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Substance Abuse And Anxiety Disorders

The Relationship Between Anxiety And Addiction

Anxiety and addiction often occur comorbidly. This means that substance abuse and anxiety disorders happen at the same time. You can struggle with substance use disorder (SUD) while also struggling with anxiety. 

In this article, Midwood Addiction Treatment will examine the following: 

  • What is anxiety? 
  • How does anxiety relate to addiction? 
  • What treatments are available for anxiety? 
  • What non-addictive anxiety medications can help you? 
  • How can you get help for substance abuse and anxiety disorders? 

What Is Anxiety?

You know the feeling. It gnaws at your intestines like a parasite. Your diaphragm contracts like a fist. Your stomach clinches. Pain spreads over your neck, back, and shoulders. Your palms sweat. Your jaw stiffens. 

These are just a few examples of how we might experience anxiety in our bodies. Often, we experience discomfort before we truly realize how anxious we are. We may even see a doctor for our discomfort. We might hope to medicate the discomfort away. 

We all might experience anxiety at some point in life. Some research indicates that anxiety can benefit us. But what about when the anxiety becomes too great? 

Anxiety Disorders

Nearly everyone feels anxious at some point. A student might feel anxious when cramming for an exam. Your palms might become clammy when you get a negative email from your boss. But sometimes anxiety interferes with your life. For some people, anxiety might grow especially intense. Or, it might become chronic. That is, lasting much longer than it ought to. 

The Anxiety & Depression Association of America (ADAA) says that, “the term ‘anxiety disorder’ refers to specific psychiatric disorders that involve extreme fear or worry.” The DSM-V uses a time frame of 6 months to diagnose an anxiety disorder.  Some examples of anxiety disorders include: 

  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Social anxiety disorder
  • Agoraphobia

How Does Anxiety Relate To Addiction?  

Many people who suffer from substance use disorder (SUD) also suffer from anxiety. Earlier, we referred to this as comorbidity. Those with anxiety disorders have a 33% – 45% chance of developing SUD. 

Anxiety isn’t just a feeling. It involves processes in the brain. Likewise, addiction involves the brain. Your brain has a trait that scientists call neuroplasticity. Your brain doesn’t remain fixed. How you live changes your brain. Down to its cells. Your thoughts and feelings move your brain internally. 

Anxiety, Addiction, and The Brain

One study asserted that anxiety and addiction were the most common psychiatric ailments in the US. A reason for this might be that they impact similar parts of the brain. Recent research points to an area of the brain called the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST or BST). The BNST involves parts of the brain that regulate our moods. It also influences our sleepiness, alertness, hunger, and relationships. 

With anxiety disorders, the BNST remains active longer than necessary. It sustains fear in a person. The BNST includes parts of the brain that influence how we behave. So, if we live in a sustained state of fear, that fear will affect how we live. How we think. How well we sleep. Even how we eat. 

The BNST activates during addiction as well. This study linked it to cravings in both smokers and alcoholics. Although we need more research, scientists continue to discover new links between BNST and addiction. 

What Treatments Are Available For Anxiety?

We must accept anxiety as a normal part of life. Anxiety exists to protect us from danger. From time to time, we will feel it. But we needn’t succumb to it. We needn’t live our lives in service to it. There are ways to deal with anxiety. Strategies for coping do exist. Keep reading to find out more! 

Medication As Treatment For Anxiety

Benzodiazepines (benzos) may help keep anxiety at bay. This group includes drugs like alprazolam (Xanax), diazepam (Valium), and lorazepam (Ativan). Benzos act quickly, and you can take them as needed. However, please note a major caveat. Benzos can become very addictive. 

Non-addictive anxiety medications exist as well. Some people experience relief from drugs called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). The SSRIs take some time to build up in your system. A few weeks may pass before you notice any effects. For this reason, SSRIs are much less addictive than benzodiazepines.  

Therapies For Anxiety

Cognitive behavior therapy helps allay some symptoms of anxiety. It helps a sufferer practice metacognition. Simply put, metacognition is thinking about what one thinks about. We don’t have to blindly trust all of our thoughts. CBT helps us ask questions of our thoughts. Doing so allows us to critically evaluate what we believe. Exposure therapy may help as well. This method helps you break your fears into smaller, controlled doses. This can make them appear more manageable. Work with your treatment provider to discover what therapeutic approach best suits you. 

Self-Care For Anxiety

To recover from anxiety, one must care for oneself. Self-care can also soothe symptoms of addiction. Meditation can decrease symptoms of both anxiety and depression. Reducing alcohol use may likewise reduce anxiety. Anxiety tends to disturb one’s sleep. Make a point to keep regular sleep and wake times. 

Make a point to find a hobby. Do things you enjoy. Spend time with people who encourage your recovery. How we eat can also impact our anxiety. Create a sustainable diet and meal plan for yourself. Try out a physical activity, like a sport. Resistance training and aerobic exercises can alleviate many symptoms of anxiety. 

How Can You Get Help For Substance Abuse And Anxiety Disorders? 

Midwood Addiction Treatment understands what you need. Our experienced team will tailor a treatment plan to fit your specific needs. No two people are exactly the same. So, no two recovery paths will be the same. 

Remember that hope is real. Recovery is possible. You are not alone. If you have questions about substance abuse and anxiety disorders, contact Midwood Addiction Treatment now. Don’t wait any longer to demand the best for yourself. Help is available. Contact us now at (704) 741-0771.

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