Self-Medicating Worry: Addressing Anxiety and Addiction

Self-Medicating Worry: Addressing Anxiety and Addiction

Anxiety and addiction are an all too common pair seen in every corner of the world. The mind of an anxious person is very rarely quieted, but many realize that their anxiety can be controlled or managed with the use of drugs. Without the direction of a doctor for anxiety prescriptions or the ongoing use of illicit substances, individuals who use habit-forming substances to soothe symptoms of anxiety find that with consequences of addiction, their anxiety actually increases. Additionally, many of these individuals refuse treatment for fear that their anxiety will go unaddressed or untreated. Fortunately, Wellness Retreat Recovery, our luxury California rehabilitation facility, we offer a dual diagnosis program that works to address underlying mental ailments which may otherwise hinder recovery progress like anxiety.

What is Anxiety?

Anxiety is an intense feeling of dread, worry, anticipation, and fear. It can be a result of something stressful happening in the present moment or, for those suffering from an anxiety disorder, for no apparent reason at all. Some people don’t know that what they are experiencing is in fact anxiety. Others don’t know that they are affected by anxiety until they look up the symptoms or are diagnosed by a psychiatrist. Common symptoms of anxiety may include:

  • Racing heartbeat
  • Sweating
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Pressure in the chest
  • Tenseness of muscles
  • Anticipation and dread
  • Headaches
  • Sleeplessness
  • Shaking
  • Trouble with concentration
  • Irritability

Types of Anxiety Disorders Seen in Addiction Patients

Everyone deals with anxiety at some point or another, but individuals who find comfort in using drugs to calm their symptoms of anxiety usually struggle with anxiety disorders. There are a few different types of anxiety disorders commonly seen amongst individuals who seek help with addiction including:

Generalized Anxiety Disorder: The most common type of anxiety disorder, these patients experience high levels of anxiety consistently. Individuals experience worry and feelings of dread for everyday situations. These fears are usually unrealistic and can be debilitating to everyday activities like school, work, and maintaining relationships with friends and family.

Social Anxiety Disorder (social phobia): Those diagnosed with this type of anxiety experience feelings of worry for social situations like parties, concerts, and places with crowds. These individuals commonly will retreat from social activities resulting in fewer relationships, loneliness, and shame.

Panic Disorder: Individuals with panic disorder experience panic attacks when levels of stress are at a high. Panic attacks are the severest form of anxiety symptoms. These attacks are extreme episodes of anxiety that can be so severe that they are commonly confused with heart attacks. Although panic attacks are not deadly, those who have them may experience increased heart rates, chest pains, choking, sweating, nausea, and hyperventilation. The most defining characteristic of this disorder is not experiencing panic attacks, but rather an extreme fear of experiencing another panic attack.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): This type of anxiety disorder is described as experience intense feelings of anxiety after going through a traumatic experience. A traumatic experience may include being a victim of violence, natural disaster, combat, sexual abuse, or dear death experience. Symptoms of PTSD may include sleeplessness, flashbacks, nightmares, and anger.

Phobias: A phobia is an unrealistic fear of a situation, place, or thing that causes an individual to experience high levels of anxiety. Phobias can be debilitating as individuals who suffer with them will schedule their lives around avoiding their specific fear.

Addressing Anxiety and Addiction Together

At first, individuals with anxiety who choose to manage their symptoms with drugs may think they’ve found a blessing; relief from anxiety. But, with long-term use, brain mechanisms that help to manage these anxiety symptoms are damaged due to drug use, causing adverse reactions. In other words, instead of helping, the drugs suddenly seem to make anxiety worse. And when this happens, the cycle of addiction is usually too far progressed. Without consistent drug use, these individuals will experience severe anxiety and withdrawal symptoms of their drug of choice, likely making it more challenging to quit. Fortunately, dual diagnosis problems aim to address underlying causes of anxiety and addiction that can be addressed throughout treatment and anxiety affected individuals can live lives free from addiction. Ready to treat your anxiety and addiction? Give The Wellness Retreat Recovery Center a call today at 888-821-0238.