Mclean Hospital

Video: Dr. R. Kathryn McHugh Examines Addiction and Anxiety

Available with English captions and subtitles in Spanish.

R. Kathryn McHugh, PhD, addresses the impact of anxiety on addiction. Dr. McHugh examines theories as to why anxiety and substance misuse are so strongly linked and optimal treatment strategies for these co-occurring disorders. She also explains how one of the treatments for anxiety—benzodiazepines—can lead to an addiction.

Anxiety is common in people with substance use disorders and complicates treatment and recovery. An estimated 17-18% of people who struggle with addiction to drugs or alcohol have an anxiety disorder.

Treatment for these coexisting conditions requires consideration of their interacting and overlapping symptoms. Indeed, anxiety can be both a risk for and a result of substance use. Due to this close relationship, it is recommended that co-occurring anxiety and addiction are treated concurrently.

About Dr. McHugh

R. Kathryn McHugh, PhD, is an assistant professor of psychology in the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and the director of the Stress, Anxiety, and Substance Use Laboratory at McLean Hospital. Dr. McHugh is a practicing psychologist, specializing in cognitive behavior therapy for depression, anxiety, and substance use disorders.

She engages in clinical and translational research on the nature and treatment of anxiety and addiction. Dr. McHugh is particularly interested in the study of affective vulnerability factors that are common across psychological disorders, with a focus on those that can be modified with treatment. She also conducts research on the dissemination and implementation of evidence-based treatments, with a particular focus on behavioral therapies.

Learn more about Dr. McHugh.

May 1, 2020

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