An anxiety disorder may lead to abusing alcohol or other substances to self-medicate to relieve anxiety symptoms. Usually, people with substance use disorder (SUD) and anxiety disorders experience them separately. Having both can be a continual cycle where the symptoms of one disorder can worsen the symptoms of the other.
Anxiety is a natural response to stress by your body. It’s a feeling of fear about what’s about to happen. A job interview, the first day at work or school, or giving a speech cause most people to feel nervous and afraid. However, if your feelings of anxiety are:
you may have an anxiety disorder.
There are seven main types of anxiety disorders:
The main features of GAD are chronic anxiety and excessive tension and worrying, even when there is little or no apparent cause.
OCD is characterized by repeated unwanted thoughts (obsessions) and repetitive behaviors (compulsions). The behaviors such as hand-washing, checking, counting, or cleaning are often performed repetitively in the hope of stopping the unwanted thoughts or making them go away.
This disorder features unexpected and repeated spells of intense fear with physical symptoms that might include:
PTSD can develop after being exposed to a terrifying event or ordeal where serious physical harm happened or was threatened to you or someone else.
This disorder is characterized by overwhelming anxiety and extreme self-consciousness in typical everyday social situations. It might be limited to one particular type of situation, like fear of speaking in formal or informal situations. It could also be eating and drinking in front of others. In the most severe form, it may be so prevalent that the individual has symptoms almost every time they are around other people.
This disorder features an unreasonable fear of being away from home or loved ones.
This is anxiety about your health, also known as hypochondria.
Depending on the person experiencing it, anxiety can feel different to different people. Sensations can range from butterflies in your stomach to a racing heart. You might even feel out of control like there’s a disconnect between your body and mind.
Other people might experience anxiety through nightmares and panic attacks. You might have painful thoughts and memories that you can’t control or a general feeling of fear and worry. Also, you might fear a particular place or event. Symptoms of general anxiety include:
Bear in mind that your anxiety symptoms might be completely different from someone else. That’s why it’s important to know all the ways anxiety can show itself.
An anxiety attack is a feeling of overpowering uneasiness, fear, worry, or distress. An anxiety attack builds slowly for many people, and it may get worse as a stressful event gets closer. Attacks can vary widely, and symptoms may be different among individuals. The reason is that the many symptoms of anxiety don’t happen to everyone and they may change over time.
Common symptoms of an anxiety attack include:
A panic attack and an anxiety attack have some of the same common symptoms, but they’re not the same. Panic attacks appear suddenly and involve intense and overwhelming fear. There are usually physical symptoms such as a racing heartbeat, shortness of breath, or nausea.
However, anxiety is usually related to the anticipation of a stressful situation, experience, or event. It may develop gradually. But panic attacks aren’t always initiated by stressors. They usually come out of nowhere. During a panic attack, the fight-or-flight response takes over. Physical symptoms are more intense than anxiety.
Interestingly, you can experience anxiety and a panic attack at the same time. For example, you might feel anxiety while worrying about a possibly stressful event, such as an important presentation at work. When the actual event arrives, anxiety may result in a panic attack.
As previously mentioned, these disorders feed off each other, which makes diagnosis and treatment even more challenging and complicated. This comorbidity (two disorders at the same time) creates a mutual maintenance pattern in which each disorder affects the treatment and outcome of the other. The most common complications of some comorbid conditions are:
Very often, there is a genetic risk factor for both SUD and certain mental health disorders. Yet, genes alone usually don’t explain all the causes for co-occurring disorders. Other factors include:
Common to both substance abuse and mental health disorders is denial. It’s difficult to admit you have a dependence on drugs or alcohol. It’s also difficult to admit how much of an effect they have on your life. As a result, you may be trying to ignore them while hoping they would just go away.
Some people are ashamed or afraid of being viewed as weak or a failure if they admit they have a problem. However, coexisting conditions can happen to anyone, and admitting you have a problem and seeking help is the first step to overcoming your issues and reaching the goal of recovery.
When you have a substance use disorder and a mental health disorder occurring at the same time (comorbid conditions), it is called a dual diagnosis. In this case, you have a co-occurring SUD and anxiety. Dual diagnoses can be hard to recognize because it takes time to figure out what may be a mental health disorder and what might be an alcohol or drug abuse condition.
In addition, the signs and symptoms also vary depending on the mental health issue and the substance being abused. Whether it’s alcohol, recreational drugs, or prescription medication, there are still some warning signs that you may have a dual diagnosis. Consider these questions:
The best treatment for the comorbid disorders of anxiety and addiction is a united approach in which both the mental disorder and SUD are treated at the same time. At this point, it doesn’t matter which disorder came first. Long-term recovery depends on getting treatment for both disorders by the same provider or treatment team.
Even though there are several approaches that treatment programs might use, these are the basics of effective treatment that you should look for:
Addiction and mental illness are difficult to overcome on their own. But when they appear together it is even more challenging. There is evidence from studies that SUDs and anxiety commonly co-occur. The interplay between the two disorders is complex and changeable. Some of the specific anxiety disorders tied to substance abuse include:
There have been many investigations into new treatments for co-occurring anxiety and substance use disorders. Due to the mutual maintenance pattern of the disorders, most studies have tried to find treatments that speak to both disorders. Research is continuing to develop and includes pharmacotherapy (medications) and psychotherapy (counseling, talk therapy) as the main approaches for these dual diagnoses.
There has been a variety of medications that have been found to be potentially effective. The antidepressant Paxil shows signs of being effective for the treatment of social anxiety disorder with alcohol use disorder (AUD). Similarly for Topamax (a migraine and epilepsy medication) and buspirone (BuSpar), a short-term anxiety medication.
Psychotherapies are an essential part of the treatment for SUD and anxiety disorders because it helps you learn to cope without the use of substances.
This is an option if you want or need to receive 24-hour medical and mental health care. In a residential program, you will receive therapy, support, medication, and other health services.
When you choose a treatment plan, it’s important to remember that the best treatment is to consolidate care for both conditions Each one should be considered primary and receive treatment at the same time.
The days of “I can’t treat your anxiety until you stop drinking” are over. Although there is no standard dual diagnosis treatment, our medical professionals at Chapel Hill can use best practices to create an individualized treatment program just for you. Dual diagnosis is a common issue that many people face. And even though it is a challenging issue, you can get better with support and the proper treatment. Let us be your team. Your days on this cycle of abuse and fear can be over if you make the first move and contact us now.