We all face some level of anxiety everyday. It is a common part of the human condition. Maybe you have an upcoming performance review, or maybe an oncoming car that swerves into the wrong lane. When the body gets nervous, it is floods itself with chemicals. These chemicals push the body into a “fight or flight” mindset. The heart races and pupils start to dilate.Sweat comes seeping out of every pore. Breathing becomes rapid and shallow. However, when the stress is gone, these sensations disappear and the body recovers.
However, people with anxiety disorders, don’t see the symptoms of stress disappear. In fact, people with anxiety disorders feel symptoms for six months or longer.In addition, those symptoms can get worse with time. These people might feel dips on their stress levels, of course, but they’re never completely restored to a state anyone would consider “normal,” and they may turn to drugs or alcohol in a desperate attempt to make things better.
Anxiety disorders and drug addiction can blend and weave together.Together they form a knot of misery that can be hard to untangle. However, with therapy the feelings of terror can ease, and the tight grip of an addiction might begin to loosen. With this kind of help, people can be restored to a life they might call normal.
Prevalence of Anxiety
Anxiety disorders are common as they affect 18.1 percent of the adult population in the United States. This umbrella term covers a variety of behaviors. Where depression describes a very limited type of mental health issue, anxiety disorders describe many individual problems. They all have a feeling of pressure, stress and unease at their center.
Common anxiety disorders include:
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder: This is often shown as recurring fears about inconsequential things, such as finances or health. People with this condition may feel as though something horrible is about to happen.
- Panic Disorder: A sudden and overwhelming feeling of intense fear strikes people with this condition.They may even feel they’re dying.
- Phobia-based Disorder: Some common phobias include fears of spiders, bridges, airplanes, speaking in public, or other items or situations that others find mildly distressing cause intense fear in people with phobias.
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: This occurs when an individual has been through a traumatic event, such as an assault or a natural disaster. Sights, sounds, and images from the event have the ability to induce feelings of terror and dread.
Self-Medication and Addiction
At first glance, drugs might seem like an ideal way to suppress anxiety. Addictive drugs tend to lock into lock into the brain’s pleasure center. This increases feelings of happiness and calm. Addictive drugs can also bring a feeling of sedation. The drugs slow down the heart rate and reduce the ability of the person to see and hear with accuracy.
Drugs can help to combat some of the physical and mental manifestations of stress.However, some addictive drugs can cause changes in the brain that lead to mental illnesses such as depression. When addictive drugs wear off and the person is restored to sobriety, all of the triggers for anxiety are still in place.All of the little feelings are just waiting to come back.
A person with an addiction and anxiety may face extreme highs and extreme lows on a daily basis.This can make day-to-day life hard to bear. In addition, drugs can disturb sleep. This can make an underlying feeling of nervousness and paranoia worse. People with anxiety disorders might also worry about what they’ve said or done while under the influence.These additional anxiety triggers can be hard to overlook.
While it’s clear that blending addiction and anxiety isn’t healthy, it’s also clear that this behavior is common. The lifetime rate of alcoholism in those with anxiety disorders stood at 9.4 percent, while people who didn’t have anxiety had a lifetime rate of alcoholism of 3.7 percent.
Substances of Choice
People with anxiety disorders may lean on almost any substance, including:
Research suggests that the availability of a drugis what drives substance abuse. In other words, people don’t seek out specific types of substances in order to find relief. Instead, they tend to lean on the substances that they have within easy reach.
If an individual has anxiety issues and is addicted to substance abuse, he or she can also have another mental health disorder. Addictive drugs can sometimes cause brain changes that can lead to other mental illnesses. Heroin or prescription painkillers can change the brain’s ability to create and respond to feel-good chemicals. In time, these people might be chemically unable to experience pleasure or joy. They may struggle with depression even while on drugs.
Researchers found that 47.2 percent of those who had depression at least once in life also had an anxiety disorder at least once in life. As drugs make their way through the person’s mind and body, they can leave a trail of destruction. This can even lead to additional mental health concerns, such as a worsening feeling of anxiety.
People who abuse substances can also experience social isolation. They often cut ties with the friends, family members and coworkers. They nurture their addictions instead of nurturing their relationships. Those with anxiety disorders often need the support of their friends and family in order to handle their daily lives. To move past these issues, intentional care is needed.
In the past, therapies were focused only on addiction, not any other condition(s). The belief was that the addiction caused the mental distress. Once that distress was gone, the person would be restored to health.
Now, experts are well aware that mental illnesses can work as triggers for addiction. When a person with an anxiety disorder is placed in a situation that causes stress, that person is likely to feel a deep craving for drugs, if that person has a history of addiction. When a mental illness is left untreated, it is a bit like leaving a fire burning in the background. There’s the possibility that the fire may go out on its own, but it’s more likely that it will grow and spread.
Modern addiction treatment programs use a dual diagnosis approach. This is where a person with a mental illness is given a suite of treatments to treat mental illness and addiction at the same time. The therapies are intense, but they move forward at the same time.
Each therapy session is designed to help the person see how the two conditions are linked and how they can be handled. This is the kind of care we provide at The Canyon. We offer our clients a complete mental health screening, so we know exactly what issues our clients need assistance with. Our dual diagnosis program blends techniques used to combat addiction and mental health disorders.We can provide real relief. We also use meditation and exercise to help soothe the nerves and bring a sense of inner peace. This approaches offer relief to those struggling with anxiety. If you’d like to know more, please contact us.
 https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/anxiety-disorders/index.shtml Anxiety Disorders.
 https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/prevalence/any-anxiety-disorder-among-adults.shtml Any Anxiety Disorder Among Adults.
 http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1360-0443.1997.tb02848.x/abstract The life-time rates of three major mood disorders and four major anxiety disorders in alcoholics and controls. Schuckit, Marc A. October 1997.