Treatment For Anxiety Disorders & Addiction

Anxiety disorders often co-occur with substance use disorders. Treatment programs that address both conditions provide the best results and typically include various forms of evidence-based treatment and holistic care that focus on changing behavior.

Treatment For Anxiety Disorders & Addiction

Anxiety disorders often co-occur with substance use disorders (SUDs). This is called dual diagnosis, or comorbid disorders.

Treating co-occurring conditions is more involved than treating a single condition alone. Having two disorders tends to exacerbate the symptoms of each.

The good news is that treatment for anxiety disorders and co-occurring substance abuse is also more successful when both disorders are identified, which happens more often today than in the past.

Evidence-based and holistic treatment options are helping those living with a dual diagnosis recover and live a full, healthy, and sober life.

The Connection Between Substance Abuse And Anxiety Disorders

Substance use disorders and anxiety disorders are both common mental health conditions, and they are also likely to occur together.

Anxiety is on the rise in the U.S. Medical experts appointed by the Department of Health and Human Services recommend anxiety screenings for adults under 65 years old.

Anxiety disorders can affect every area of a person’s life. To mask their symptoms of anxiety, a person might use drugs or alcohol, which can lead to abuse.

Self-medication isn’t the only way alcohol and drug abuse are linked with anxiety. Withdrawal symptoms of addiction include feelings of depression and anxiety.

Although the connection between SUDs and anxiety disorders has been clearly established, continued research is needed to further explain their co-occurrence.

Types Of Anxiety Disorders That Co-Occur With Addiction

Anxiety disorders are the most common type of mental illness. They are characterized by intense worry or fear around an unwanted event in the future or an actual situation.

This might cause people to avoid social situations. Studies have shown that social contact can help reduce the likelihood of substance use and abuse.

Some of the most common types of anxiety disorders often co-occur with substance abuse.

Treatment that addresses both conditions is often required for recovery and ongoing sobriety.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

Those with generalized anxiety disorder experience almost constant worry and restlessness, making it difficult to concentrate and complete daily tasks.

This might cause them to turn to substances that increase focus, such as meth or adderall. However, these drugs are addictive and often increase anxiety, adding to the problem.

Find more information on the link between substance use and generalized anxiety disorder.

Social Anxiety Disorder

For those with social anxiety disorder, an intense fear of social situations and judgment from people predominates. Phobias can also be also involved.

The fear might involve only large groups of people, such as with public speaking, but some even experience it when talking with a coworker or even a loved one.

Alcohol and some drugs could seem to act as a social lubricant, but any alcohol or drug use comes with the risk of addiction.

Learn more about how social anxiety disorder and addiction are linked.

Panic Disorder

Panic disorder is characterized by recurring panic attacks and a fear of their recurrence. Panic attacks can be scary themselves, with symptoms like difficulty breathing and a fast heart rate.

People who experience panic attacks might turn to alcohol or drugs with a sedative quality. This can lead to dependency and drug or alcohol addiction.

Get the facts on co-occurring substance use disorders and panic disorder, including treatment options.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Intrusive and unreasonable or obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors are the markers of obsessive-compulsive disorder. Not everyone with OCD experiences both.

Self-medicating with drugs or alcohol can seem to help people with OCD control their unwanted thoughts or behaviors. However, all drug use comes with side effects and the potential for addiction.

Treatment options for OCD have vastly improved over the years, including when the disorder co-occurs with addiction.

Find out more about the link between obsessive-compulsive disorder and drug or alcohol abuse.

Risk Factors For Anxiety Disorders And Substance Misuse

Anxiety disorders and substance use disorders share many of the same risk factors. A combination of factors can make these disorders more likely.

History Of Trauma

Trauma is defined as a deeply distressing or disturbing experience. It can happen when witnessing these occurrences or when experiencing them yourself.

Everyone responds differently to trauma. Trauma can have a negative effect on mental health, especially if traumatic experiences occur more than once.

As a result, a person may develop an anxiety-related disorder, a substance abuse disorder to cope with difficult memories, or a combination of both.

