What’s The Best Way To Cope With Addiction And Anxiety Disorder?
Mental illness and substance abuse often occur together. One of the most common types of mental illness, anxiety disorder, is sometimes a cause of substance abuse and addiction, and in some cases follows a substance abuse problem. Nearly 20 percent of all people who struggle with a mood disorder, which includes anxiety disorder, also have a problem with alcohol or drug abuse. Coping with both issues can be a challenge, but experts are always developing new ways to treat co-occurring disorders. There is hope for anyone struggling with both anxiety and substance abuse.
Which Comes First: Addiction Or Anxiety?
The statistics work both ways. Twenty percent of people with anxiety disorder also struggle with substance abuse, and 20 percent of people who abuse substances have symptoms of an anxiety disorder. So, which develops first? It is possible that the symptoms of anxiety disorders can lead someone to drink or abuse drugs. If you have anxiety and you don’t get treatment for it, using substances can make you feel as if you are alleviating your symptoms. This is called self-medicating. Social anxiety disorder, in particular, commonly leads to substance abuse because using drugs or alcohol can make you feel more comfortable when around people.
On the other hand, if you have not struggled with anxiety until after you started abusing alcohol or drugs, it can be the substance abuse that initiated your feelings of anxiousness. Drugs and alcohol have a powerful impact on the brain and how it works. When you abuse these substances you risk making changes to the brain’s chemistry and that can lead to any number of mental illnesses, including anxiety disorders.
Treating Addiction And Anxiety Disorder
It is important to recognize both problems in order to heal from an addiction and an anxiety disorder. By ignoring one and only treating the other, both issues are likely to reappear. Often it is the addiction that becomes obvious first. If you realize you have a problem with drugs or alcohol, start looking for treatment programs, a drug counselor or a support group. A good treatment program for addiction should also screen you for mental illness. If you suspect you have other issues beyond your substance abuse, see a specialist for an accurate diagnosis.
Once you know what you have, you can begin getting treatment for addiction and anxiety. Many experts would agree that it is most important to treat and get addiction under control first and then include treatment for the anxiety disorder. A growing number of treatment facilities treat both issues simultaneously. Keep in mind that your treatment professionals should create a personalized treatment plan that will address both addiction and anxiety.
When you have a handle on your addiction, seek targeted treatment for your anxiety disorder. Therapy may be your best option. Although many people take prescription medications for anxiety, and find relief using them, drugs may not be a good choice for you. Some of these medications are habit-forming and if addiction is a problem for you, it may be best to avoid them. That choice is one for you and your therapist to make together.
As you work toward healing from both addiction and mental illness, be sure to rely on your loved ones for support. Having a strong support network is important to help maintain sobriety and control anxiety. Let them guide you into new activities and hobbies that will help you reduce anxiety without resorting to drugs and alcohol. With professional care and the help of loved ones, you can overcome your co-occurring problems.
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