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What is anxiety?

Anxiety counseling Austin, TX

Anxiety is not only normal; it is essential to our survival.  Anxiety is the anticipation of a future concern.   Anxiety is often productive and is part of the reason we lock our doors and prepare well for things like job interviews.  


The feelings anxiety provokes can be worry, nervousness or dread.  However, for some people feelings of anxiety become constant and difficult to manage.  When this occurs, anxiety loses its productive value. 

Anxiety that occurs too frequently and too intensely begins to work against people.  It can make completing certain tasks difficult.  Avoiding situations that cause anxiety may begin to occur. You may want to avoid being around people and places for fear of a panic attack. Left untreated, anxiety can have many negative consequences on quality of life.

Signs and symptoms of anxiety

People experience anxiety in a lot of different ways.  Additionally, there are several different kinds of anxiety disorders. However, most share some common features and include:

  • Frequent worry

  • Restlessness or feeling jumpy

  • Feeling on edge

  • Racing heart and/or shortness of breath

  • Nausea, trembling, dizziness

  • Muscle tension and headaches

  • Trouble concentrating

  • Insomnia

Anxiety and substance use

People with anxiety issues are more likely to abuse drugs.  Anxiety disorders have been found to be linked to higher rates of alcohol abuse as well.  Anxiety often triggers the need to use substances and in turn the substance use can trigger increased anxiety.  


For many, this creates a cyclical pattern in which it feels like there is no way out.  Treating both issues at the same time can be effective for some people.  When people learn to more successfully manage their anxiety, they are often more equipped to manage their substance use.

Anxiety and medication

Some people do benefit from medications to assist with intense anxiety.  To determine if this is the case for you, it is recommended to consult with a psychiatrist.  If medication is part of your treatment, therapy can still be effective. Numerous studies have indicated that very often medication, along with therapy have increased rates of efficacy.  


Medication does not cure underlying issues that contribute to anxiety, nor is it generally considered a good long-term solution.  Learning to manage and cope with feelings of anxiety is critical and this is not something that can be done with medication alone.

Treatment for anxiety at Substance Use Therapy

A critical component of improvement is empowerment.  Feelings of intense anxiety as well as use of substances can feel overwhelming.  The feelings of both can make you feel out of control.  You can begin to get some control back.  


By using a strengths-based approach and incorporating cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), mindfulness, and harm reduction psychotherapy, you can begin to regain some control over your anxiety.  


Therapy for anxiety may focus on:

  • Identifying sources of stress/anxiety and developing ways to manage them

  • Learning to cope with unpleasant feelings

  • Understanding your triggers for use and for your anxiety

  • Implementing mindfulness

  • Learning relaxation techniques

  • Identifying techniques to cope with urges to use

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