone who develops a heightened awareness or fear of germs may become a compulsive hand washer – or they may refuse to touch certain everyday items at all. The behavior gives them a sense of control over, and relief from, their anxiety.

This is why obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is classified under anxiety disorders. Although you may notice a lot of people with unique quirks and compulsive tendencies, the symptoms of OCD must be severe and persistent. Thus, OCD diagnoses are actually quite rare.

In fact, the National Alliance on Mental Illness estimates that only 2 percent of the U.S. population will be diagnosed with OCD in their lifetime. At any given time, roughly 2 million Americans are actively suffering from OCD.

The Symptoms of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

For someone with full-blown OCD, they will have persistent symptoms in two areas: obsessions and compulsions. Yes, the compulsions are usually borne out of the obsessive thoughts.

Someone with OCD will show signs of obsession, such as:

  • Aversions to germs or dirt
  • Repeated unwanted ideas
  • Aggressive impulses
  • Fixation on symmetry and order
  • Persistent sexual thoughts
  • Thoughts of being harmed, or harming loved ones

And the OCD sufferer will show signs of compulsion, such as:

  • Constant checking – such as to make sure doors are locked or appliances are in working order
  • Counting and recounting everyday objects
  • Repeated hand washing
  • Stubbornly sticking to a routine or ritual
  • Constant cleaning of various items
  • Arranging items to face a certain way
  • Organizing collections in alphabetical or other type of order
  • Hoarding items already used or of little to no value

OCD sometimes emerges as a way of managing another type of mental illness. In fact, the risk factors of obsessive-compulsive disorder include:

  • Genetics – a family history of the disorder
  • Extreme anxiety – especially borne out of living through traumatic or highly stressful events
  • Existing mental disorder – such as a mood disorder, other form of anxiety disorder, or a substance use disorder

The Compulsive ‘Reward’

Compulsive behaviors all relate back to dopamine and the reward system of the brain. Going on an invigorating run, for example, can give the person a “runner’s high,” in which a large amount of dopamine is released in the brain, eliciting a state of euphoria.

The person may then begin to repeat the same action in hopes of re-experiencing that original high. Sometimes they will achieve it; but, in most cases, they won’t. Nonetheless, the person keeps doing the same action to the point where it’s almost involuntary and ritualistic. This is compulsive behavior.

According to Graham C.L. Davey, Ph.D., a prolific author and a psychology professor at the University of Sussex (England), the brain registers all pleasures in basically the same way – with a release of dopamine in the nucleus accumbens, located in the basal forebrain. This pleasure can be brought on by eating a slice of cake, taking a drug, exercising, a sexual activity, winning a jackpot, beating a level in a video game – you name it.

Compulsivity and Substance Abuse: When Compulsions Turn Harmful

Some compulsions are largely innocuous and even healthy, such as exercising or counting calories (although these can be taken too far). One can even have the recurrent compulsion to thoroughly clean up after oneself after cooking and/or eating, and it’s hard to find much wrong with that. These can be considered “positive compulsions,” although it’s important to be mindful of moderation in these.

But when a compulsive person turns their attention to drugs or alcohol, red flags should be popping up left and right. Getting high on a new drug or getting inebriated to a certain point can result in a rush of dopamine in the brain and a state of euphoria, as we spoke of a moment ago. If it’s a positive and memorable experience for the user or drinker, a compulsive person will be hard-pressed to resist chasing that high again.

That high can never be exactly replicated, but a compulsive person will keep trying to relive or achieve it again. Before long, tolerance to alcohol or drugs increases, and then the person becomes used to having a certain level of that substance in their system each day. If they were to suddenly stop at this point, painful withdrawal symptoms will ensue.

OCD and Substance Abuse

For people with full-blown OCD, co-occurring substance usually has the following role: The person begins using drugs or alcohol as a means of self-medicating the OCD symptoms. Thus, you can conclude that having OCD is a risk factor for drug or alcohol addiction.

Getting Help for Compulsivity and Addiction

Do you have a family member or close friend with compulsive tendencies (such as gambling, shopping or eating) and who has taken an affection to drinking or a specific drug? Seek help on this individual’s behalf soon. Their quality of life can quickly deteriorate.

