By definition, anxiety is an intense feeling of fear, dread, or uneasiness that can trigger physical changes in the body, such as profuse sweating, rapid heartbeat, and elevated blood pressure. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, five types of anxiety can elicit such feelings: generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), panic disorder, and social anxiety. In a separate study published by the National Alliance on Mental Illness, researchers revealed some 40 million Americans struggle with one or more of these anxiety disorders. As difficult as life can be for someone with an anxiety disorder, things can get considerably worse if substance abuse becomes part of the equation. When someone struggles with a mental illness, such as anxiety, alongside a substance abuse problem, they have what is known as a co-occurring disorder.
Table of Contents
- 1 Co-occurring Disorders in America: The Reality of Living With Anxiety and a Substance Abuse Problem
- 2 A Closer Look at the Role Genetics Play in the Development of Anxiety and Co-occurring Disorders
- 3 What Treatments Are Available to Individuals Struggling With a Co-occurring Disorder?
- 4 FAQ
Co-occurring Disorders in America: The Reality of Living With Anxiety and a Substance Abuse Problem
Although seldom discussed, co-occurring disorders, also known as dual diagnoses, are exceedingly common in the United States. And one needs only look at a study published by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) to discover just how common. In that study, researchers revealed roughly 25% of Americans with a mental illness also have a substance abuse problem, which is, by definition, what it means to have a co-occurring disorder. In addition to anxiety disorders, many of these individuals also struggle with the following mental illnesses:
- Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- Bipolar disorder
- Conduct disorders
- Major depressive disorder
- Mood disorders
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
Some of the substances that individuals with a dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorder typically abuse include the following:
Many of the roughly 21 million Americans struggling with a substance abuse problem are simultaneously struggling with anxiety, and in many cases, genetics are to blame. Studies show individuals with a family history of anxiety disorders are more likely to develop them themselves than someone who does not have a family history of them. And when they do, many turn to drugs or alcohol to self-medicate, and in doing so, many develop an addiction that worsens their struggles with anxiety, meaning they struggle with even more intense feelings of fear, dread, and uneasiness. The same applies to many other anxiety-related symptoms, some of which include the following:
- Shortness of breath
- Headaches, fatigue, and insomnia
- Stomach upset
- Frequent urination or diarrhea
A Closer Look at the Role Genetics Play in the Development of Anxiety and Co-occurring Disorders
According to a study published in the bi-monthly, peer-reviewed medical journal Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences, genetic predisposition accounts for the development of some 30% to 50% of all anxiety disorders in the U.S. Several other studies echoed similar findings. One study, in particular, revealed that some of the genes individuals inherit from their parents can drastically increase their chances of developing generalized anxiety. Those same genes can also increase their chances of suffering from panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, social anxiety, and many other phobias. Since we are on the topic, it is worth noting that certain life events can also contribute to anxiety disorders for some people. Examples of these life events include physical or emotional abuse, the death of a loved one, and being diagnosed with a chronic illness.
What Treatments Are Available to Individuals Struggling With a Co-occurring Disorder?
Overcoming a co-occurring disorder is harder than overcoming a stand-alone addiction or mental illness, but it’s not impossible. Many people have done it; however, they did not do it alone. Often, overcoming a dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorder requires seeking help from a licensed rehab facility well-versed in addiction recovery and mental health disorders. And this is because complete recovery requires a two-pronged approach. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, successfully treating a dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorder requires psychotherapy and pharmaceutical drugs.
Psychotherapy To Treat a Co-occurring Disorder
Although several types of psychotherapy can help individuals trying to overcome a co-occurring disorder, most therapists in rehab facilities across the U.S. consider cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) their go-to. When someone begins CBT sessions with a licensed therapist, they learn how to identify and change self-defeating thoughts that usually trigger feelings of anxiety and, to some extent, insecurity. During these psychotherapy sessions, individuals also learn new and healthier ways to cope with the feelings of anxiety that previously led to them turning to drugs or alcohol to self-medicate. Each CBT session with a licensed therapist lasts about 30 to 60 minutes, and it can take anywhere from 12 to 20 weeks to get through all of the required treatment sessions.
Pharmacotherapy To Treat a Co-occurring Disorder
The second part of the two-pronged approach necessary to overcome a co-occurring disorder usually involves pharmacotherapy. For those who abuse hard drugs, such as opioids and methamphetamines, pharmacotherapy might include prescription drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to help ease severe withdrawal symptoms that often go hand-in-hand with detox. Some of these FDA-approved prescription drugs may include the following:
Along with these medications, most rehab facilities, including Garden State Treatment Center, a fully accredited addiction treatment program located in New Jersey, will provide individuals with prescription medications that can help ease symptoms specific to their anxiety disorder. These medications primarily consist of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), a class of drugs commonly prescribed to treat depression, anxiety, and several other mental health issues. Examples of SSRI drugs include Lexapro, Celexa, Zoloft, Prozac, and Paxil.
These drugs are considered not only highly effective in the treatment of anxiety but also safe when taken as prescribed by a licensed physician. As far as the mechanics behind them, all SSRIs more or less work the same insofar as they each help ramp up the production of serotonin in the brain. To appreciate how this can benefit someone struggling with anxiety, it helps to know a little more about serotonin. Essentially, serotonin is a monoamine neurotransmitter that, among many other things, regulates mood. When someone takes an SSRI drug, it floods their brain with serotonin, which, in turn, puts an end to the negative thoughts, irrational fears, and constant worrying synonymous with anxiety disorders.
