General Anxiety and Addiction

General anxiety and addiction often go hand in hand. It's not uncommon for people to use drugs or alcohol without being aware that they're self-treating their anxiety. For these individuals, the condition is often debilitating. They usually believe that using substances is their only way to get relief. This addictive behavior can continue on for years.

General Anxiety

Co-occurring disorders are mental illnesses that occur alongside various addictions. Anxiety disorders and panic disorders are among the most common. These conditions are very hard to treat because the suffering individuals are so unstable. When anxiety is added to addiction, or addiction is added to anxiety, the problem becomes much worse.

For someone who suffers from anxiety, using drugs or alcohol often seems like an easy out.

Substances will frequently calm the symptoms. However, it isn't long before the two conditions start to feed into each other. This can create a dangerous cycle that's very hard to escape.

Perhaps you're suffering from anxiety and you also have an addiction, or you think you might. Your anxiety disorder may even be undiagnosed, but you know there's a problem. It can be so helpful to learn more about what anxiety disorders are, and how they're treated. You'll be happy to know that there is a specialized way to treat co-occurring disorders at alcohol and drug rehab.

At Northpoint Washington, we understand ever facet of addiction, and even how it affects those with anxiety. It's our goal to provide you with the information you need regarding your condition.

Understanding General Anxiety Disorder

"We all get addicted to something that takes away the pain." Anonymous

That is the sad reality for so many people who suffer from general anxiety disorders and addictions. Many are diagnosed with anxiety, but they really don't know what it is. Others know that something is wrong with them, but they've never been able to pinpoint it. Still others believe that having anxiety is just their lot in life. Over time, it becomes something they have to learn to live with.

Regardless of what your situation is, it can be so helpful to learn what anxiety really is. That will help you to understand your own situation better. It will even give you powerful insight into your own behaviors.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) affects 3.1% of adults. That means that there are close to 7 million people in the United States who suffer from it.

It is characterized by excessive worry about a number of different things. Those with GAD find it hard to calm their fears and focus on anything else. Their concerns often are unwarranted, but they're powerless to stop.

Women are twice as likely to be affected by anxiety as men are. This type of anxiety usually starts gradually, and then increases in its severity. It can be brought on by anything; even just thinking about making it through the day.

Anxiety can increase and decrease throughout the day. When it is relatively mild, people are able to socialize with others and feel almost normal. When it increases in severity, it can become debilitating.

There are a number of different types of anxiety disorders, and these affect people in various ways.

What are the Various Types of Anxiety Disorders?

Many people with anxiety find that their condition doesn't usually fall under the heading of GAD. Generally, they suffer from a certain type of anxiety disorder. The different types of anxiety include:

People who suffer from panic disorder often have feelings of fear that strike suddenly. These are called panic attacks. Panic attacks occur repeatedly, and they can be triggered by even the most mundane of activities. For example, people will often experience them when they're driving, sitting down to relax, or brushing their teeth. Symptoms of a panic attack can include chest pain, sweating or heart palpitations.

This is also known as social phobia. People with social anxiety disorder have an intense fear of social situations only. They worry about being judged by others. They also worry that they might do something to lead to embarrassment. Social anxiety disorder often keeps many people isolated from friends and even family.

There are many different types of phobias, and they are characterized by intense fears of situations or objects. For example, some people may be afraid of heights or spiders. Their fears are extreme, and can cause them to avoid even common situations.

Someone with obsessive-compulsive disorder uses frequent, repetitive actions to calm intrusive thoughts. These ritualistic acts quickly take over their lives, and without performing them, their anxiety increases.

PTSD occurs when someone has been through a traumatic event, such as an accident or war. These individuals will frequently have flashbacks of the event that paralyze them. They live in constant avoidance of anything related to the event. However, they will often relive it in their minds.

You may be suffering from PTSD and addiction, a phobia and an addiction, or panic attacks and addiction. Regardless, there is help available for you.