You may need to start with an intervention to get them to go into treatment. Compulsive people are usually not aware that their behaviors are unhealthy or abnormal; and even if they are, their compulsions usually override their willpower to stop. An intervention can help break through their current tailspin.

It’s also important that they enter a dual diagnosis treatment program, one that can address their mental health symptoms. Reflections Recovery Center in Prescott, AZ can help your son, husband, brother, male cousin, etc. learn to manage his compulsive inclinations in healthy ways as he recovers from alcohol or drug abuse.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment for OCD and Compulsivity

Prescription Drugs that May Require Intervention, Rehab and Addiction Treatment

Doctors can prescribe hundreds of different medications for various medical conditions, and some drugs are riskier than others when it comes to addiction. Prescription drugs that regulate behavior, aid sleep, or allay the symptoms of psychological disorders all carry a significant potential for abuse. It’s crucial to understand the risks that come with some of the most commonly seen prescriptions in the country.    

Types of Dangerous Prescription Drugs

Many prescription medications carry a significant risk of addiction. Rehab for prescription drug abuse is available for those who need it, and anyone who may be starting a new medication should investigate the risks of addiction.

Lyrica

Lyrica is an anti-seizure medication. Although it is a Schedule V controlled substance, doctors often prescribe Lyrica to people suffering from:

  • Diabetes
  • Various seizure disorders
  • Fibromyalgia

These medical conditions are very debilitating, so Lyrica quickly grew to astronomical popularity shortly after its release thanks to the marketing behind it touting it as a treatment for fibromyalgia. This drug basically slows chemical transfers in the brain to regulate hyperactive neurons.

Lyrica produces a calming effect, and some users report the effects as being very similar to those of Valium. Doctors also often prescribe Lyrica for general anxiety disorder, post-surgical pain and some forms of chronic pain.

Lyrica abuse is fairly common, as many people will start to abuse this medication even after it stops working for them. There are also many known negative side effects associated with regular use of the drug, so someone struggling with Lyrica addiction will likely experience these symptoms.

Benzodiazepines

Benzodiazepines are a class of prescription medications used to treat anxiety and panic disorders. These drugs are central nervous system depressants that lower excitability and relax the nervous system, allaying the symptoms of panic disorders and anxiety. However, many doctors only prescribe these medications for short-term use, as long-term use can be risky in several ways.

Detox for benzos typically involves flushing the remaining benzo medications from the patient’s system and then reassessing the patient to determine a better course of treatment. Like any other type of substance abuse, benzo addiction recovery is possible through a robust, comprehensive treatment program that addresses the addiction as well as any mental health disorders.

Some of the most commonly prescribed benzodiazepine medications include the following list. Click on any of the names to learn more:

Alprazolam, Also Known as Xanax

Doctors usually only prescribe this medication for short-term use, typically to address anxiety or panic disorders. Long-term use can lead to dependency, fast tolerance build-up and a variety of harmful side effects, such as:

  • Paranoia
  • Problems focusing
  • Depression
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures

Diazepam, Also Known as Valium

Diazepam is a more potent central nervous system depressant than alprazolam, and doctors typically prescribe this medication to address medical conditions such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Seizures
  • Musculoskeletal disorders

Some doctors also prescribe Valium to treat the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal.

Clonazepam, Also Known as Klonopin

Doctors typically prescribe Klonopin to treat anxiety, panic disorders or seizures. It is mainly prescribed for short-term use because of the highly addictive properties of the drug.

The medication functions as an anticonvulsant drug for its effects on the central nervous system. Many users report that the drug creates a euphoric high, encouraging some to abuse it or take it longer than necessary.

Oxazepam, Also Known as Serax

This drug can help people suffering from insomnia or who have difficulty staying asleep. Unlike other benzo medications, oxazepam is a slow-release formula meant to help a patient stay asleep through the night.

It is long lasting and slow acting, so many people who take oxazepam gradually build a tolerance over an extended period, typically six months or longer.

Lorazepam, Also Known as Ativan

Doctors prescribe lorazepam (commonly under the brand name Ativan) to patients who suffer from anxiety disorders. The drug carries a very high potential for addiction, so most doctors limit patients’ prescriptions to a few weeks at most.

Many people who take lorazepam consistently for a few weeks will display signs of withdrawal after the prescription ends. Lorazepam addiction treatment is a complex process that often begins with detox and can involve a wide range of replacement medications or other treatments.

