Anxiety And Addiction:

How are they Related?

According to the National Institute on Mental Health, 18% of Americans suffer from an anxiety disorder. Forty million individuals is a shocking number and makes anxiety the nation’s most common mental disorder.

Everyone feels anxious frequently. Who doesn’t feel anxious while watching a close sports game, or a first date, or making an oral presentation? Feeling anxious is natural. Once that game, date, or nerve-racking ends, most of us wipe our sweaty foreheads and return to our normal pleasant disposition. However, people with anxiety disorders continue to feel those butterflies in the stomach long after the nerve-racking event. 

For these unfortunate people, severe anxiety is intense and often crippling. To some of these people, with anxiety issues so overwhelming that they can’t even get out of bed, substance abuse is the only solution. 

By depressing our bodies’ central nervous system, alcohol and drugs can calm those with anxiety disorder. This self-medication is temporary. As soon as the drugs or alcohol wears off, the anxiety returns. When substance abuse becomes the only effective treatment, anxiety, and addiction can be lethal problems

According to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America, about 20% of those with anxiety disorders also have a substance abuse problem. On the other hand, about 20% of those with substance abuse problems also have anxiety disorders.

Anxiety and addiction feed off of each other. To put it simply, anxiety causes stress and panic, whereas substance abuse relieves stress and panic. Many people with anxiety disorder feel that substance abuse is the only way to numb the overwhelming depression and anxiety. These people may not have addictive personalities. They consume drugs or alcohol because they feel that they have to. 

Even more detrimental is the fact that anxiety is a mental disorder. Someone with a mental disorder will see a doctor, and most likely, get prescribed medication. Any patient with a mental disorder is at high risk of abusing drugs.

What Is Addiction?

Addiction occurs when an individual can not refrain from using a substance or participating in an activity, despite the addiction causing psychological or physical harm. Addiction is a complex mental disease that involves brain circuits, genetics, life experiences as well as factors in the environment. To assume that a person is an addict because of just one of those reasons is usually incorrect.

Addiction does not have to be a substance. People could just as easily be addicted to activities like gambling, eating, shopping, sex, and gaming. Despite damaging consequences, like an STD or losing lots of money, an addict will be unable to stop the activity.

Although the battle is long and arduous, addiction is treatable. Medicinal advances have allowed addicts to be properly diagnosed and then treated. Effective treatment requires time, perhaps for the rest of the recovering addict’s life. Rehabilitative facilities across the country, like Miracles Recovery, utilize state-of-the-art treatment, medicines, and therapies to ensure recovering addicts stay sober.

Addiction occurs when an individual can not refrain from using a substance or participating in an activity, despite the addiction causing psychological or physical harm.

What Is An Anxiety Disorder?

Anxiety can affect a person in many different ways. A person with an anxiety disorder may feel a never-ending sense of depression. The effects of an anxiety disorder could be so devastating, that an individual can become paralyzed with fear, unable to conduct a normal lifestyle. 

According to the American Addiction Centers, the following are the most frequently diagnosed anxiety disorders.

General Anxiety Disorder 

Individuals with general anxiety disorder go through their lives in a perpetual sense of doom. The focus of despair will change from one concern to another. If there is nothing wrong in their lives, people with a general anxiety disorder will start anticipating disaster with issues such as money, family, work, or health.

Social Anxiety Disorder

Social anxiety disorder will make interacting with others incredibly difficult, if not impossible. In some cases, immense fear and anxiety will force some people with a social anxiety disorder to avoid society such as relationships, work, or school.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) 

Experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event may cause some people to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Panic Disorder

Bouts of uncontrollable fear and paranoia are classic symptoms of panic disorder. A panic disorder could make an individual start hyperventilating, have a rapid heartbeat, feel dizzy, start sweating, or other displays of fear. More information on panic attacks will be featured later in the article.

Specific Phobias

Sometimes anxiety will be caused by fear of a certain thing, event, or animal. The phobia can be so pronounced, that individuals may avoid important segments of their lives, like work or relationships.

Which Comes First Addiction Or Mental Illness?

Anxiety and addiction are sort of like the chicken and the egg – which causes the other? Does anxiety force one to become an addict, such as the person who suffers from crippling panic attacks and seeks relief in substance abuse? Or, on the flip-side, does addiction create anxiety by altering the electrical connections in the brain, such as the user who suffers from paranoia, hallucinations, and depression as a result of their chronic drug usage?

Panic Attack

As mentioned earlier, one of the most commonly diagnosed anxiety disorders is panic disorder. Panic disorders are more common in women than men. Panic disorders generally start when people are under a lot of stress and when they are young adults.

The most horrifying symptom of a panic disorder is a panic attack. A panic attack produces a state of immense fear for a duration of ten to twenty minutes. However, more severe panic attacks could last for more than an hour. The symptoms will be different for individuals. The symptoms could include (4):

  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea
  • Lightheadedness
  • Sweating
  • Fear of death
  • Sense of unreality
  • Choking
  • Chest tightness

What Is The Difference Between A Panic Attack And An Anxiety Attack?