Know the Symptoms of Anxiety

There are times when everyone feels anxious about something. That doesn't necessarily mean that there is an anxiety disorder present. However, in the event that there is, it's important to know what the symptoms are.

Symptoms of anxiety include:

  • Frequently feeling nervous
  • Becoming restless often
  • Feelings of being tense
  • Sensing danger or dread
  • A recurring feeling of panic
  • A rapid heart rate
  • Bouts of hyperventilation or rapid breathing
  • Bouts of heavy sweating
  • Muscle twitching in the body
  • Trembling hands
  • Feeling weak and lethargic
  • Having problems with focusing
  • Brain fog, or difficulty thinking clearly
  • Problems sleeping at night
  • Digestive problems (diarrhea, constipation, etc.)
  • Feeling obsessed about certain ideas or situations
  • Wanting to avoid certain situations
  • Experiencing chest pains
  • A choking sensation

Any of these symptoms can be present within someone who suffers from an anxiety disorder. Differentiating between an actual diagnosable condition and sporadic anxiety is definitely important.

Anxiety FAQ

You may be facing a situation in which you've never been formally diagnosed with anxiety. Still, you may believe that you have it. It's important to identify what the issue is so that you can get the right treatment.

By answering a few questions, you may be able to gain more insight into your condition. Below, you'll find some questions that will help you understand whether or not you might have an anxiety disorder.

  • Have you ever felt too scared to leave your house?
  • Do you frequently feel overcome with the sensation of panicking?
  • Do you frequently feel tense, even when there's no reason to be?
  • Do you find yourself obsessing about things you have no control over?
  • Do you excessively worry about situations you know you shouldn't?
  • Are you fearful about being around other people because they may judge you?
  • Do you find yourself avoiding social situations often?
  • When you're feeling overly worried, do you experience physical symptoms, such as pain in your chest?
  • Do you find it difficult to focus when you're at work or at school?
  • Has your condition caused you to set aside some of your responsibilities?
  • Do you frequently feel dread about various situations?
  • Do you often worry that you might be in danger?
  • Do your thoughts often keep you awake at night?

If you answered yes to more than one or two of these questions, you may have a diagnosable anxiety disorder.

The fact is that researchers don't really completely understand what causes anxiety disorders. There are a number of different factors that may play a role in developing them. These include:

  • Exposure to traumatic events
  • The presence of genetic factors
  • An underlying health issue
  • Various changes in the brain
  • Outside, environment stress

The most common explanation for anxiety disorders may be because of problems within the brain. Certain brain circuits are responsible for transmitting information from one part of the brain to another. Stressful situations can lead to changes in the brain that affects the way these parts communicate.

People with anxiety disorders often have differing brain structures that control their memories. Anxiety disorders often do run in families, and this is similar to other conditions like heart disease or cancer. For anyone who is more susceptible to anxiety, stress or trauma can easily trigger it.

Even so, it's important for you to understand what anxiety is not. It is not a flaw in your character. It is not a sign of a poor upbringing. It is also not a sign that you are weak as a person. Having anxiety is something that is completely out of your control.

Once an anxiety disorder is diagnosed, deciding on the right kind of treatment is critical for the individual. There has been so much progress in this area. Currently, doctors have many different ways to effectively treat anxiety. They utilize different types of therapies to accomplish this. These include:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy, which allows the individual to recognize and change thought patterns. These thought patterns are what lead to their negative and worrisome feelings.
  • Psychotherapy, which addresses the emotional response to anxiety. Through psychotherapy, therapists are able to help people understand their conditions. They also learn how to cope with it.
  • Making dietary changes, which can lead to a substantial reduction in symptoms.
  • Relaxation therapy, which will calm the feelings of anxiety. This is something that people can also do on their own, at home.
  • Medications, which will help to address the symptoms of anxiety over time.