In summary, anxiety and substance abuse can and often do go hand-in-hand. That said, the best way to improve one’s chances of putting both of these demons to bed is to seek the help of a licensed rehab facility that knows a thing or two about co-occurring disorders. Bearing that in mind, if you live in New Jersey and have a problem with both anxiety and substance abuse, consider speaking with a Garden State Treatment Center associate today about getting the help you need to get your life back on track.
How do I know if I’m struggling with anxiety or addiction?
It can be challenging to understand the difference between addiction and anxiety. After all, both conditions can cause mood swings, irritability, and difficulty concentrating. However, some key differences can help to distinguish between the two. For example, addiction is typically characterized by continued substance use despite negative consequences, while anxiety is more likely to involve avoidance behaviors. In addition, people with anxiety often have intrusive thoughts or worries that are difficult to control, whereas people with addiction tend to focus more on obtaining and using substances. If you’re not sure whether you’re struggling with anxiety or addiction, it’s vital to seek professional help. A qualified mental health professional can assess your symptoms and make an accurate diagnosis.
What are the signs and symptoms of anxiety?
Anxiety is a normal emotion that we all experience at times. Various factors, including stress, worry, and fear, can cause it. For most people, anxiety is short-lived and manageable. However, anxiety can become more severe and persistent for some people, interfering with daily life. Common signs and symptoms of anxiety include feeling restless or nervous, having a sense of impending danger or doom, having difficulty concentrating, sweating, and having an increased heart rate. If you are experiencing these symptoms regularly, you must talk to your doctor or mental health professional. They can help you develop a plan to manage your anxiety and relieve your symptoms.
What are the signs and symptoms of addiction?
Addiction is a complex disease that can cause significant physical, psychological, and social impairments. While the exact symptoms of addiction vary from person to person, some common signs and symptoms indicate that someone is struggling with an addiction. One of the most apparent signs of addiction is a change in mood or behavior. For example, someone addicted to drugs or alcohol may become more withdrawn or isolated. They may also exhibit changes in sleeping patterns, eating habits, and energy levels. Another key sign of addiction is an intense craving for the substance of abuse. This can lead to compulsive behaviors, such as using drugs even when it is harmful to do so. Additionally, addiction can cause financial problems as well as relationship difficulties. If you or someone you know is exhibiting these signs, it may be time to seek help.
How are anxiety and addiction related?
Anxiety and addiction are both disorders that can cause significant distress and disrupt a person’s life. Both conditions can be challenging to overcome, and people often suffer for years before getting the help they need. There are several ways in which anxiety and addiction are related. First, anxiety can lead to substance abuse as people self-medicate to cope with their symptoms. Additionally, people with anxiety are more likely to develop an addiction if they use drugs or alcohol to cope with their symptoms. Finally, anxiety and addiction often co-occur, making it even more difficult for people to recover. Fortunately, effective treatments are available for both conditions, and many people can overcome their anxiety and addiction with the right help.
What causes anxiety?
Anxiety is a natural human emotion that everyone experiences at some point in life. It is often triggered by stress or fear and can range from mild to severe. While feeling anxious in some situations is normal, it can become a problem when it starts to interfere with everyday activities. Many factors can contribute to anxiety, including genetics, environment, and brain chemistry. Some people may be more anxious due to their family history or personal experiences. Others may develop anxiety due to chronic stress or trauma. Additionally, imbalances in brain chemicals can also lead to anxiety disorders. While the exact cause of anxiety is not always known, many effective treatments can help people manage their symptoms.
What causes addiction?
While there is no single cause of addiction, several factors can contribute to its development. Addiction is often the result of an interplay between genetic and environmental factors. For example, people with a family history of addiction may be more likely to develop it themselves. Additionally, exposure to drugs or alcohol at a young age can increase the risk of addiction. Other risk factors include trauma, stress, and mental health disorders. The likelihood of developing an addiction increases when multiple risk factors are present. However, it is essential to remember that addiction is not a choice. It is a complex disease that requires treatment. By understanding the causes of addiction, we can help reduce the stigma surrounding this disease and provide better support for those struggling.
How can I treat anxiety?
While there are many different treatments for anxiety, some people may find that they need to try a few different approaches before they find one that works for them. One of the most common treatments is medication. There are a variety of anti-anxiety medications available, and it is essential to work with a doctor to find one that is right for you. Other common treatments include therapy, relaxation techniques, and exercise. Some people may find that combining these methods is the most effective. However, it is essential to remember that what works for one person may not work for another. The most important thing is to find what works best for you and stick with it.
How can I treat addiction?
Addiction is a complex condition that can be difficult to treat. There are a variety of approaches that can be effective, and the best course of action will vary depending on the individual. Some standard treatment methods include therapy, medication, and self-help groups. In many cases, a combination of these methods is most successful. Therapy can help addicts understand their addiction’s root causes and develop healthy coping mechanisms. Medication can be used to manage withdrawal symptoms and cravings. Self-help groups provide support and accountability and can be a valuable resource during recovery. No matter what approach is taken, treating addiction requires commitment and perseverance. With the right treatment plan, addiction can be overcome.