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The Connection Between Anxiety and Addiction

While there are many mental and emotional disorders that can occur alongside an addiction, anxiety is surely one of the most common. Not only do anxiety and addiction occasionally share certain symptoms, it’s possible that the development of the two disorders are related as well. But how does anxiety disorder and comorbid addiction develop? And, perhaps most importantly, how are the two disorders treatment at the same time?

The spectrum of human emotion is broad and diverse. It includes pleasant feelings like happiness and elation, but it also includes negative emotions like sadness, anger, and fear. However, there are a number of other emotions that are much more complicated that feelings like happiness and fear. Further, each of our human emotions are cognitive reactions to certain situational or circumstantial stimuli, helping us to process and remember our experiences by attaching lingering psychological processes to them.

Besides feelings of happiness, fear, and anger, anxiety is another of our many complex emotions. Much like fear and anger, the connotations of anxiety are largely negative; when we’re experiencing anxiety, the implication is that we’re worried or intensely concern. By definition, anxiety is characterized as an unpleasant state of inner turmoil that’s often — but not exclusively — accompanied by repetitive nervous behaviors like pacing, somatic behaviors like the feeling of butterflies in one’s stomach, and further anxiety about one’s state of worry and concern. Thus, anxiety can have a “snowballing effect” wherein people feel a growing sense of anxiety over his or her state of anxiety and the greater implications of the initial causes of that anxiety.

It’s important to realize that, though there are many who would consider them very similar, anxiety and fear aren’t the same emotion. With fear, a person is responding to a threat that is real and occurring in the present time; however, anxiety is essentially fear of a potential or future threat that isn’t currently happening. For this reason, anxiety is also distinct from stress, which is can be triggered by either future or present threats.

As mentioned above, anxiety is one of many emotions that are natural and healthy to experience, even somewhat regularly. Of course, there are some individuals who experience anxiety to great effect. But this contrasts with anxiety disorder, which is a more severe version of anxiety that an individual has very little or even no control over. In effect, anxiety disorder is characterized as a mood disorder wherein a person experiences significant uncontrollable fear and anxiety.

Like most other forms of emotion, anxiety is often accompanied by a number of signs and symptoms, many of which can serve as visual cues to the presence or experience of feelings of anxiety. Again, repetitive nervous behaviors are often a hallmark of anxiety. For example, some people will pace — i.e., repeatedly walking back and forth over a short distance — when they are experiencing anxiety. Others take to different nervous behaviors such as peeling the labels off bottles and containers or biting their fingernails.

Depending on the severity of the anxiety and the individual’s physiology, anxiety might be accompanied by certain physical indicators, including paleness and sweating. Other signs and symptoms of anxiety can include and elevated heart rate, increased blood pressure, irritability, restlessness, distractibility, obsessing over signs of impending danger, and numerous others.

If a person’s anxiety reaches a certain level, it’s possible that he or she might experience a short but intense bout of intense fear and anxiety that’s known as a panic attack. The specific symptoms and signs of panic attacks can vary a bit from one person to the next, but some individuals describe panic attacks as feeling like they’re having heart attacks.

Though it can be quite debilitating, anxiety can, in fact, be treated. Depending on the severity of the anxiety, a person could experience immense improvement in symptoms just with cognitive behavior therapy and one-on-one counseling. In particular, these counseling sessions will focus on (a) identifying the specific causes of the anxiety and (b) helping the individual develop strategies for preventing or alleviating anxiety. Beyond counseling and “talk therapy,” however, a person who suffers from severe and particularly debilitating anxiety might be prescribed certain medications, including benzodiazepines. When prescribed, these medications can help to prevent anxiety when a person feelings it coming on or alleviate anxiety when it’s already occurring.

As research has shown, there are a number of mental and emotional disorders that can occur alongside addiction. When addiction occurs alongside another mental or emotional disorder, it’s referred to as comorbid addiction. While there are many disorders along which addiction has been known to occur, depression and anxiety are among the most common.

Of course, a number of researchers and treatment professionals have been wondering whether there’s some significance to the elevated rates of addiction comorbidity among individuals suffering from anxiety. In particular, does addiction cause anxiety, does anxiety cause addiction, or do the two disorders develop totally independently?

If you look solely at symptoms, there’s a certain level of overlap between addiction and anxiety, particularly when it comes to certain substances. For example, people who are under the influence of certain stimulant substances will exhibit paranoia and fear, which are hallmark characteristics of anxiety. However, research seems to indicate that there’s no direct causal relationship between addiction and anxiety; instead, any possible relationship would be indirect and incidental.

When a person suffers from severe anxiety that’s left untreated, it’s possible that he or she might reach a certain point of desperation; hoping to relieve the anxiety, the individual might turn to alcohol or drug use. Over time, using alcohol or drugs over and over to get relief from anxiety could inevitably result in the development of addiction, in which case the anxiety would be an incidental cause. However, it still wouldn’t guarantee that the development of an anxiety problem would definitively result in addiction.

Typically, a person suffering from severe anxiety could be prescribed medication to address his or her symptoms. Of course, this likely wouldn’t be an option for someone who also suffered from a substance abuse problem or addiction. Fortunately, there’s a solution.

Our dual-diagnosis treatment in Port Saint Lucie, Florida, offers individuals a solution to both debilitating anxiety and addiction. The program is comprised of treatments that address both disorders, ensuring that all a dual-diagnosis patient’s needs are met. Since both disorders are treated over the course of the program, our patients stand the best chances of maintaining their newfound sobriety indefinitely and experiencing great success in long-term recovery.

Whether you’re seeking mental health support or substance abuse treatment, our dual-diagnosis treatment in Port Saint Lucie, Florida, is your premiere destination for recovery. To learn more about our recovery support services or the treatments we offer, call Just Believe Recovery today at 877-978-1208

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Unlike many other addiction treatment programs in South Florida, Just Believe Recovery provides all necessary levels of care for the individual. From your initial phone call to us, through the detox process and all the way through each level of residential and outpatient treatment – you will work with the same team from start to finish. You can rest assured that your complete care will be with only one facility.

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