If you are suffering from anxiety, you are in good company. Nearly 18.1% of Americans ages 18 to 54 are diagnosed with an anxiety disorder each year. As a matter of fact, anxiety disorders are more common than any other mental health disorder in the United States. If people seek help when they begin to experience more than the normal amount of anxiety, their disorders would be very easy for professionals to treat, but only 36.9% of this population receives treatment.
People experiencing anxiety are six times more likely than the population without an anxiety disorder to be hospitalized in a facility for treatment for a psychiatric disorder. A person experiencing anxiety is also very likely to experience depression, and 50% of the people diagnosed with depression also receive a diagnosis of anxiety.
Some people are not seeking treatment because they are treating themselves, but the type of “treatment” that they give themselves is not healthy or safe. Illegal and legal substances relieve the symptoms of anxiety, but rather than cure the condition, they aggravate it. However, many anxiety sufferers take these increased symptoms as a sign that more of the substance is needed to treat the condition, and this endless cycle is the reason that anxiety often goes along with addiction.
Coping With Anxiety
If you or a loved one is experiencing anxiety, there are some strategies you can try, and they may lessen the effects. While professional treatment, including therapy and medication, may be required depending on the severity of the anxiety, these techniques can help even out some of the negative feelings in more manageable cases:
- Exercise – Exercise promotes both your mental health and your physical health. Most importantly, when you are feeling anxious, engaging in exercise will decrease the feelings of anxiety and will make you feel a lot better. Also, when you are in the act of jogging or swimming, you aren’t thinking about whatever was making you anxious. When you increase your heart rate, the body responds by increasing its production of serotonin and gamma-Aminobutyric acid. Serotonin is known to regulate anxiety, and gamma aminobutyric acid helps reduce feelings of anxiety. In addition to these effects, the medical community discovered that an overactive amygdala is the cause of an increase in the fear response. When affected individuals are in a social setting, for example, they experience an increase in anxiety, but exercise causes the areas of the brain that temper an overactive amygdala to increase their activities. Plan to schedule 30-minute exercise sessions every week doing something that you really enjoy so that you will always look forward to it.
- Practice breathing deeply – When you breathe deeply, your brain receives a message that you are all right. Then, your body and mind have a chance to relax. When you are anxious, the opposite occurs, and you are taking shallow short breaths. This kind of breathing is called “thoracic breathing,” and it has the effect of creating an imbalance between oxygen and carbon dioxide in your body. This results in dizziness, tension in your muscles, and a racing heart.
When thoracic breathing begins, you need to engage in diaphragmatic breathing. To do this, place one hand on your abdomen and the other on your chest. Then, take a deep breath that fills your abdomen and lungs as much as possible. When you can’t possibly bring any more air in, begin to slowly exhale and let all of the air out.
These types of breathing coincide with with concept of mindfulness, which is a practice and way of life people in recovery are encouraged to adopt.
- Sleep – You need to get enough sleep, but it also has to be quality sleep. Physicians state that the human body needs eight hours of sleep every night. If falling asleep is difficult for you, try turning the screens off before you get into bed. Choose a bedtime, and stick to it. Make sure that your bed is comfortable, and set the temperature at a cool level.
- Set a particular time to worry – Doctors recommend that you plan to think about what is worrying you at a particular time. Set the timer for 30 minutes, and then think about your current problems; however, you must also think about the solutions for those problems. Take the time to worry at the same time every day, but don’t waste this time wondering about the “what-ifs.” Only spend time focusing on what is causing your anxiety and its solution.
- Don’t drink caffeine and alcohol – Caffeine is a stimulant and brings you up, and alcohol brings you down, but they both cause anxiety to go into overdrive. Avoid them as much as you can. This means you need to avoid more than just coffee and soda. You also must stay clear of tea, chocolate, headache medications, and diet pills.
- Schedule a visit with a physician – Drug or alcohol recovery is hard enough when you aren’t experiencing any anxiety. When you are feeling anxious, it seems like it is impossible to resist easing this unpleasant feeling with drugs or alcohol, but these substances are not your only options. A medical professional can prescribe medications that aren’t addictive to combat anxiety. You will need to make sure that you make an appointment with a medical doctor or a psychiatrist with experience in helping those with substance use disorders, but don’t be afraid to be honest about your past drug use.
Anxiety and Substance Use Disorders
A large percentage of people with substance use disorders also experience symptoms of anxiety. It is not always clear whether one incited the other, or if underlying anxiety was always present in the person before they began using. Before being treated for either anxiety or substance use disorder, however, people often treat their anxiety by drinking alcohol or taking drugs. This then develops into their coping mechanism, and addiction can quickly develop. This is not by any means a solution for people with anxiety because it is only temporary, and it causes the body’s natural way of tempering anxiety to be less effective over time. Anxiety will be much harder to treat the longer this cycle goes on.
