A Better Today

Anxiety Disorders &
Dual Diagnosis

Anxiety Disorders and Substance Abuse Treatment: Getting to the Root of Your Addiction

A Better Today Recovery Services understands the relationship between anxiety and substance abuse. We recognize that anxiety disorders often go unnoticed and untreated. When this happens, some people suffering from anxiety disorders ease their stress by self medicating. It is unfortunate that what makes people feel good when relieving anxiety symptoms is alcohol and drugs.

When people seek treatment for their addictions, recovery specialists often find that anxiety disorders are one root of people’s substance use problems. If someone feels extreme anxiety at a young age, they may abuse alcohol to soothe their nerves and to feel like they fit in. Further, if someone has experienced trauma, they might experience anxiety because of that trauma. In these cases, people sometimes abuse drugs and alcohol to numb flashbacks and other intrusive thoughts relating to their trauma.

This causal relationship goes both ways. This means that each disorder can worsen the symptoms of the other. When both anxiety and substance use disorders occur simultaneously, recovery specialists diagnose people with what’s called a dual-diagnosis or co-occurring disorders.

The presence of two or more mental health issues causes an exponentially more complicated treatment regimen to be required. Additionally, both disorders must be treated simultaneously in order for any improvement to be made.

For more information on how important it is to get quality treatment for co-occurring disorders and drug & alcohol treatment, check out our video.

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Dual-Diagnosis: Anxiety and Substance Abuse Addiction

The problem with prescribing addiction medication to people with a mental health condition, such as an anxiety disorder, is that they are already at a higher risk of developing a substance use disorder. Handing people at risk a long-term prescription for an addictive medication is just asking for trouble, which is why A Better Today Recovery Services wants to connect you with master-level therapists, registered nurses, and doctors experienced with addiction and recovery.

Addiction and substance abuse can cause anxiety as well. The reason why may seem perplexing to those who do not suffer from either disease; when you consider that people who suffer from both addiction and anxiety constantly feel as though their life is in danger, it may be easier to understand why a quick-fixing, mood-enhancing and calming substance has a dangerous amount of allure.

As a person develops a dependence on benzodiazepines, the thought of removing the substance from the picture becomes an increasingly devastating proposal. Benzos affect the brain relatively similarly to opiates, according to the National Institute of Health. And even if the drug supply is not threatened, the dependence on such a short-acting substance is anxiety-provoking.

Will the pill wear off before I get out of that meeting? I only have one left for the day and it’s already 2 p.m. and my schedule is packed with presentations and social events? Questions like these running through one’s mind are certainly far from calming or grounding.

It should be noted that once cycle of using has been stopped by an admission into an addiction treatment center, both the anxiety and addiction will be far from gone. Both disorders play on each other and potentially worsen the overall situation.

If the addiction is treated without targeting the anxiety disorder, the likelihood of remaining sober long-term is lessened. The opposite is also true: the presence of an untreated anxiety disorder can create a high level of distress and strain that greatly reduces one’s chance of a long and happy life of sobriety.

A Better Today Recovery Services can connect you with treatment programs for co-occurring disorders to ensure that each person gets what he or she needs to overcome all aspects of addiction.

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Generalized Anxiety Disorders vs. Healthy Anxiety

Anxiety is an experience that everyone has from time to time. The sensation that comes with anxiety plays a crucial role in the survival of species, including humans. Many people acknowledge anxiety as being beneficial when experienced during a test or activities that requires a great deal of energy and focus.

Anxiety disorders focus on the unhealthy aspects of the symptoms and how they negatively impact your life. A person may faint or lose all control at the sight of a particular object or situation—which might suggest a phobia. The presence of a crowd could also cause a person to become frantic and they may feel the need to have to fight for their life—another phobia, or perhaps social anxiety.

There are a variety of different anxiety disorders recognized by the medical community, researchers, including the National Institute of Health. Some disorders have been classified as an anxiety disorder, only to be reclassified in its own or another category within  The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which defines all recognized and  acknowledged mental illnesses.

Some people experience a constant and disturbing amount of anxiety, which suggests the generalized anxiety disorder. A person may also experience a sudden and alarming amount of fear, coupled with symptoms that might be confused with a heart attack—which might suggest panic disorder.

Anxiety disorders denote a severe disturbance to functioning and quality of life. These symptoms can be mild to severe. When anxiety disorders negatively impact the quality of life and they go untreated, those who struggle will often self-medicate to cope with the symptoms.

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A Better Today Recovery Services can help you find drug and alcohol treatment that utilizes masters-level therapists to properly diagnosis for co-occurring disorders like anxiety, severe depression and/or bipolar disorders.

Treatment Options for Anxiety Disorders in Rehab

There are different schools of thought regarding the best way to treat anxiety disorders. Essentially, there is behavioral therapy, drug therapy and a combination of these two options that are available to most people. Some other treatments are also possible, but may not be recommended due to a variety of issues including accessibility.

Regardless of what is considered most beneficial, many people are constrained by what they are able to do to treat their anxiety disorder. Many insurance plans have a maximum number of therapy sessions they will cover within a span of time. Other, more rare treatments, may only be available in medical centers, which tend to exist in large metropolitan areas.