Learn about the link between substance abuse and stress disorders, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and acute stress disorder.

Chemical Imbalances In The Brain

Although a link has been made between mental illness and a chemical imbalance in the brain, recent research indicates that the connection is misleading.

The most popular idea was that having low levels of serotonin could lead to depression or other mood disorders.

However, a growing amount of evidence shows that environmental factors and behaviors are what cause changes in brain chemistry, rather than the other way around.

This knowledge is helpful for developing better ways to treat anxiety, depression, SUDs, and other mental health disorders.

Buildup Of Stress

How we handle stress can play a key role in whether or not we develop a mental health disorder.

This includes the stresses of daily life, like paying bills and driving in traffic, as well as stress caused by major life changes, such as losing a loved one or starting a new job.

Stressful situations can be addiction triggers and trigger other symptoms of mental illnesses.

Socioeconomic Disadvantages

There is a clear link between mental health and socioeconomic status. People with the lowest socioeconomic status have a two to three times greater chance of having a mental disorder.

Much of this goes back to stress. Living in a disadvantaged environment often exposes people to more uncertainty, conflict, and other challenges.

There are also fewer resources available to cope with these situations, making these people more vulnerable to chronic stress.

Family History Of Mental Illness Or Addiction

Children of parents who have a mental health condition are more likely to also have one. This includes both substance use disorders and other forms of mental illness.

There is also evidence that having family members who have a mental disorder and co-occurring addiction increases your chances for similar co-occurring disorders.

Treatments For Addiction And Anxiety

Alcohol and drug addiction with co-occurring anxiety respond well to treatment programs addressing both conditions.

Many treatment centers offer both intensive inpatient addiction treatment plans as well as outpatient plans, or day programs.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment For Anxiety And Substance Use Disorders

Although dual diagnosis treatment is more involved, the good news is that substance abuse treatment tends to lessen symptoms related to the co-occurring disorder, and vice versa.

This doesn’t mean that only one condition should be treated. Understanding each disorder well, including how they feed into each other, makes recovery easier.

Using Pharmaceuticals For Anxiety And Addiction Treatment

Although prescription medications can help treat anxiety and co-occurring substance use disorders, careful considerations should be made.

Research shows that the focus should be on behavioral modification, such as teaching healthy coping mechanisms for intolerable subjective states.

However, medication can be especially helpful early on, such as when dealing with severe physical symptoms of alcohol or opioid detox.

The use of some pharmaceuticals to treat anxiety disorders, such as benzodiazepines, should be closely monitored. In some cases, it isn’t a practical solution at all.

Behavioral Therapy

Behavioral therapy should be the focus of treatment plans for co-occurring anxiety disorders and addiction.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has provided particularly good results. With this form of therapy, the focus is put on changing negative thought patterns to change behavior.

Holistic And Mindfulness Techniques

Many people with a dual diagnosis have achieved great results from learning and practicing mindfulness techniques and other types of holistic therapy.

Holistic options treat the whole person — physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. Examples include yoga, meditation, breathwork, and journaling.

Increasing mindfulness can help people live in the moment and make more conscious decisions.

Community And Peer Support

Addiction treatment centers provide a sense of community and support through everyday interactions as well as structured support groups.

Group therapy provides a safe space where people can get together to share their experiences and learn from each other.

These groups can be led by group members or group facilitators. Some examples include 12-step programs and relapse prevention groups.

Some treatment centers offer addiction alumni services to encourage community building during aftercare for lifelong recovery.

Find Co-Occurring Disorder Treatment For Anxiety And Addiction

The comorbidity of substance abuse and anxiety disorders is common and requires treatment programs that address both conditions.

Spring Hill Recovery Center offers individualized addiction treatment plans that provide a holistic approach and compassionate, evidence-based care.

Call us today to learn more about how we can help you or your loved one take the first steps toward recovery.

Written by Spring Hill Editorial Team

Published on: September 29, 2022

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This page does not provide medical advice.

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