Anxiety and addiction, whether to drugs or alcohol, have been linked to each other. There are studies that show anxiety could lead to addiction and vice versa. Anxiety, which is defined as the feeling one gets when worried, afraid of something or stressed, is said to be a normal feeling. However, this could also lead to substance abuse when not managed or addressed.
It is during this time when anxiety and addiction can happen at once. The former becomes the reason why the individual resorts to taking drugs, drinking alcohol or using tobacco. The person tends to turn to these substances just to experience a temporary relief from their current emotional state. This is regarded as “self-medication.” The affected individual considers the substance as a reliable escape from anxiety.
While the person craves for any of these substances, the drive to use more of it increases. As a result, he or she develops an addiction to whatever substance they are using. On the other hand, anxiety and addiction may also co-exist when someone tries to quit using drugs or alcohol and works to eliminate such from his or her system. Thus, anxiety could likewise be seen as an effect of substance withdrawal.
To explain further, this points out that craving escalates when the person is deprived of the substance, especially if the person is in rehab or treatment. When this desire is not satisfied, that is when anxiety kicks in. In summary, anxiety can be viewed in two different ways: (1) as a reason why certain people are addicted and (2) a result of substance abuse. Either way, it can be observed that even if one has no anxiety or drug and alcohol addiction problems before, one could always be triggered by the other.
According to a report, anxiety accounts for a lifetime rate of 28.8 percent of the most frequent psychiatric-related problems in the United States. Meanwhile, substance abuse disorders record a lifetime rate of 14.6 percent. The National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC) revealed in a study the co-morbidity of the two conditions. It was noted that anxiety disorders have a stronger relationship with substance dependence (with an odds ratio of 3.0-6.0) compared to substance abuse (1.2-2.6).
The Difficulty of Experiencing Anxiety and Addiction at the Same Time
Living with addiction and anxiety is difficult. When you or a loved one fight addiction, commitment is needed, especially with the presence of possible triggers. All the needed motivation must be there in order to avoid a relapse. Imagine seeing and experiencing several addiction cues that may bring back your craving for the substance. Nevertheless, you have made a promise to live in sobriety once again.
As you are treated for drug or alcohol addiction, you may feel anxious that your desire is not satisfied. That would be a hard situation: you are torn between sliding back and moving forward. Bear in mind, though, that no matter how difficult the situation might be, you can still recover since anxiety and addiction can be addressed in the form of dual diagnosis rehab. Certain measures and interventions can be embraced towards your recovery. The patient can always seek professional help to achieve higher chances of recovery.
Addressing Anxiety and Addiction Simultaneously
Based on decades of psychiatric studies, it was learned that anxiety and addiction occurring at the same time was more than what would be expected. Simply put, when you suffer from substance abuse, there is a great possibility of also experiencing anxiety attacks. It is true that anxiety can lead to substance abuse, and substance abuse can bring about anxiety. This co-occurrence is referred to as co-morbidity.
This medical condition has been a popular subject among members of the medical field, particularly among researchers and clinicians, mainly because of its very high prevalence and unique treatment factors. In the United States, anxiety and addiction are one of the most prevalent psychiatric conditions. Epidemiological and clinical examples reveal that patients who are suffering from anxiety or substance use disorder have an increased risk that they would be afflicted by both ailments.
In fact, a recent epidemiological survey focused on co-morbidity showed high levels of co-occurrence between anxiety and addiction disorders. The results of the survey further showed that there is a direct correlation between anxiety disorders and drug and alcohol dependence. In particular, there was a stronger relationship between anxiety disorders and drug abuse as compared to the link between anxiety and alcoholism.
Further studies also revealed that when anxiety and addiction happen instantaneously, they become intertwined or develop a sort of co-dependence. As a result, both become contributing factors to the maintenance and development of co-morbidity among those saddled with these conditions. By and large, addiction is a disease brought about the brain’s feature called neuroplasticity. The brain does a “memory trace” when the brain circuits are activated, particularly the reward system. So when a former user’s brain is “cued” by a particular substance, there is very high possibility that he will resume the habit and once again become addicted.
Treating Anxiety and Addiction: Re-wiring Your Brain
So, how do you deal with anxiety and addiction? The treatment lies in your brain’s neuroplasticity, although the key is to do it in reverse. Others refer to this process as re-wiring the brain or making it do things which are the opposite of what it has been conditioned to perform by force of habit. This can be taught to you at drug rehab centers and can be worked on after treatment with your therapist/psychiatrist.
Here are specific ways to “reverse-engineer” your brain so that you are able to successfully overcome anxiety and addiction and consequently, lead a peaceful, productive and fulfilled life.
- Mindfulness. Essentially, this means looking at yourself from an outsider’s point of view and developing a better understanding of your actions and emotions from this newfound perspective. It is actually programming your brain to be “at the moment” as you develop a greater appreciation of the world you move in and consequently, explore opportunities for personal growth and development.
- Exercise. By and large, this is considered as one of the most effective ways to beat anxiety and addiction. Studies have shown that those who exercise more have decreased levels of anxiety. Put on those running shoes and hit the road or visit the nearest gym and pump iron for an hour. Soon, you’ll feel the anxiety exiting our pores as a warm feeling envelops you.
- Psychotherapy. There is still a stigma attached to those suffering from anxiety and addiction who seek psychotherapy treatment. This should no longer be the case, as a couple of sessions with a specialist will not only enable you to express your fears and apprehensions but allow you to uncover the roots of your anxieties and find the most effective ways of dealing with them.
Another way to treat your anxiety and addiction is by participating in holistic therapies which can be taught to you ar Monarch Shores. These therapies provide positive ways to cope with the symptoms of anxiety and the problems that arise for many who are attempting to stay sober. Holistic therapies such as yoga, mediation, massage and deep breathing exercises are great tools to have when battling addiction and anxiety.
If you or someone you care for are struggling with addiction and anxiety contact us today and let us help you on your way to recovery.