Anxiety and Substance Abuse Treatment

The phrase “you are not alone” seems tailor-made for people suffering from anxiety. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, anxiety disorders are the nation’s most common mental illness, affecting 40 million adults. Approximately one in six of us suffers from an anxiety disorder at any given time.

And you won’t encounter a discussion about anxiety disorders without seeing the words “fight or flight,” a reference to the body’s inborn response that protects us from bodily harm and is at the center of the uncontrollable feelings brought on by anxiety. In primitive times, if our ancestors weren’t on edge when the proverbial saber-toothed tiger was lurking in the woods, they might become a generous meal for the cat.

Fast forward a few million years and our fight-or-flight response remains invaluable. We need that hypervigilance when we’re driving in a rainstorm, about to take a final exam or walking alone at night. A little of bit of anxiety help us and then it’s deactivated. A lot of anxiety — and when it doesn’t deactivate — can cripple. At that point, doctors say people have an anxiety disorder.

Unfortunately, only about one-third of those suffering from an anxiety disorder receive treatment, despite the fact that most people can be helped with professional care. Genetics plays a part in about 30% to 40% of anxiety disorders, researchers say, and women are more likely than men to suffer from the condition.

Types of Anxiety Disorders

What is the distinction between everyday anxiety and an anxiety disorder? For people with an anxiety disorder, the feelings of fear and worry become so frequent, or so powerful, that they interfere with daily life. Sufferers may isolate themselves, avoiding social gatherings and passing up would-be friendships. Anxiety can fill people with such dread that they stay home from work or school.

The major types of anxiety disorder are:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). People with GAD have relentless, anxious thoughts on most days of the week. Their minds often jump to the worst-case scenario, even when there is little or no reason for concern. And even though intellectually they know that their anxiety is more intense than the situation warrants, they can’t seem to shake their worries. They have trouble relaxing, startle easily and have difficulty concentrating. Concerns about health, family, money or work may make falling asleep or staying asleep difficult. Physical symptoms include fatigue, headaches, heart palpitations, muscle tension (clenching the jaw, balling the fists), difficulty talking, trembling, irritability, profuse sweating, indigestion, lightheadedness, having to use the bathroom frequently, feeling out of breath and hot flashes.
  • Panic disorder. People with panic disorder have intense, sudden feelings of fear or of being out of control. The symptoms of a panic attack can bubble up anywhere, at any time, and typically strike for no clear reason. If you’ve had only one or two panic attacks, there is probably nothing to worry about. The key indicator of panic disorder is when you live in fear of having future panic attacks.
  • Social anxiety disorder. Also called social phobia, this involves an overwhelming worry about embarrassing or humiliating yourself in everyday social situations. People with social anxiety disorder believe that others are judging their every word and every move. They may avoid doing things or speaking to people out of fear of being ridiculed.
  • Specific phobias. People with specific phobias suffer from intense fears of situations or objects, such as flying or elevators. Even though they know there is little or no actual danger, they feel powerless to control their feelings. Different types of specific phobias include a fear of dogs, snakes, going over bridges or in tunnels, taking public transportation, heights or water, and being injured or even seeing blood.

Substance Abuse and Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety disorders commonly occur along with alcohol or drug abuse. People suffering from terrifying, unmanageable emotions often turn to drugs or alcohol to “medicate” the anxiety. The problem is that each condition feeds the other to the point that both psychiatric disorders must be treated for the person to return to wellness.

The doctors and therapists at Promises Treatment Centers are experts in caring for people with a dual diagnosis of anxiety and substance abuse. They may use cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) — which research has shown to be one of the most effective treatments for both anxiety disorders and substance abuse — as well as medications that have a low potential for abuse. For instance, CBT can help people with panic disorder learn that their physical symptoms are not heart attacks at all and help people with social phobia learn to overcome the belief that others are constantly sitting in judgment.

Therapy at Promises is directed at each person’s specific anxieties and substances of abuse. This highly individualized treatment, including the right medication and dose, will help you or a loved one get back to a healthy lifestyle. Most insurance plans will cover treatment for comorbid anxiety disorders. The medical leadership at Promises Treatment Centers is second to none. Call us today to experience the superior outcomes that have made Promises known the world over.

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