A panic attack is very similar to an anxiety attack, but also the two conditions are very different.

  • A panic attack is very similar to an anxiety attack, but also the two conditions are very different

    A panic attack is usually more severe than an anxiety attack. 

  • A panic attack can strike with no absolutely no warning, whereas an anxiety attack will be triggered. 
  • A panic attack will affect only individuals with panic disorder, whereas an anxiety attack will affect individuals with a host of different mental health disorders.

A panic attack and an anxiety attack differ in intensity and the length of time that these symptoms endure.

Clinical Differences Between A Panic Attack And An Anxiety Attack

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th Edition), DSM-5, is used by medical professionals to base their diagnosis. 

According to the DSM-5, a panic attack can be caused by many different mental disorders. Someone can have a panic attack without having any mental disorder. The DSM-5 does not even mention an “anxiety attack”. As a result, those in the medical profession can not diagnose an anxiety attack. “Anxiety” is mentioned in the DSM-5, hence symptoms of an anxiety attack are diagnosed as anxiety.

How Does A Hospital Treat A Panic Attack?

A panic attack can be utterly frightening, for both the affected individual as well as the people around them. Most people suffering from a panic attack for the first time assume that they are having a heart attack and will most likely go to the hospital.

In the emergency room, medical providers will first check that the individual is having a heart attack. Blood tests as well as an electrocardiogram are used to test the function of the heart. Because a panic attack can appear to be another more serious condition, all other conditions must first be ruled out before diagnosing a panic attack.

Panic Attacks And Alcohol And Drugs

A panic attack is an epitome of what people fear. As a result, a person will be so petrified of another panic attack, that they go to great lengths to avoid situations, people, or events that may have triggered the panic attack.  

Alcohol and panic attacks are a terrible combination. At the time, alcohol may provide temporary relief for those suffering from panic attacks. But when the alcohol or drugs are out of a person’s system, the panic attacks will return. Thus, the unfortunate individual plunges into a devastating catch-22. 

Drugs or alcohol become the only way to prevent these terrible and frightening panic attacks. Consuming large amounts of alcohol or drugs will only increase one’s tolerance, forcing one to consume even more. The psychological, physical, and social consequences of alcohol and panic attacks can destroy lives and families.  

Author Michael Jackson Smith describes a panic attack as such, 

  • If fear is like a storm wave striking you, then a panic attack is a tsunami that batters your soul.
  • Drinking to overcome panic attacks is like smoking cigarettes to overcome asthma. You start with one problem, then you have two.

Anxiety And Substance Abuse Is A Co-Occurring Treatment 

What Is It And How Is It Treated?

Diagnosing and treating anxiety and substance abuse is tricky. If only one of these disorders is treated, then most likely, they will both return. As a result, anxiety and substance abuse must be treated as co-occurring disorders.

A co-occurring disorder occurs when an individual has two or more disorders. Anxiety and addiction, alcohol and panic attacks, and anxiety and substance abuse are all examples of a co-occurring disorder. 

This article has stipulated many times that substance abuse and anxiety are uniquely related. To many suffering from an anxiety disorder, substance abuse can seem like the only cure. But such a cure is very brief, forcing people to consume more and more drugs and alcohol. As a result, such individuals must be diagnosed and treated for both disorders.

Let’s say an individual seeks treatment for substance abuse. While they may get the greatest treatment possible, and become cured of their disorder, if they also suffer from an anxiety disorder, the same anguish that drove them to abuse drugs in the first place will still be present. As a result, it is so important that people suffering from co-occurring disorders receive proper treatment. 

Treatment For Co-Occurring Disorders

 The only way an individual will be cured of anxiety and substance abuse is if both disorders are treated simultaneously. Such a Herculean task is achievable, though only with the right professionals and the right therapeutic guidance. 

Depending on the specific anxiety disorder as well as the specific individual, treatment will be different. The first step in treating anxiety and addiction is to visit a treatment directory website, such as Addiction Intervention. Here, visitors can peruse a wide selection of different treatment facilities and methods. Do plenty of research and make sure the treatment center chosen is the right one for you or your loved one.

anxiety and substance abuse must be treated as co-occurring disorders

Pick Up The Phone And Get Help Today

Some rehabilitation facilities, such as Miracles Recovery Center, located in Port Saint Lucie, Florida, specialize in treating every kind of addiction. The staff of seasoned professionals and doctors at Miracles Recovery Center, all collaborate with each patient to create their individualized treatment plan. 

With their intensive outpatient services and sober living home, Miracles Recovery Center has solutions for anyone seeking sobriety. We specialize in heroin, cocaine, and alcohol addiction therapies. The facility also specializes in dual-diagnosis treatment, which is a proven solution for those struggling with addiction and a co-occurring disorder, such as anxiety and substance abuse. Contact us today to get started on your journey to recovery!

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