Anxiety and Addiction: Learn About the Connection

Everyone experiences worry from time to time. It’s common to worry about what might happen when your paycheck is a bit short, or to worry about whether or not your child will be safe when going out with friends on a Saturday night. However, living in a constant state of worry moves past what might be considered normal. When worry begins to manifest itself in ways that are both physical and psychological, and when it starts to affect the quality of your life, it’s time to begin to explore that anxiety might be to blame.

Anxiety is a psychiatric disorder that many people live with their entire lives without ever getting a formal diagnosis. Some people say that they’ve had anxiety since they were children, and they’ve never been able to escape the symptoms. Others live normal lives until some type of situation or event triggers the onset of anxiety. There are different forms of anxiety, and one of the more common forms of it is known as Generalized Anxiety Disorder. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, just over 3% of adults have been diagnosed with this condition during the past year.

When addiction and anxiety are present at the same time, this is referred to as a co-occurring disorder, and it requires a specific type of treatment in order for a successful recovery to take place.

Anxiety and Rehab Information

Serious problems occur when someone has anxiety and they use drugs and alcohol at the same time. If their anxiety is not controlled by medication, or has never been formally diagnosed, drugs and alcohol are commonly thought of as a way to self-medicate. When addiction and anxiety are present at the same time, this is referred to as a co-occurring disorder, and it requires a specific type of treatment in order for a successful recovery to take place.

Perhaps you suffer from anxiety and addiction, and you’re very concerned about what this means for your future. It’s possible that you’ve gotten treatment for both conditions, but you didn’t realize that you could get treatment for them simultaneously. It is possible with dual diagnosis treatment. However, it might be helpful for you to first learn a bit more about anxiety and how this type of treatment can be beneficial for you.

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What is Anxiety?

Feeling nervous or worried is often confused with being anxious. Chronic anxiety is a psychiatric condition that involves more than just being worried or fearful. When someone has anxiety, the way they feel does not go away, and it can actually get worse as time goes on. Their feelings can be so all-consuming that they start to affect their everyday lives. It’s not unusual for people to experience difficulties in relationships or have problems with performing well on the job or at school when they have anxiety.

When someone suffers from anxiety, it’s important to get a proper diagnosis from a doctor. There are some physical health conditions that can contribute to anxiety, and so ruling these out as the culprits is crucial. Conditions like low blood sugar or an overactive thyroid can often lead to anxiety. Also, certain medications can contribute to it as well.

As far as what causes anxiety, scientists don’t have a definitive answer to that question. However, they do know that there are certain factors that can make someone more prone to being diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. These can include:

  • Being shy during the childhood years
  • Being a female
  • Being widowed or divorced
  • Having a parental history of mental health disorders
  • Being exposed to stressful life events
  • A family history of anxiety disorders
  • Having elevated cortisol levels in the saliva

What are the Different Forms of Anxiety?

There are several different forms of anxiety, and they all can have a serious effect on the person who is suffering from them. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, they include:

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) – This is characterized by an excessive amount of worry that can last for months at a time. People who have GAD often feel restless or on edge, they’re easily fatigued, they have problems concentrating, and they have chronic muscle tension in their bodies. 

Panic Disorder – This is characterized by significant, recurrent panic attacks. These attacks are usually without explanation, and they can occur when the individual is doing something as mundane as driving a car or using the bathroom. These panic attacks are accompanied by an intense fear, a pounding heart and usually sweating and trembling. It is a feeling of impending doom or imminent death. 

Social Anxiety Disorder – This is characterized by a fear of social situations. People who have social anxiety disorder will feel embarrassed or judged when they’re among other people. They also constantly worried that they’re going to offend others. They tend to avoid events when they know others will be there, and they have a hard time making and keeping close friendships. Their symptoms can sometimes manifest in physical ways, making them feel nauseous when they’re around other people.

What Types of Effects Can Anxiety Have on the Body?

People often tend to think of anxiety as something that affects the mind only, but it also has a very dramatic effect on the body. When someone experiences worry, they receive a boost of hormones and chemicals into their system that triggers the flight or fight stress response. This increases pulse rate and breathing and it also gives the immune system a boost. However, when someone experiences this all the time because they have anxiety, it can have a detrimental effect on the body. This can lead to a weakened immune system, leaving the individual much more susceptible to infections.