Chlordiazepoxide, Also Known as Librium

Chlordiazepoxide is a powerful tranquilizer medication sold under the brand name Librium. Librium addiction can set in very quickly after a person starts taking the medication regularly. Symptoms of dependency worsen very quickly over time.

Soma (Carisoprodol) and Robaxin (Chlorzoxazone)

Muscle relaxant medications are common prescriptions for neuromuscular disorders, muscle pain and spasms. Soma is the most common brand name, but various types of muscle relaxers such as carisoprodol, robaxin and chlorzoxazone all carry significant potential for abuse.

These medications are depressants that treat pain quickly, which unfortunately encourages some patients to abuse them at the first sign of stress.

Soma abuse can lead to severe withdrawal effects, such as:

  • Seizures
  • Convulsions
  • Hallucinations
  • Extreme pain
  • Anxiety
  • Disorientation
  • Psychosis

Ritalin, Adderall and Other Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) Medications

Some ADHD medications that require addiction treatment after abuse include:

  • Adderall
  • Ritalin
  • Concerta
  • Dexedrine
  • And more

ADHD medications are generally stimulants that encourage neurotransmitter production in the frontal lobe of the brain. These medications can help improve focus, concentration and sleep patterns in individuals with ADHD. Unfortunately, the stimulating properties of these drugs can lead to abuse from both the people with prescriptions and others who may try to obtain them without a prescription.

Adderall abuse is common on college campuses and in high-stress work environments. A person who doesn’t have ADHD will experience intense focus, improved concentration, heightened energ, and other seemingly positive effects when taking these drugs. However, the drug’s effects are highly habit forming.

Ambien

Zolpidem, sold under the brand name Ambien, is a very powerful sedative prescribed to aid sleep. This drug carries multiple risks, including accidental overdose, dependency and a host of side effects from abuse.

Ambien addiction can lead to:

  • Memory loss
  • Sleep problems
  • Disorientation
  • Nausea
  • Sleepwalking
  • Hallucinations

Primidone and Pentobarbital (Nembutal)

Primidone addiction is common among older males who take the medication, particularly among those who take other medications for multiple sclerosis. This barbiturate is an anticonvulsant and can treat some anxiety disorders as well.

Pentobarbital, often found with the brand name Nembutal, is a more powerful barbiturate and carefully controlled substance. Pentobarbital is also one of the most commonly used drugs for suicide due to its potency and ability to coerce a peaceful, painless death. People who take this drug for longer than absolutely necessary risk creating a dependency once the effects diminish. Accidental death is also a very significant risk.

Loperamide and Imodium

Loperamide, sold under the brand name Imodium, is a laxative medication designed to aid digestion and bowel movements. While this may not sound like an addictive drug, loperamide abuse is fairly common due to the trace amount of opioids present in the drug. This drug is available over the counter without a prescription. Unfortunately, many people suffering from opioid addiction mistakenly believe it is a viable substitute.

Loperamide can actually help some individuals wean themselves off stronger opioids, but there are a host of negative side effects associated with long-term use of the drug, including:

  • Intestinal pain
  • Urinary retention
  • Central nervous system damage
  • Abnormal cardiac behavior
  • And other complications

The Need for Rehab for Prescription Drug Abuse

These medications can all provide health benefits, but it is important to know they can cause dangerous side effects if taken too often. Before taking these kinds of medications, it is extremely important that you weigh the risks and benefits of each.

And finally, keep in mind that entering a comprehensive prescription drug treatment program is the best way to treat any type of prescription drug abuse. At Reflections Recovery Center, we can help you or a loved one find the root cause of addiction and develop proper habits to maintain a long-lasting recovery.

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Borderline Personality Disorder in Men: A Common Co-Occurring Disorder

What Is Borderline Personality Disorder?

Characterized by pervasive mood instability, difficulty with interpersonal relationships, negative self-image and harmful behavior, borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a serious mental illness.

BPD is associated with high rates of self-harm and, in severe cases, suicidal behavior. The high risks for suicide and greater impairment are highest in the young adult years.