Most people who experience the symptoms of an anxiety disorder are plagued such that medication is often the go-to treatment. The need for relief from symptoms certainly is understandable, however drug therapy is not meant to be a long-term treatment.

Benzodiazepines, which are the most common and effective anti-anxiety medication, are extremely addictive and dangerous. Withdrawal from these prescription drugs is potentially fatal, but incredibly traumatic nevertheless. Combining this medication with a host of over-the-counter drugs, Alcohol and other substances can cause serious injury and death as well.

Psychotherapy is the only known long-term solution to anxiety disorders. Short-term and sporadic use of benzodiazepines can help supplement and promote healing and recovery, but only if used under the continuous care of a therapist and doctor.

Only 14% of individuals with a co-occurring disorder receive treatment addressing both their substance abuse and mental health issues.

Potential Problems with Anxiety Medications like Benzodiazepines

These drugs have a way of causing people to perpetuate, even exacerbate their symptoms in order to get more drugs. This may be best described as lying for prescription drugs, without the realization that a lie is being told.

Some people quickly become addicted to these drugs. Prescription drug addiction may manifest with the feeling that living without the drug is impossible, as well as the perpetual need for more, which increases steadily over time.

Benzodiazepines are so addictive and easily accessible that it is no wonder why so many people abuse them. Since their debut in the 1960s, Benzodiazepines have gone from multi-purpose drug to a reluctantly prescribed prescription as new information and statistics arise noting their high potential for causing dependence and serious consequences.

The drugs themselves can also worsen and perpetuate the psychological aspect of addiction. The more a person becomes convinced that the only way to handle certain symptoms, stressors and situations is through the use of medication, the more that person will feel and believe in its necessity.

Medication Options for Anxiety Disorders While in Drug & Alcohol Treatment

Several medications that can treat anxiety disorders. The most common and safest medication treatment options are anti-depressants. Physicians also prescribe beta-blockers and benzodiazepines to treat anxiety.

Antidepressants are one of the best options for drug-therapy treatment of anxiety disorders. These drugs are relatively safe and not known for causing addiction issues. Given their generally accessibility and low-risk nature, many doctors prefer to rely most heavily on these prescription medications.

Benzodiazepines specifically target anxiety, with many people feeling that these drugs are safe if taken sporadically. Others argue that these drugs, combined with the defined mental illness they are treating, put people at great risk of developing a substance use disorder. They are fast acting and do not teach people how to cope with anxiety symptoms in a healthy way. In short, they are a quick-fix with a host of long-term problems.

The use of benzodiazepines is not innately bad; however, these medications are some of the most commonly abused substances. Many people who take drugs, like Valium, Klonopin, and Xanax, have been taking them for an extended period and have not tried other treatment methods to remove the need for or dependence on prescription medication.

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Aftercare for Co-occurring Disorder: Dual Recovery Anonymous

Upon graduating treatment, aftercare is a vital component that paves the way for successful recovery. Individuals with co-occurring disorders have their own set of unique obstacles to overcome and have a great need for support and understanding. Unfortunately, individuals with co-occurring disorders may have the tendency to isolate due to the stigma that comes with not one, but both disorders. Individuals with co-occurring disorders should not navigate their aftercare alone. It is important to find a positive, compassionate and stigma-free environment that offers continuous support in recovery.

Dual Recovery Anonymous is a support group that can be a great resource for maintaining your sobriety and managing your co-occurring disorder. DRA is a recovery group that offers support for not just substance abuse, but other emotional or psychiatric co-occurring disorders that an individual may be diagnosed with. DRA is a program that is built upon the same twelve steps and twelve traditions found in essential twelve step programs. DRA meetings can provide a support network where an individual can find acceptance, knowledge, and support in their recovery journey.

In DRA meetings, individuals are free to share about their co-occurring disorder and the individual struggles they face on a day to day basis. The only requirements for membership is the desire to be drug-free and a desire to manage emotional or psychiatric illnesses in a healthy and constructive way. DRA acknowledges that individuals face co-occurring disorders through no fault of their own. They ultimately aim to support each other in working towards a better physical, psychological, social and spiritual life.

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Unbiased Resources Provide Confidence When Making Life-Changing Decisions

Deciding to seek substance abuse treatment can be stressful. The stigma associated with active addiction makes it difficult to find a reputable source of information to support your life change decisions to get sober. Not many people feel comfortable going to a doctor to discuss their alcohol addiction without feeling shame or blame for their struggles. That is why it is important for ABTRS to provide information that you can count on, free from shame, and worth your trust.

We want to empower you with the knowledge to make good decisions that better your life. We take pride in offering reputable sources that are impartial, not funded by organizations that could benefit from certain outcomes, and proven or tested to be effective. Know that the sources below are there to help you by educating you about rehab and the substance you are indulging in.

Nimh.nih.gov. (2019). NIMH » Any Anxiety Disorder. [online] Available at: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/any-anxiety-disorder.shtml [Accessed 14 Feb. 2019].

Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. Substance Abuse Treatment for Persons With Co-Occurring Disorders. Rockville (MD): Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (US); 2005. (Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No. 42.) 6 Traditional Settings and Models. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK64182/

Smith, J. P., & Book, S. W. (2008). Anxiety and Substance Use Disorders: A Review. The Psychiatric times, 25(10), 19-23.

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