Anxiety Often Co-Occurs with Substance Use: Wells Fargo and Hand Sanitizer
By: Lakeview Health Staff
Published: November 1, 2016

Stress is one factor that can lead people to turn to drugs and alcohol. The pressures of work, home, and family can sometimes overwhelm people. While some find healthy ways to deal with stress, others use self-destructive means. The pressure can be particularly difficult to handle when combined with an untreated anxiety disorder. One extreme example is the recent case of a Wells Fargo Bank employee. Wells Fargo has come under recent scrutiny for unethical business practices that preyed on customers. Alleged practices include coercing customers to open credit card accounts, adding services with monthly fees onto customer accounts without their permission, and convincing clients to close old accounts and open new ones by claiming the old ones had been subject to fraud. Angie Payden, who worked for Wells Fargo in Wisconsin from 2011 to 2014, said the stress of the job became too much to handle. Faced with demands to pressure clients into buying financial services they didn’t need, she began to experience anxiety on the job. One day, she found that drinking hand sanitizer calmed her nerves. Soon, she was addicted to it and said she usually drank at least a bottle a day. Hand sanitizer is no one’s first choice for intoxicant, but it is one that is readily available in workplaces, schools, and homes. Most comprise 60%-95% alcohol, with ethanol and isopropanol being found in many. While hand sanitizer is no cheaper than an inexpensive bottle of alcohol, the fact that it is often made available for free by employers and schools make it a tempting substitute. And, unlike alcohol, it can legally be purchased by teenagers. The gel is sometimes combined with mouthwash to make it more palatable. Hand sanitizer is an extreme case, but it shows the lengths to which people will go to deal with anxiety and stress. When seeking treatment for substance addiction in these instances, it is important to find a facility that specializes in co-occurring disorders. Such treatment centers are able to address not only the addiction but also any other psychological or physical problems that can lead to or exacerbate substance use. Sarah Kovach, MS, LMHC, a clinical manager at Lakeview Health, says, “We know that the pressure of having to play many different roles (mother, wife, employee, friend, etc.) while neglecting self-care contributes to anxiety disorders that we commonly see in women. Without treating the underlying anxiety disorder and building healthy ways of managing stress, the risk of relapse is high.” Lakeview Health has the specialists on staff to deal with co-occurring disorders. Our staff has the training and experience needed to provide both the physical and mental therapies to help people achieve and maintain sobriety. If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction along with anxiety, depression, or another mental health illness, contact our Admissions team. They can help.