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How to Cope with the Double Whammy of Anxiety Disorders and Substance Abuse

Living with anxiety is challenging, especially if you’re already struggling with substance abuse. There is huge overlap with the two. The more that people learn about anxiety disorders and substance abuse, the higher chance people can seek the right help in treatment.

Treating Anxiety

Anxiety disorders are treatable, with only about one-third of people with the condition seeking help. Some will choose to numb anxiety each day with alcohol, smoking, prescription pills, or other substances. In other instances, anxiety can be brought on with the constant use of drugs or alcohol which flood the body and brain with chemicals that change how they respond to the environment.

Co-Occurring Disorder

Estimates suggest nearly 20% of people with anxiety disorders are also addicted to alcohol or other drugs. Some groups such as combat veterans or victims of sexual abuse may experience higher rates of anxiety which can lead to increased use of substances. Children also experience anxiety which can lead to poor academic performance, missing out on social opportunities, and eventually substance abuse in later teens or adulthood. Coping with a co-occurring disorder of using substances and coping with anxiety can be a big challenge in treatment. It typically occurs by:

  • Development of anxiety disorder first which leads to self-medicating with drugs
  • Abusing drugs which leads to anxiety disorder. This typically happens with alcoholics but may occur from use of other substances
  • Anxiety and addiction may occur independently and just happen to take place within the same person, rather than one being a result of the other.

Treatment Options

There are many ways to treat co-occurring anxiety and substance use disorder. Anxiety and addiction are best treated simultaneously for best results.  Antidepressants may be given to help with anxiety as it affects the brain’s serotonin system. SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors), SNRIs (selective norepinephrine inhibitors) and similar drugs are used to help cope with anxiety. Beyond medication, a person may be able to try:

  • Psychotherapy including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • EMDR (Eye Movement and Densensitization Reprocessing)
  • Mindfulness
  • Regular exercise
  • Massage
  • Acupuncture

It is important to seek professional help from people who understand co-occurring substance use and anxiety disorders to find the best treatment for your specific situation.

The Serenity Recovery Center helps you deal with co-occurring disorders by pairing you with professionals on our world-class team who understand your needs. We assess your situation and are committed to addressing both the symptoms of addiction and anxiety. We are available 24/7 at our toll-free number: 844-339-6964. Call now.