The brain adapts to the cycle of drug or alcohol use by creating additional receptors that require drugs or alcohol to allow the person to feel relaxed, but the body becomes tolerant to the drugs or alcohol. With tolerance, the person needs to increase his or her intake of drugs or alcohol. At the same time, more receptors are being built that require more alcohol or drugs, and more drugs or alcohol must be ingested to bring about a sense of calm.
Granite Recovery Centers provides medical detoxification for people who do not need immediate medical intervention, are not a danger to themselves, and are capable of self-evacuation in the event of an emergency. During the medical detoxification program at Granite Recovery Centers, we will treat your loved one in an environment where he will have supervision around the clock. Our staff monitors everyone for signs of withdrawal and administers medications that ease these symptoms. This attention to care is very important because the excess number of receptors in your loved one’s brain will begin to die as he or she goes through withdrawal.
One of the programs we offer is Medication-Assisted Treatment, or MAT. Should you choose this program, our medical professionals will administer FDA-approved medications they determine to be the best option for you, which can help you get over your dependency. These medications can also lessen the side effects that you deal with as you attempt to regain your freedom.
What Is Dual Diagnosis?
A person with an anxiety disorder and a substance use disorder at the same time will receive a dual diagnosis. These mental health conditions often occur with substance use disorders. It is particularly difficult to treat people with dual diagnoses because one disorder can make the other disorder worse.
The fact that your loved one may be dealing with an anxiety disorder and a substance use disorder doesn’t necessarily mean that one disorder caused the other. You may know which disorder appeared first, but it does not indicate that one appeared first caused the other.
According to researchers, mental health disorders and substance use disorders occur together because of the following:
- Becoming addicted to a substance can lead a person to develop a mental health disorder. This may be because the substance use caused changes in the brain that make it more likely that a mental health disorder could also develop.
- A mental health disorder can cause a person to self-medicate his or her symptoms as was described above. The substances also cause changes in the brain that can make it more likely that someone will develop a substance use disorder.
- Both mental health disorders and substance use disorders may have common risk factors that contribute to the development of both conditions.
Risk Factors for Substance Use Disorders
There are two main risk factors that can contribute to a person developing a substance use disorder:
- Family history of substance use – It is possible that people are genetically predisposed to use substances. Those with a parent or a sibling who engages with substances are the most likely to also experience a substance use disorder.
- History of a mental health disorder – Those diagnosed with depression, ADHD, or PTSD are more likely to develop a substance use disorder. These people are medicating their issues away, as was described above.
Risk Factors for Mental Health Disorders
There are three main risk factors for people to develop a mental health disorder:
- Family history of mental illness – Having a parent or a sibling with a mental illness also predisposes someone to develop a mental health disorder.
- History of a previous mental health disorder.
- Steady drug or alcohol use.
Treatment of Co-Occurring Disorders
In order to successfully treat your loved one’s substance use disorder, we must also treat his or her anxiety disorder. If we do not treat the mental health disorder, he or she will not be adequately prepared to participate fully in the treatment of the substance use disorder.
Research has shown that people with a co-occurring mental health disorder are likely to drop out of their substance use treatments. Therefore, it is important that we recognize whether or not your loved one has a mental health disorder before we can develop a treatment plan for the substance use disorder. At Granite Recovery Centers, our staff can diagnose your loved one so that he or she will have a greater chance of successfully becoming free of reliance on drugs or alcohol.
We offer cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for the treatment of substance use disorders. When those addicted to substances are treated with CBT, they typically experience results. The therapy addresses your loved one’s harmful thinking and maladaptive behaviors. Another option is dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) that focuses on the behaviors that your loved one uses to hurt himself or herself. These include using drugs or alcohol, cutting, and acting on suicidal tendencies.
Treatment of Substance Use Disorders
One treatment of substance use disorders is known as contingency management. When your loved one reduces the number of unhealthy behaviors that he or she engages in and increases the number of healthy behaviors, he or she receives a reward. When patients receive rewards for good behaviors, it increases the likelihood that they will engage in those desired actions. It also increases compliance with their treatment programs.
Another treatment that focuses on substance use is therapeutic communities. If your loved one moves into an inpatient treatment center, he or she may be exposed to this therapy. Therapeutic communities address resocialization that also takes advantage of community programs.
Treatment at Granite Recovery Centers
At Granite Recovery Centers, your loved one will receive treatment for his mental health disorder and treatment for his substance use disorder. Our staff has experience treating those experiencing anxiety and other conditions. We can also treat addictions, including dependence on drugs like cocaine, benzodiazepine, heroin, and opioids, as well as alcohol use disorders.
More than 48% of people experiencing a mental health disorder and a substance use disorder did not obtain treatment for either condition. Don’t allow your loved one to be one of the 48%. We are here to help any time that your loved one is ready to confront his demons. If you have further questions about treatment, call us. When your loved one is ready to seek help, contact us at 855.712.7784.