As if anxiety were not already difficult enough to handle, having this disorder in conjunction with addiction can produce some debilitating symptoms. The National Institute on Mental Health reports that over 18 percent of U.S. adults suffer from anxiety disorders, making this the most prominent type of mental illness.
When most people are exposed to stressful situations or experiences, they can summon a series of healthy and soothing responses. This may not be the case with someone who suffers from an anxiety disorder. Not only is there a connection between anxiety and addiction, but addiction treatment should take place simultaneously with other mental health services.
What is Anxiety Disorder?
Anxiety is a small word that covers a wide variety of conditions and symptoms affecting millions of people. A commonly accepted definition of anxiety is the feeling of dread or worry, particularly regarding an event with an unknown outcome. This can be too simplistic, however, when it comes to describing the ways in which this serious mental health condition can impact a person’s life.
It is a common misconception that a person with an anxiety disorder is simply unable to “get over” a stressor or has the tendency to overreact to certain situations. This is a disorder that comes in many forms, and its effects can be life-altering. Some of the most common types of anxiety disorders include:
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder. GAD is a form of anxiety characterized by a nearly continuous feeling of dread with no particular focus. With GAD, worries can shift from one subject to another, and the resulting fears can be powerful, whether based in reality or not.
- Social Anxiety Disorder. Also sometimes called social phobia, millions of people have an overwhelming fear of social situations and interacting with others. This can include a fear of speaking in public, being in crowds, and meeting new people. SAD can also go hand in hand with other anxiety disorders, such as panic disorder.
- Panic Disorder. This is a disorder that is characterized by isolated episodes of overwhelming fear. Although a panic attack is rarely fatal, a person could experience respiratory distress and elevated blood pressure. As many as one million people experience panic attacks annually.
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. OCD is another common type of anxiety disorder that affects more than 2 million Americans. The disorder causes a person to suffer from stress related to obsessive thoughts, which can interfere with daily life and even lead to a panic attack.
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. An anxiety disorder can develop after a person experiences or witnesses a traumatic event such as a violent crime, sexual assault, military combat, or severe accident. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, about 8 million Americans experience PTSD symptoms characterized by irritability, insomnia, flashbacks, and paranoia.
While these are different anxiety disorders, the signs and symptoms of an anxiety attack are similar. These include:
- Feelings of dread
- Inability to relax
- Rapid heartbeat
- Nausea and vomiting
- Tense muscles
- Difficulty breathing
Is There a Connection Between Anxiety and Addiction?
The mental and physical symptoms of anxiety can be severe. It makes sense that someone experiencing these symptoms would want to do something to make them either quickly subside or keep them at bay as much as possible. While some people turn to drugs and alcohol for this purpose, there are other cases where substance misuse or addiction precedes an anxiety disorder.
There is a relationship between anxiety and addiction, but it can be a complicated one. For example, the symptoms of one disorder can make the other worse. An anxiety disorder can also lead a person to misuse alcohol or drugs as a way to self-medicate. Interestingly, a person who has a genetic predisposition to an anxiety disorder can increase the chance of a mental health issue occurring if he or she develops a substance use disorder.
Why Co-Occurring Disorders Treatment is Ideal
Whether the anxiety disorder came first or not, the truth is that mental health conditions such as these often occur alongside substance use disorders and they are risk factors for each other, according to one study. In other words, they are co-occurring or co-morbid disorders.
Roughly 20 percent of Americans that have an anxiety or mood disorder also have a substance use disorder. Likewise, about 20 percent of people with a substance use disorder also have a mood or anxiety disorder. People who have anxiety disorders are up to three times more likely than the general population to develop a substance use disorder during their lifetime.
It might make sense that treating one condition would help the other, but treatment for anxiety and addiction needs to occur simultaneously. Treating a substance use disorder alone will not eliminate an anxiety disorder, and mental health treatment alone is not sufficient to keep addiction at bay. This is why experts recommend co-occurring disorders treatment, which addresses both issues together and lessens the chances of reoccurrence.
Proven Treatment for Anxiety and Addiction
Treatment for co-occurring disorders involves a combination of comprehensive and holistic therapies to simultaneously address a mental health disorder and addiction. While there is no cure for either, there are medications and therapies that can minimize or eliminate symptoms to allow for a healthy and productive life in recovery.
Some of the co-occurring disorders treatment options that you will find at The Recovery Village include:
- Psychotherapy. Done either in a group or individually with a therapist, psychotherapy can help clients understand their mental health issues, manage symptoms, and make changes. This includes Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Interpersonal Therapy, and Family-focused therapy.
- Medication Management. Medications may be used to manage some severe symptoms or to help stabilize a patient so that the patient can participate in his or her treatment program.
- Holistic Therapies. These include a variety of treatment modalities aimed at lessening the symptoms of anxiety as well as examining harmful ideas and behaviors. They include yoga, meditation, mindfulness, and acupuncture.
If you are struggling with addiction but feel you cannot get help because of a mental health issue, this is not the case. At The Recovery Village, we have the resources and caring staff necessary to help you get relief from your debilitating symptoms.
Contact us now to speak with one of our addiction specialists about the next steps on your road to recovery.