Symptoms of BPD

Borderline personality disorder is characterized by:

  • Intense bouts of anger, depression or anxiety that last hours to days long
  • Episodes of impulsive aggression, self-injury or drug or alcohol abuse
  • Distorted thoughts and negative sense of self
  • Frequent and impulsive changes in life-altering decisions
  • Highly unstable patterns of social relationships
  • High sensitivity to rejection
  • Impulsive behaviors like excessive spending, risky sex and binge eating

It is common to see borderline personality disorder occur with other psychiatric problems, particularly bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety disorders, substance abuse and other personality disorders.

What Does It Look Like If a Man You Know Might Have BPD?

A series of intense but stormy relationships is often the first thing people notice about a man with BPD. He will fall in love quickly and can fall out of love just as fast.

Similarly, in a friendship or family relationship, when he has been offended, he immediately stops all contact with that person and cuts them out of his life in anger. He is notorious for holding grudges.

A man with BPD may harm people and bring excessive emotion and drama to relationships, but deep down he usually doesn’t want to hurt people; he just wants to be loved and is desperate for it. Men with BPD appear needy and manipulative, but they are desperately seeking to feel love they’ve never felt before.

When symptomatic, a man with BPD is walking around in a living hell and perceived as universally hostile. He walks around with incredible inner pain, depression and free-floating anxiety.

Dependent, dramatic and highly manipulative, BPD sufferers have learned to cope in these dysfunctional ways due to the overwhelming fear and emotional pain they endure. The emotional instability coupled with impulsivity places these individuals at risk of drug or alcohol abuse.

The Myth of BPD as a Female Disorder

Women are diagnosed with BPD at a ratio of 3-to-1 to men. However, in general, population studies, the occurrence rates are evenly distributed. While it is true that statistically more women than men are diagnosed with BPD, there are reasons for the statistics.

For one thing, men, in general, are more averse to seeking professional help for medical or mental problems. And when they do talk to a counselor or doctor, BDP is often misdiagnosed in men.

In fact, the vast majority of men with borderline personality disorder go undiagnosed.

Men are often undiagnosed or misdiagnosed because BPD manifests differently in men than women and is interpreted differently.

Borderline Personality Disorder in Men

Borderline personality disorder in men is often overlooked and brushed off with a recommendation for an anger management class. Men tend to externalize behaviors like aggression, violent patterns and antisocial traits, including heavier substance use than women.

Sometimes these externalized behaviors are misdiagnosed as antisocial personality disorder, anger management problems or something else. Ironically, people with BPD complain of feeling misunderstood and in reality, they are being misunderstood and misdiagnosed.

Here are some ways BPD manifests in men:

  • Sensitive to criticism while responding with aggression
  • Controlling through criticism
  • Holding grudges
  • Fear of rejection played out in jealousy and using sex to alleviate his feelings of rejection
  • Rejecting relationships – when he’s been offended by someone, he hates them; he sees people in good or bad absolutes
  • Jealous or possessive insecurities, but emotionally detached from relationships
  • Using alcohol or drugs to relieve his constant free-floating anxiety

Why Men’s Only Rehab May Be the Solution

Gender-specific rehabs get better results. Without the distraction of the opposite sex, guys are free be more open in group settings.

Men and women have different reasons for using substances, heal differently, and have different reactions to treatments. By focusing on only men, rehab can be uplifting in shared experiences and bonding with peers — a proven necessary component of recovery — in a way that can’t happen in a co-ed setting.

A Common Co-Occurring Disorder

If you notice your male companion or loved one exhibits irrational behaviors at times, substance abuse and the underlying mental health problem of borderline personality disorder may be to blame.

Only medical professionals are qualified to accurately diagnose mental health conditions, such as personality disorders. However, very often it is the partner or family member who brings to light the issues that the victim of the disorder cannot see himself.

Traits that Overlap with Drug Abuse

Cycle of Addiction and Substance Use Disorder Flowchart Graphic - ReflectionsThe relationship between BPD and addiction is as stormy as the individual’s romantic relationships.

The alcoholism or substance use brings out the antisocial behaviors like rage, anger and depression.

Yet, the man suffering from borderline personality feels a strong need to use drugs or alcohol to numb his numerous fears and to stop his mind from racing with constant free-floating anxiety.