People with chronic anxiety are often also diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome, headaches and insomnia. They are also at a high risk of developing diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. It’s truly incredible how closely the body and the mind are linked, and if you’re someone who suffers from anxiety, or you believe you do, it’s definitely time to get a diagnosis so that you can get the help you need.

What are Some Signs of Anxiety?

Perhaps you feel as though you might be suffering from anxiety, but you’ve never had an official diagnosis, so you’re really not sure. There are certain symptoms you can look for within yourself to see if you might fit the criteria. These include:

  • Constant feelings of shakiness inside
  • A feeling of uneasiness that never really passes
  • Having trouble with sleeping at night
  • Becoming restless regularly
  • Being tense or irritable
  • Experiencing chronic nausea
  • Ongoing fatigue

Have you noticed any of these symptoms in your own life? If you have, it’s important to talk with someone about whether or not you have anxiety. Getting the right kind of help is critical, and this is especially true if you are also struggling with an addiction to either drugs or alcohol.

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The Anxiety and Addiction Combination: Why are They Linked?

About 20% of people who have anxiety also have a substance abuse disorder. It can actually be difficult to diagnose anxiety properly because the symptoms can be very close to what someone might experience when they have an addiction. It’s also possible for anxiety to be caused by the use of prescription drugs, illegal drugs or alcohol.

The problem is that continual use of them is dangerous, but those who have anxiety are eager to get even the smallest amount of relief.

Usually, people are either diagnosed with anxiety, or they begin to experience symptoms of anxiety. At that point, they turn to alcohol or drugs as a way to medicate themselves. Using alcohol or drugs allows them to experience a short period of relief, which is probably something they’re not accustomed to experiencing at all. Alcohol is a depressant, as are other types of substances. The problem is that continual use of them is dangerous, but those who have anxiety are eager to get even the smallest amount of relief. As the individual continues to use, an addiction occurs.

The link between anxiety and addiction is very strong, and it can be almost impossible to treat one successfully without treating the other. For this reason, dual diagnosis treatment presents the perfect solution.

How Can Dual Diagnosis Treatment Help with Addiction and Anxiety?

Dual diagnosis treatment was developed because it was apparent that a different approach was required when working with patients who suffered from mental illnesses and addiction. The two were so closely linked with each other, and yet, for years, the focus was on treating the addiction first, and then the mental illness second.

Dual diagnosis treatment has shown to have a dramatic effect on patients who have anxiety and addiction. It works so well because it addresses the issues that lie behind the addiction, instead of just focusing on getting through the withdrawal period, like some other forms of treatment.

The right dual diagnosis treatment program will offer:

  • Team members who are trained in both substance abuse disorders and anxiety disorders
  • Care for both conditions in a single location, and at the same time
  • Medication adjustment treatment for both anxiety and addiction, if applicable
  • Counseling sessions that center around the needs of someone with co-occurring disorders
  • Group therapy sessions that promote peer counseling
  • Skill building activities that teach coping methods without relying on substances
  • Outpatient follow-up treatment referrals to promote ongoing care 

Each component of treatment is vital to the success of the program. All too often, various types of therapies contradict each other, and the patient receives treatment that isn’t very helpful at all. By combining treatment methods, patients not only receive a better quality of care, but providers are also able to benefit. Relapse rates are drastically reduced because of dual diagnosis treatment.

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Northpoint Recovery Offers Dual Diagnosis Treatment For Addiction and Anxiety

Whether you’ve suffered with anxiety for most of your life, or you have only recently been diagnosed with it, it is a serious condition that requires immediate treatment. Far too many people attempt to “treat” themselves by using drugs and alcohol, and this method is not beneficial at all. Regardless of what type of addiction you have, it’s very dangerous to your health. Also, using drugs and alcohol might seem to help your symptoms of anxiety for a short time, but you’ll soon find that they do much more harm than good.

Dual diagnosis treatment is the recommended method to treat someone who has co-occurring disorders, such as anxiety and addiction. This method is not available everywhere, but it has been shown to be very effective. In the past, when patients suffered from both anxiety and addiction, the addiction was treated first. Once the patient was sober and stable, the anxiety could be treated. The problem with this method was that it didn’t allow for complete recovery of either condition. Treatment methods frequently contradicted each other, which was a cause for a lot of confusion.

Here at Northpoint Recovery, we offer dual diagnosis treatment to help people who are suffering with both anxiety and addiction. We’ve seen much higher success rates than other facilities because of our approach to treat the cause of the addiction. If you would like to learn more about how we can help you, we’d love to talk with you. Please contact us today.