Feeling anxious now and then about problems at work, taking an exam, or before making an important decision is a standard and normal emotion. It’s when feelings of worry and fear are constant and overwhelming, plaguing your everyday life, that they are signs of an anxiety disorder. Anxiety Disorders are a group of mental illnesses that cause distress and can affect your daily life. People with an anxiety disorder are two to three times more likely to have alcohol or substance abuse disorder. About 20% of Americans with an anxiety disorder also have an alcohol or substance disorder, called a co-occurring disorder. At the Sana Lake Recovery Center, our healthcare professionals can treat your anxiety disorder and substance abuse problem.
Anxiety Disorder can show up in different forms. It is a generalized term that includes different conditions:
- Panic Disorder is a feeling of terror that strikes at random. Panic attacks occur as well causing you to sweat, have chest pains, and heart palpitations. You may even feel like you are choking or having a heart attack.
- Social Anxiety Disorder (social phobia) is a feeling of overwhelming worry and self-consciousness about daily social situations. You may fear being judged by others or being embarrassed or ridiculed.
- Specific Phobia is an intense fear of a particular object or situation, like closed spaces or flying. This level of anxiety goes beyond what is considered appropriate, and you will often avoid ordinary situations because of it.
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder is when you experience excessive, irrational fear and worry without a known reason.
Symptoms of an Anxiety Disorder
Signs of anxiety disorders can differ, but most anxiety disorders share some of these general symptoms:
- Panic, Fear, and Uneasiness
- Sleep Problems
- Restlessness (unable to stay calm)
- Cold, Sweaty, Numb, or Tingling Hands and Feet
- Shortness of Breath
- Heart Palpitations
- Dry Mouth
- Tense Muscles
Anxiety and Substance Abuse
The existence of a substance use disorder with a mental illness, like an anxiety disorder, is known as a dual diagnosis, or co-occurring disorders. Each case is different, and there are several reasons why anxiety can trigger substance misuse or vice versa, some are:
- An attempt to self-manage symptoms. One of the central beliefs regarding the relationship between anxiety and substance abuse is that individuals with an anxiety order turn to alcohol or drugs to control or alleviate their physical or psychological symptoms.
- Biochemical factors may be present. This type of co-occurring disorder may be related to a chemical imbalance in the brain. For example, lower levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates mood, energy levels, sleep, metabolism, and other functions, have been connected to mental illness and alcoholism.
- Having a genetic disposition. Evidence shows that both addiction and anxiety disorders have a genetic component. People who are susceptible to anxiety may also be prone to substance abuse and addiction if these conditions have been in their family.
- The effects of substance abuse or withdrawal. The misuse of drugs or alcohol can cause symptoms like agitation, nervousness, sleeplessness, and obsessive fears, that mimic anxiety. When withdrawing from the effects of substances, which occurs in the detox phase, individuals can experience anxiety, restlessness, and insomnia while the brain tries to stabilize its chemical balance.
The majority of people with an alcohol or other substance abuse issue accompanied by an anxiety disorder experience them independently but battling both of these can be a vicious cycle. In an attempt to cope with unwanted symptoms, it is not uncommon for people with anxiety disorders to misuse alcohol or drugs. Individuals with an anxiety disorder mistakenly turn to substances like alcohol as a way to self-medicate or lessen the anxiety symptoms. The truth is that the symptoms from one disorder worsen the symptoms of the other.
The co-occurrence of substance abuse, specifically with alcohol, is frequent among individuals with a social anxiety disorder. People with this disorder report that drinking alcohol helps to alleviate their social anxiety when the truth is that it will often make it worse. What can start as one or two drinks at social events may seem harmless and fun at first, but this type of alcohol consumption when coupled with social anxiety disorder, can lead to a severe habit of alcohol abuse. You may feel that you are unable to get through social situations without the use of alcohol. Alcohol abuse tends to develop after the onset of this disorder.
Symptoms of an anxiety disorder can be both physical and psychological, and addressing these symptoms calls for a multidisciplinary approach to treatment. Treatment should be focused on both the anxiety disorder and the co-occurring disorder like substance abuse. Solely treating the substance abuse issue won’t help the person with their social anxiety order. Managing both together is most beneficial because it helps to lower the risk of relapse. Individuals with this type of co-occurring disorder have an increased risk for abuse and severe interactions with prescription medication. Doctors will often prescribe medication that has lower abuse potential and tend to be safer should the patient have a relapse. Of course, the choice of drugs depends on each individual and their unique condition.
Therapy is often a chosen method of treatment for people suffering from both anxiety and substance abuse disorders. In particular, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of psychotherapy and chosen method for this type of dual diagnosis because it is well-established, effective, and shows lasting results. It focuses on identifying, understanding, and changing your way of thinking and behavior patterns.
Our specialists at Sana Lake Recovery Center believe that treatment is meant to help individuals work through every element and contributing factor, including any co-occurring disorders. We have the resources to provide treatment that addresses addiction and accompanying disorders. One of the first steps you will take at our facility is to go through detox before you start treatment for a co-occurring disorder.
If you or your loved one would like to seek treatment for anxiety and substance abuse, take the first step today by speaking with one of our representatives at (636) 707-2097. You can also read more about our treatment options for co-occurring disorders and learn about our rehabilitation center on our website at www.sanalake.com.