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Relationship Between Anxiety and Substance Abuse in Women


Many would agree that living a confident and carefree life is one the best things a person can have. But what if you frequently experience uncontrollable fear akin to the feeling of being hunted or threatened by your surroundings or plagued by overthinking and worries? What if this fear creeps out of nowhere and makes you feel nervous in public places or deprives you of sleep during the night? Somehow you know that the fear is irrational, but you can’t do away with it. That feeling is called anxiety.

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States. Sadly, when speaking of anxiety, most people think of someone who can’t talk in public or make friends. The crux of the matter is; anxiety is more intense and can ruin a person’s life. Most leading research has examined the connection between anxiety and substance abuse and found both disorders closely related. For example, men may smoke tobacco when pressed with anxiety, whereas women often resort to alcohol or painkillers.

While mental health is a common problem among children and adults, gender differences may also play a role in the prevalence of anxiety or substance use. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), 23% of women in the states have complained of anxiety problems, whereas 15% of men have raised similar concerns. While there is no definitive reason why anxiety disorder is more prevalent among women, some common factors that prompt higher anxiety rates in women may include the following.


Research has shown that girls may experience anxiety and substance use problems because of emotional or physical abuse, prompting them to resort to self-medicating with alcohol which subsequently creates a barrier to seeking medical help. Another plausible explanation involves a more activated flight or fight response in women due to trauma, which may cause anxiety.

Hormonal Difference

Differences in hormones may equally contribute to higher anxiety and substance abuse cases in women. For example, the menopause period can come with debilitating anxiety, panic, or depression.

Seeking Help and Treatment

Anxiety, feeling low, and lack of enthusiasm are familiar for all of us. But if the feelings persist and become counterproductive in your life, seeking professional help is recommended. Fortunately, there are many effective treatment options to help a person manage the symptoms. One of the common approaches to reducing anxiety is Meditation. While this practice is unfamiliar to many of us, it is a proven technique for reducing anxiety and reducing the aging of cells and inflammation. The practice involves focusing your mind on no thoughts or focusing your mind on a single activity. For example, try to find a quiet space free from distraction. Take a deep breath and then exhale all the air within fifteen seconds. During these fifteen seconds, bring your awareness to the flow of the air in your nostrils. The result is an increase in a state of mindfulness and a decrease in anxiety.

Other helpful resources

For treatment and other helpful information for anxiety or substance use problems

SAMHSA national helpline

For help with emotional abuse, physical abuse, or mental crisis

Crisis Helpline

For suicide prevention

National Suicide Prevention


David S and George M (2016). Mindfulness meditation and immune system. Retrieved from doi:10.111/nyas.12998

ADAA (2020). Women and Anxiety. Retrieved from;

BMC(2004). Women and Substance Abuse. Retrieved from;

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