Anxiety Disorders and Addiction Treatment

Anxiety disorders are a group of mental health disorders that can deeply affect your ability to function, distort your relationship with the world around you, and cause great suffering as you struggle with overwhelming fear. Each type of anxiety disorder has unique characteristics, but they all cause profound emotional distress. Although anxiety is often highly treatable, co-occurring addiction can add a new dimension to your suffering and requires specialized dual diagnosis treatment to facilitate complete healing.

Living in Fear

Anxiety disorders vary in kind and degree, but they all result in recurring, overwhelming fear that impairs your ability to function and interferes with your quality of life. For people with generalized anxiety disorder, the fear is all-encompassing and nebulous, needing no specific trigger to set in motion a cycle of worry. Social anxiety, on the other hand, is more localized, centering on social interactions with other people and often shrinking your social and professional world as you seek to avoid your fear. Meanwhile, panic disorder manifests in acute episodes of extreme fear with disturbing physical symptoms that lead many to believe they are suffocating or suffering a heart attack.

The causes of anxiety disorders are largely unknown, but experts believe they arise from a complex combination of biological and environmental factors. Insecure childhood attachment, abuse, neglect, and trauma can all result in both generalized and specific anxiety disorders. Unfortunately, anxiety can easily become self-perpetuating as each episode of worry or panic fortifies your fears. Often, you come to fear anxiety itself.

Symptoms of Anxiety Disorders

Generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, and panic disorder all have unique diagnostic criteria based on specific symptoms.

Symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder:

  • Persistent worry
  • Enduring feelings of apprehension and dread
  • Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
  • Intrusive or repetitive thoughts about anxiety-provoking situations
  • Avoidance of anxiety-provoking situations

Symptoms of Social Anxiety Disorder:

  • Extreme anxiety in social situations
  • Fear of future social encounters
  • Fear of being humiliated, judged, and rejected
  • Worry that you will experience noticeable anxiety symptoms such as blushing, trembling, or shaky voice
  • Avoidance of situations that require interacting with others

Symptoms of Panic Disorder:

  • Acute feelings of panic
  • Shortness of breath
  • Racing heart
  • Feeling lightheaded or dizzy
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Fear that you are going to die

While the severity and frequency of symptoms may vary over time and from person to person, they can all cause serious emotional distress and impair social and professional function.

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Anxiety Disorders and Addiction

The pain of anxiety disorders can be overwhelming, and many people seek relief from drugs or alcohol in an attempt to improve function and escape emotional distress. However, what begins as simply having a drink to calm your nerves often turns into addiction as you grow more and more dependent on harmful substances to maintain equilibrium. As a result, people with anxiety disorders are two to three times more likely than the general population to develop a substance abuse disorder. While alcohol is often the drug of choice for people with anxiety disorders, others self-medicate with illicit psychoactive substances. Prescription drug addiction, particularly benzodiazepine addiction, is also more common among those suffering from anxiety disorders.

Although drugs may provide temporary relief from anxiety and allow you periods of freedom from debilitating symptoms, the results are short-lived. Ultimately, drugs can aggravate anxiety over time and cause you to experience more severe and more frequent symptoms, resulting in an escalating cycle of use and suffering.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment

Anxiety disorders are both very common and very treatable. When your anxiety disorder co-occurs alongside drug addiction, however, anxiety treatment alone is unlikely to give you the relief you need to re-establish emotional and behavioral tranquility. Dual diagnosis treatmentdesigned to address both your anxiety and your addiction allows you to treat both disorders simultaneously and disrupt the complex ties between them.

Healing from anxiety and addiction is an intensely personal process. As such, dual diagnosis treatment must be tailored to your unique history and needs to ensure that you receive meaningful, relevant, and effective care. By drawing on a comprehensive array of modern, evidence-based therapies, your treatment providers can open up multiple paths toward healing, enhancing your engagement in the treatment and recovery process. A well-rounded treatment plan will include:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Psychodynamic Therapy
  • Experiential Therapy
  • Holistic Therapies
  • 12-step support groups

Today, there is also a range of pharmacological treatments that can be extremely effective in easing anxiety disorder symptoms. People who suffer from both anxiety and addiction, however, have special challenges that may prevent the use of certain medications, such as benzodiazepines. It is imperative that your doctor takes your history of addiction into account when designing a medication plan for you. An experienced psychiatrist with expertise in dual diagnosis treatment can create safe and effective medication protocols that address your individual symptoms with minimal side effects.

Dual diagnosis treatment not only gives you strategies for healing from anxiety disorders and addiction, it gives you the opportunity to gain new insight into the relationship between your disorders and better understand the role they have played in your life. With the support of compassionate clinicians, you can begin to identify the root of your suffering and move beyond it to achieve emotional and behavioral wellness. The ultimate goal of dual diagnosis treatment should not be to simply take away suffering, but to replace it with a newfound capacity for joy, purpose, and love.

If you would like more information about drug addiction and anxiety disorders, or have any questions about dual diagnosis treatment, we encourage you to contact us at any time. We are always available to offer support and guidance to help you find the treatment you need to move toward sustainable recovery.