Several symptoms of BDP are similar to symptoms of addiction, so it can be complicated to determine whether someone has a dual diagnosis. Both conditions display traits of:

  • Impulsivity and instability in job, relationships, finances and responsibilities
  • Apparent lack of concern for one’s own well-being
  • Mood swings and depression
  • Manipulative, deceitful actions to get what the person wants

Drug Abuse Treatment

Because the signs and symptoms of BPD and addiction have some overlap, these diseases can be difficult to distinguish and treat while at a traditional rehab center. Unless you find a co-occurring disorder rehab center, the facility will not have the resources to properly treat your loved one.

Borderline Personality Disorder Treatment

BPD is a serious psychiatric illness, and the treatment thereof is notoriously challenging, but there are various modalities available.

Exercising and consuming foods or supplements high in choline and tryptophan can benefit neurotransmitters such as acetylcholine and serotonin, which help with emotion and mood regulation. Natural bright light helps, and meditation has been proven to increase dopamine in the brain.

Behavioral modifications along with group, peer and family support, as well as psychotherapy, are key therapies as well.

Hope for BPD and Addiction

People with BPD often need extensive mental health services, including hospitalization. Yet, with help, many BPD sufferers improve over time and lead productive lives.

The addiction counseling services and behavior therapies for drug abuse offered at Reflections Recovery Center have a long history of helping men recover from addictions. Additionally, our team has the know-how and experience to uncover underlying mental health illnesses while treating the drug abuse or alcohol problem.

Recovery can be intense, especially when facing a dual diagnosis, but we have seen many men heal from the enormous emotional burdens the disease of addiction placed on them and their loved ones.

If you suspect your loved one struggles with addiction and a possible mental health issue, do not hesitate to get him into a program that addresses the addiction, has a working knowledge of dual diagnosis and treats co-occurring disorders.

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Surprising Facts About Anxiety Disorders and Substance Abuse in Men

It’s commonly believed that women suffer from anxiety disorders more than men, but the statistics can actually be misleading. In fact, men suffer from anxiety and depression as frequently as women. Men simply aren’t diagnosed and treated for these mental illnesses as often as women are.

This means that men with anxiety disorders are at even greater risk for complications stemming from untreated mental illness, including alcohol and drug abuse.

Male Depression and Anxiety Statistics

Anxiety and depression are two of the most common mental illnesses in the U.S. It’s estimated that in any given year in the U.S., around 16 percent of the population will suffer from a depressive disorder and 18 percent will suffer from an anxiety disorder. It’s also common for someone with an anxiety disorder to suffer from depression, and vice versa.

Data from the National Health Interview Survey (2010-13) found that 8.5 percent of men experienced daily feelings of anxiety or depression. Only 41 percent of those men took medication or talked to a mental health professional about their feelings.

A 2013 study in JAMA Psychiatry found that more than 30 percent of men have suffered from depression at some point in their life. This same study found that there was no significant difference in the rate of depression between women and men. The study measured depression using a “gender-inclusive depression scale” that took into account the fact men often experience symptoms that are different than the standard diagnostic criteria.

On Par with Female Depression Rates

In fact, when the JAMA Psychiatry study looked at symptoms of depression that are more commonly expressed by men – including aggression, anger attacks, risk taking and substance abuse – men were found to have a higher rate of depression (26.3 percent) than women (21.9 percent). When taking into account both traditional and alternative male-type symptoms, the rate of depression was nearly equal between the sexes (30.6 percent of men to 33.3 percent of women).

Despite the nearly equal occurrence of anxiety and depression in both genders, women are diagnosed with depression twice as often as men are, and with anxiety about 70 percent more often than men.

Why Do Men with Anxiety and Depression Go Undiagnosed?

Percentage of Anxiety Disorders That Receive Treatment Fact - Reflections Recovery CenterWomen are more likely than men to seek out treatment for anxiety and depression. As a result, they are more likely to be diagnosed and receive treatment.

Why don’t men seek out this same help as often as women do?

Because our culture expects men to be strong at all times, and because emotional imbalance is seen as a woman’s weakness, men are especially reluctant to seek treatment for mental or emotional illness.

If they even acknowledge that something is wrong, the tendency is to simply label it as “stress” and try to manage their symptoms on their own, or look for a physical illness as the cause, such as heart problems.

