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The Link Between Childhood Anxiety and Substance Abuse

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One recurring factor in people suffering from drug addiction is the presence of co-occurring mental disorders, like anxiety and depression. These kinds of conditions can worsen substance abuse in numerous ways. Addiction can serve as an unhealthy coping mechanism meant to cover up feelings of sadness, anger, or anxiety. Addiction can also contribute to–or even cause–such mental conditions, with addicts falling into a state of depression when they realize the terrible toll substance abuse is taking on their health and lives. Mental disorders impede recovery, destroy one’s quality of life, and put users at risk for further substance abuse. Often, these issues begin in childhood, with early experiences of trauma and anxiety tied to increased risks for substance abuse later in life.

Childhood Anxiety and the Risk for Adult Substance Abuse

Anxiety during childhood can lead to adult substance dependence, both directly and indirectly. Research has shown that the adult consequences of “childhood anxiety disorders, if left untreated, can include chronic anxiety, depression, and substance abuse.” One study notes that the median onset age of an anxiety disorder is age 15, while drug use or dependence has a median onset at 19 years. Having a major depressive episode or anxiety disorder doubles the risk of later drug abuse or dependence. Childhood separation anxiety is linked to mental disorders in young adulthood, especially panic disorder and depression – two conditions that increase one’s risk for substance abuse. Adolescent anxiety disorders are also linked to nicotine, alcohol, and illicit drug dependence, as well as educational underachievement and suicide risk.

Adverse Childhood Events, Mood Disorders, and Drug Dependence

Adverse childhood events, such as abuse, seem to increase the risk for substance dependence in adolescence and adulthood, with one study finding that anxiety and mood disorders usually presented about 3 years before substance abuse started. These mental disorders were described as part of the cause of the increased risk for substance abuse. Adolescent and young adult children of alcoholic parents display notably high rates of substance abuse, with some evidence pointing to high degrees of depression and anxiety as well.

Addressing Anxiety and Depression in Substance Abuse Treatment

Addiction treatment cannot begin and end with stopping one’s drug use. It has to address the underlying worries, justifications, and emotional roadblocks that drive the desire to escape one’s feelings with unhealthy coping mechanisms like drug abuse. Confronting anxiety and depression often involves addressing the root causes of addiction. This requires dedicated work using a variety of targeted therapies and treatment modalities to fix the core issues in an addict’s life that make them unhappy or unsatisfied without drugs.

Drug Rehab and Treatment for Co-Occurring Disorders

Granite Recovery Centers in New Hampshire offers numerous forms of clinical psychotherapy in its addiction rehab and recovery programs. Clinically-backed psychotherapy, in the form of cognitive behavioral therapy, trauma and grief therapy, and other kinds of cognitive-behavioral interventions, help clients treat their anxiety, depression, and other mental disorders that hold them back from recovery and happiness. In addition to therapy, our addiction recovery programs are grounded in 12-Step work and bolstered by holistic care, such as meditation and yoga instruction. These modalities all work together to improve emotional and mental health by giving clients an explanation for, and a road out of their substance abuse, while lessening anxiety, and serving as healthy coping mechanisms to replace substance abuse. If you or a loved one struggles with substance abuse fueled by anxiety, depression, or other co-occurring disorders, Granite Recovery Centers can help. If you have questions about our integrated care model for treating substance abuse, or would like more info about admissions or any of our facilities, please call us today at 855.712.7784 , or send us message online.

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