Handling Addiction and Anxiety Together
By Lynda Arbon
Summary: Addition and anxiety feed into each other, creating a never-ending cycle. That’s why you need to focus on treating both of these conditions at the same time.
As many drug addicts and recovering addicts can attest to, addiction and anxiety go hand in hand. Those who are using drugs often feel anxious due to side effects of the substances they’re using. Even if the substance doesn’t cause them anxiety, the fact that they’re lying and sneaking around to use drugs can. You may feel very anxious when you know you’re doing something wrong, so it’s natural that using drugs or heavy drinking would stir up this emotion. If you’re dealing with these two issues, what can you do to get your anxiety under control so you can address your drug addiction? Let’s take a deeper look at anxiety, drug addiction, and how they’re connected.
What Is Anxiety?
For many people, anxiety is simply a part of their life. They feel anxious when they’re dealing with stress or with problems. Stress in these cases is a normal reaction. However, this type of anxiety usually passes once the situation causing it is dealt with. It’s temporary. For others, though, anxiety is much more long-lasting. These people are often diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. They may go through weeks or months of anxiety, and often there is no situational cause behind it. Instead, it’s caused by a chemical imbalance that much be corrected via medication.
Effects of Anxiety
If you’ve dealt with anxiety, you know how it effects your body. Anxiety causes muscle tension, irritability, and fatigue. Unfortunately, it also makes you restless and makes sleeping difficult, so you end up feeling irritated and being unable to concentrate all day. You may even have a panic attack if your anxiety gets too bad.
Anxiety and Addiction
If you’re addicted to drugs or alcohol, you have a different type of relationship with anxiety. Both anxiety and addiction affect your brain and your behavior. The substances you use can make chemical changes in the brain. Anxiety disorders already involve different chemical imbalances, so when one of these disorders is combined with substance abuse, it can lead to a number of major mental health concerns.
Anxiety and addiction often form a vicious circle. You feel anxious, so you get high or drunk to deal with it. But later, you start feeling anxiety because you’re afraid someone will find out you’re an addict, so you use to overcome those feelings. This cycle continues, and the periods of anxiety become greater and greater. You need to use more drugs or drink more to make those anxious feelings go away.
Handling Your Addiction and Anxiety
Now that you see how the two are linked, what can you do to handle anxiety and addiction? Which do you treat? The truth of the matter is that you must treat both. If you treat your addiction, but not your anxiety, you may end up returning to substance abuse because you become too anxious to function. If you treat anxiety, but not the addiction, you may end up becoming very anxious again because you’re worried about getting caught. Only by dealing with both conditions can you become truly sober.
This means you need to seek out a rehab center that focuses on dual diagnosis treatment. Here, you’ll learn how to be sober and you’ll begin dealing with your anxiety. The counselors here will help you develop healthy habits for combating anxiety or will work with you to determine if you need medication to correct a chemical imbalance.
Do be cautious trying medications without working on your addiction at the same time—some medications used to treat anxiety can be addictive. Ideally, you’ll treat both at the same time, and the rehab doctor will prescribe a form of treatment that isn’t as addictive. However, if you are dealing with your anxiety, but are not yet ready to focus on rehab, you do need to let your doctor know that you have an addiction disorder before they prescribe anxiety medication.
Using Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy
One solution that many people have found works for dealing with addiction and anxiety is cognitive-behavioral therapy or CBT. This type of therapy will help you change how you think and help you develop healthy habits for dealing with anxiety instead of getting drunk or high. Often, stress is the true underlying condition behind situational anxiety. Learning how to manage your stress in a healthy way can be the key to handling your anxiety and battling your drug addiction.
Relapse doesn’t mean you’ve failed and will never be able to live a sober lifestyle. What it does mean is that the strategies you were using to deal with your anxiety and addiction weren’t the right ones for you. That’s okay as long as you recognize this and go back to rehab. Once there, be upfront about your relapse. Let your therapists know that you need to try something different. They will help you learn additional coping mechanisms and methods that may help you better combat your addiction and anxiety.
Make Use of Transitional Housing
If you’re concerned about relapsing or don’t feel as if you’re prepared to live on your own after treatment, you may want to consider moving into a transitional living home to overcome anxiety and addiction. These homes provide you with a safe space where you can learn to battle without being completely on your own. You’ll live with others working on their own issues, and together, you’ll support each other. The home is substance-free, and there are certain rules you have to follow. This structure can help you move more towards sober living without worrying as much about relapse.
Don’t Give Up
Neither anxiety nor addiction are giant roadblocks that will stop you from living a sober life, but they are conditions you need to treat together. Both feed into the other, so if you don’t handle them at the same time, you’ll find it much, much more difficult to get and remain sober. Because many people do suffer from both conditions, though, many rehab centers offer programs that focus on handling anxiety and addiction at the same time. Find one of these programs and commit to one, move into transitional living for as long as you need, and then reclaim your sober life.
Lynda Arbon is a passionate and enthusiastic health blogger. She likes keeping herself updated on health trends and blogs. Her favourite pastime is learning history and solving crossword puzzles. Follow her on Twitter.
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