In fact, male diagnoses for anxiety often happen when a man mistakes his panic attack symptoms as a heart attack. Symptoms of a panic attack and a heart attack include these same three characteristics:

  • Racing heart
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath

However, since a heart attack is more common among men, and anxiety is more commonly diagnosed among women, even doctors may mistakenly assume that these symptoms in men are due to a heart attack rather than a psychological disorder.

Manifestations of Anxiety and Depression

Women and men may also exhibit different signs of anxiety or depression. With depression, women may more often express sadness, whereas men may display antisocial behavior as they go on the offensive to try to cover up their inner insecurities.

Other male-type depression symptoms can include:

  • Coldness
  • Bullying
  • Angry outbursts
  • Abusiveness

Even though such behavior is generally believed to be inappropriate, it’s still considered better to be a jerk than to have a mental disorder. At least being a jerk is manly.

Because men are afraid to admit to their anxiety problems, they often feel they are the only man who suffers from this sort of thing. The fewer men who speak up about their suffering, the less likely it is that other men will also speak up and ask for help.

Symptoms of Depression and Anxiety in Men

There are a variety of different anxiety disorders. Some involve anxiety about a specific phobia, such as a fear of spiders or heights. Other types of anxiety disorders include social anxiety disorder, panic disorder and agoraphobia (fear of being outdoors or in uncontrollable, distressing situations).

One of the most common anxiety disorders is generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). This refers to a persistent anxiety that isn’t necessarily focused on a certain situation or trigger, but is simply ongoing and having a negative impact on a person’s life. Statistics show that only about one-third of the people who suffer from GAD receive treatment.

Signs and symptoms of GAD can include:

  • Worry or fear that is greater than the situation justifies
  • Constant uneasiness or nervousness
  • Easily startled or alarmed
  • Restlessness
  • Sleeping difficulties due to anxiety
  • Irritability due to tension
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Shakiness

Other signs to watch out for, which can occur with a variety of mental illnesses, include:

  • Significant changes in mood and behavior
  • Anger, aggression, irritability
  • Risk-taking behavior
  • Sleeping problems – trouble falling asleep, sleeping too much or having nightmares
  • Changes in appetite and/or digestive difficulties
  • Persistent anxiety, nervousness or worry
  • Headache, nausea, pain and other recurring physical symptoms
  • Mood swings that interfere with work and family life
  • Persistent sadness, apathy or loss of hope
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Problems concentrating
  • Obsessive or compulsive thoughts or behavior
  • An increased use of alcohol or other substances to cope with symptoms

Self-Medicating for Anxiety

Many men choose to try and handle their symptoms on their own. They may not even realize they have a mental disorder, thinking it’s just stress and they need to “man up” and deal with it as best they can.

As a result, men are more likely to become addicted to substances such as:

  • Alcohol
  • Tobacco
  • Marijuana
  • Street drugs like heroin and cocaine
  • Illegally acquired prescription drugs such as anti-anxiety medication

While choosing to deal with anxiety own one’s own may serve a man’s pride in the short term, it ultimately prevents him from getting the correct help for his illness, or any help at all. Over time, untreated anxiety disorders – and the substance abuse that often accompanies them – can lead to failed relationships, lost careers and legal consequences.

Treating Anxiety and Substance Abuse in Men

For men who suffer from both anxiety disorders and substance abuse, one of the best forms of treatment is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). It’s been proven highly effective in showing men that the symptoms they thought were untreatable, just a part of who they are, are actually treatable. This provides relief from their symptoms and additional motivation and commitment to the recovery process.

At Reflections Recovery Center, we use a trauma-informed approach to treatment that looks for underlying causes of addiction, such as anxiety and depressive disorders. Using CBT and other proven therapies, we guide men toward taking back control of their lives from the debilitating symptoms of mental illness and addiction.

If you have a man in your life who you believe has become addicted to drugs or alcohol due to an underlying mental disorder, it’s important to seek care from a substance abuse treatment facility, like ours, which specializes in dual diagnosis rehabilitation.

Our mental health and addiction experts perform a detailed assessment of each of our clients to determine which factors have led to addiction, and then we plan to treat all contributing factors at the same time. This is the best way to reduce the chances of addiction relapse.

Learn More About How Dual Diagnosis Impacts Addiction Treatment

Understand Dual Diagnosis Better