When you are addicted to drugs or alcohol and you have a mental health issue such as an anxiety disorder, that is referred to as a co-occurring disorder. Each condition has its own challenges, including some serious symptoms and devastating consequences. For people with co-occurring disorders, treating addiction with an anxiety disorder is the key to overcoming and resolving issues presented by both.
Approximately 9.5 million adults in the US experienced both a mental illness and a substance use disorder in 2019. In fact, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) says that many people who develop substance use disorders are also diagnosed with mental health disorders, and vice versa. About half of those who experience a mental illness during their lives will also experience a substance use disorder. The same is true for those with substance use disorders who then experience a mental illness.
Data also shows that individuals with mental, personality, and substance use disorders are at an increased risk for nonmedical use of prescription opioids. 43% of the people in treatment for substance use disorders for nonmedical use of painkillers have a diagnosis or symptoms of mental health disorders, especially depression and anxiety.
A Vicious Cycle
These co-occurring disorders are so linked that they can create a vicious cycle for individuals with both conditions. People with anxiety disorders are two to three times more likely to have an alcohol or other substance use disorder at some point in their lives. However, they may find that alcohol or drugs can worsen their anxiety symptoms.
Most people with alcohol or substance use and anxiety disorders experience them independently, but those who have both can find themselves in a vicious cycle. The symptoms of one disorder can make the symptoms of the other worse. An anxiety disorder may lead to using alcohol or other substances to self-medicate or alleviate anxiety symptoms.
Both of these co-occurring disorders need to be treated together, to make positive steps toward recovery and to lessen the possibility of relapse. Treating just the addiction will not eliminate the anxiety disorder and treating the mental health issue will not heal you of your substance use disorder.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) recommends integrated intervention, which is when you receive care for both the anxiety disorder and the addiction. It’s important for you and your treatment provider to fully understand the ways in which each condition affects the other so that you can determine a treatment plan that will be most effective for you.
Some common elements of treating addiction with an anxiety disorder, as recommended by NAMI, include:
Detox. Treating the substance use disorder will require you to detox, to essentially cleanse your body of the drugs or alcohol you have been abusing. During detox, the treatment staff may administer tapering amounts of the substance or its medical equivalent to wean you off and to lessen the effects of withdrawal. The symptoms of withdrawal can be severe and should be monitored by a professional.
Inpatient rehabilitation. Being able to receive medical and mental health care 24/7 will help you tremendously when you are experiencing a co-occurring disorder of an anxiety disorder with an addiction. While you are an inpatient, you will also participate in therapy, receive the support you need, and have access to the necessary health services for treating your substance use disorder and its underlying causes.
Psychotherapy. A large part of an overall plan for treating addiction with an anxiety disorder, therapy options such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help you learn how to cope as you change your ineffective patterns of thinking that may have led to your substance use disorder.
Medication treatments. Medications administered by a trained professional can help treat mental health issues as well as the withdrawal symptoms you experience as you address their substance use disorders through detoxification.
Help for Your Addiction and Anxiety Disorder
At Hope by the Sea, a southern California addiction treatment center, we are focused on helping men and women begin the journey of recovery. We specialize in treating you as a whole individual, so you can embrace your recovery with as much support and momentum as possible. When you need help treating your addiction and anxiety disorder, we offer the dual diagnosis treatment program you need.
Our team continues to follow federal, state, and local public health guidelines regarding COVID-19 to ensure our clients’ safety. Please contact us today to learn more about our programs and services. Hope Starts Here!