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Treatment for Anxiety Disorders and Addiction

Medically Verified: 2/1/24

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All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

Anxiety is an everyday part of life for most people. Anxiety can occur when you are stressed or in a dangerous situation. Many mental health experts believe that anxiety is the body’s warning system. It alerts us to things that may be dangerous or life-threatening.

However, many people struggle with excessive anxiety. In fact, about 31% of all adults living in the United States have an anxiety disorder at some point in their lives. Living with an anxiety disorder can make life more challenging. It can also increase the risk someone will develop an addiction to drugs or alcohol.

Contact the team at South Carolina Addiction Treatment to learn about our dual diagnosis treatment programs for anxiety disorders and addiction. You may also verify your insurance or schedule an intake assessment.

What Are Anxiety Disorders?

People who experience anxiety that interferes with their ability to function may have an anxiety disorder. There are many types of anxiety disorders. Here is an overview of some of the most common anxiety disorders.

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)

People with generalized anxiety disorder have a chronic sense of unease or dread. They may not be able to identify why they feel anxious.

People with GAD may worry a lot about many things. Their anxiety may change from one subject to the next without any clear reason. They may have negative thoughts and anxiety about things without a clear cause.

Many people with generalized anxiety disorder don’t recognize their anxiety as unusual. They may believe that their worries are typical. However, this anxiety can disrupt their relationships, health, and functioning in significant ways.

Social anxiety disorder (SAD)

Social anxiety disorder–also known as social phobia–causes people to feel very anxious about interacting with other people. They may feel nervous in crowds or when speaking in front of others.

Social anxiety is relatively common. About 15 million adults in the United States have SAD. Social anxiety can cause people to avoid social events, crowded areas, and other situations where they may have to interact with others.

Panic disorder

Panic disorder is a mental health disorder that causes people to have panic attacks. A panic attack is an episode of intense fear. Symptoms of a panic attack may include:

  • A sense of impending doom
  • Believing you will die
  • Fear of losing control
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Chest pain
  • A feeling of tightness in the chest and throat
  • Sweating
  • Hyperventilation

Panic attacks are not dangerous, but people may feel that they are going to die while having one. A panic attack lasts about 10 minutes on average. People may feel very tired after symptoms fade.

Panic attacks can occur without a clear cause. People may also experience a lot of anxiety about having another panic attack. Living with panic disorder can keep people from functioning well.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

People who experience overwhelming or life-threatening events may develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Events that may cause PTSD include:

  • Natural disasters
  • Military combat
  • Sexual or physical assault
  • The death of a loved one
  • Witnessing a violent crime
  • A car accident
  • A life-threatening medical event

The symptoms of PTSD include:

  • Flashbacks to the event
  • Irritability
  • Anger
  • Paranoia
  • Hypervigilance
  • Insomnia
  • Nightmares

People with PTSD may avoid anything that reminds them of the traumatic event. The symptoms of PTSD may keep them from functioning well in their daily lives.

These and other anxiety disorders can prevent people from living full, healthy lives. Treatment for anxiety and depression can help people manage their symptoms. It can give them the tools to feel more comfortable and in control over their anxiety.

The Link Between Anxiety and Addiction

People who live with an anxiety disorder may face intense stress and other symptoms. The symptoms of their anxiety may be so strong that they cannot cope. People may use alcohol or drugs to relieve their anxiety and function.

Using drugs or alcohol to cover the symptoms of a mental illness is called “self-medicating.” Self-medicating with drugs and alcohol can lead to an addiction. Substance abuse can also worsen the symptoms of most mental health issues.

Using addictive substances heavily can lead to physical tolerance and addiction. Many people who develop an addiction to drugs and alcohol require professional treatment and ongoing support to stop using them and avoid relapse.

Treatment for Co-Occurring Anxiety and Substance Abuse

The treatment for co-occurring anxiety and substance abuse typically involves an integrated approach that addresses both conditions simultaneously. Here are some common strategies used in the treatment of co-occurring anxiety and substance abuse:

  • Comprehensive Assessment – A thorough assessment is conducted to evaluate the severity of both the anxiety disorder and substance use disorder. This helps in developing an individualized treatment plan.
  • Integrated Treatment – Integrated treatment involves addressing both anxiety and substance abuse within the same treatment program. This could involve therapy sessions that focus on both issues concurrently.
  • Medication Management – In some cases, medications may be prescribed to help manage symptoms of anxiety or to aid in substance abuse recovery. It’s important for medications to be carefully monitored and managed by a qualified healthcare provider.
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)CBT is a widely used therapeutic approach for both anxiety disorders and substance abuse. It helps individuals identify and change negative thought patterns and behaviors that contribute to both conditions.
  • Exposure Therapy – Exposure therapy is often used to treat anxiety disorders such as phobias or PTSD. It involves gradually exposing the individual to anxiety-provoking stimuli in a controlled and supportive environment.
  • Mindfulness-Based Interventions – Mindfulness techniques, such as mindfulness meditation or yoga, can be helpful in managing symptoms of both anxiety and substance abuse by promoting relaxation and increasing awareness of thoughts and emotions.
  • Support Groups – Participating in support groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) support groups, can provide valuable peer support and encouragement during the recovery process.
  • Relapse Prevention Planning – Developing a relapse prevention plan is crucial in managing both anxiety and substance abuse. This involves identifying triggers, developing coping strategies, and creating a support network to prevent relapse.
  • Lifestyle Changes – Encouraging healthy lifestyle changes, such as regular exercise, balanced nutrition, and adequate sleep, can also support recovery from both anxiety and substance abuse.

It’s important for individuals with co-occurring anxiety and substance abuse disorders to seek help from qualified mental health professionals who have experience in treating dual diagnosis cases. Treatment may need to be tailored to the specific needs and preferences of the individual to ensure the best possible outcomes.

Find Treatment for Anxiety and Addiction in South Carolina

People with anxiety and substance use disorders need treatment for both conditions. Treatment facilities may offer rehab programs in several levels of care, including inpatient and outpatient options.

Treatment for addiction and co-occurring disorders includes:

  • Screening and assessment
  • Medically-supported detox
  • Individual counseling
  • Behavioral therapies to manage/treat anxiety symptoms
  • Medications
  • Mental health treatment
  • Medical care
  • Group therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Relapse prevention education
  • Nutrition support, exercise, mindfulness, and other holistic therapies
  • Aftercare planning

Reach out to the team at South Carolina Addiction Treatment to explore your treatment options. You may also verify your insurance or schedule an intake assessment.