There are a lot of different medications that are commonly used to help with anxiety symptoms. They are classified into two different categories; antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications. Some of these include:

  • Xanax (alprazolam)
  • Klonopin
  • Ativan
  • Valium
  • Buspirone (BuSpar)
  • Prozac
  • Celexa
  • Paxil
  • Lexapro
  • Zoloft
  • Effexor
  • Cymbalta
  • Wellbutrin

People who suffer from anxiety, panic disorders or other conditions will often turn to addiction. This is a way for them to self-medicate their fears and concerns away. It numbs the impending doom that many of them experience on a daily basis. For many, they end up believing that it is the only way they can function.

Because their substance abuse has become a way to treat their anxiety, it also becomes a means of escape. According to SAMHSA, close to 8 million people suffer from both addiction and mental illness. Panic disorder, PTSD and other anxiety disorders make up many of these cases.

What many people with these co-occurring disorders don't realize is that self-medicating only works for so long. They often discover that instead of helping their symptoms, substances only make them worse, eventually.

It is difficult to say what comes first; the addiction or the anxiety. It can go both ways, although it does seem to be more common for anxiety to come first. Regardless, using substances only serves to create an ongoing cycle of drug or alcohol use and recurring symptoms.

For someone who suffers from anxiety, they're usually looking for a drug that will counteract their symptoms. That means they're most interested in depressants, in most cases.

There are a number of different drugs or substances that people with anxiety commonly choose. These include:

  • Alcohol: Alcohol might be the most common depressant substance. It is easy to find, legal to purchase, and socially acceptable. Those with anxiety usually start off drinking alcohol to calm their symptoms. However, continued use of it can easily lead to an addiction that requires treatment.
  • Marijuana: Marijuana contains an ingredient known as cannabidiol. This is what makes it a depressant. It causes the entire body to relax. It can also lead to sedation when it is used. Over time, marijuana can create a psychological dependence. However, there are those who have also become physically dependent upon it too.
  • Prescription barbiturates: Even though barbiturates are available by prescription, they are very addictive. They carry anesthetic qualities that make them attractive to those with anxiety. In addition, they also have pain relief qualities.
  • Prescription opiates: Prescription opiate or opioid drugs have become very popular in the United States in recent years. They are commonly prescribed for pain relief. However, they have depressant qualities that can be helpful for someone with anxiety. This is particularly true as someone increases their dosage of these drugs. Of course, when the dosage is increased, the risk for addiction increases substantially.
  • Prescription benzodiazepines: Benzodiazepines are also available by prescription only. They are very useful in helping people with anxiety to get to sleep at night. This fact alone has led many of these individuals to misuse benzodiazepines and become addicted to them.

People with anxiety may also use antihistamines, muscle relaxers, and anti-psychotics to self-medicate. Many of these drugs are not known to be addictive. However, when used in excess, both physical and psychological addictions can result.

If you have both an anxiety disorder and an addiction, you are at great risk if you continue to use. You may suffer from a number of different medical and psychological problems. In some cases, you may even be prone to suicidal thoughts.

The best, safest way to stop is to contact an alcohol and drug rehab that specializes in treating co-occurring disorders. That way, you can get the help and support you truly need to recover.

How Alcohol and Drug Rehab Can Help People with Anxiety and Addiction

If you're suffering from an anxiety disorder and an addiction, you may think there's no hope. It can begin to feel like a life sentence. You need to know that it's not. Your condition is not unusual at all, and many people have found relief. The right kind of addiction treatment can provide that for you.

Dual diagnosis treatment (or integrative addiction treatment) is available for you, and this could change everything. By addressing your addiction and your anxiety at the same time, you can successfully recover. It might seem impossible; particularly if you have suffered for a long time. However, there have been so many people who have overcome their conditions. You can be one of them.

Here at Northpoint Washington, we take a different approach to treating co-occurring disorders than other programs. Our efforts are always collaborative at our drug and alcohol rehab program. That means you are able to be treated for both disorders at the same time. We want you to experience the success that goes along with recovery. However, that's not possible unless the source of your addiction is discovered and treated properly.

Do you suffer from an anxiety disorder and addiction? If you'd like to find out more about how alcohol and drug can help you, please contact us today.