There’s a well-known link between addiction and anxiety disorders.
One often quoted statistic is that 20% of folks with an anxiety disorder also suffer from Substance Use Disorder and 20% of folks with Substance Use Disorder (SUD) struggle with anxiety disorder of some kind.
This leads to the question: Does anxiety cause SUD?
It also leads to the question, on the flip side: Does SUD cause anxiety?
The answer is: A little of both.
Today, we’ll look at the link between anxiety and addiction and examine what role mental health problems, specifically anxiety disorders, might plan in exacerbating – and healing – SUD.
Anxiety Can be VERY Uncomfortable. It’s Natural to Want to Do Something About It.
Everyone worries everyday on some level.
But those with an anxiety disorder experience repeated negative consequences related to their type (or types) of anxiety, usually across several areas of life. Relationships, marriages, parenting, school, work, sports – all of these categories are potentially impacted by anxiety disorders.
At their worst, anxiety disorders can be crippling. OCD, for example, ranks as one of the ten most debilitating conditions on the planet. Patients with Panic Disorder are commonly seen in emergency rooms because they frequently believe that they are experiencing a heart attack when their symptoms first begin. Far from a trivial concern, high levels of anxiety are linked to many negative social and health outcomes.
Needless to say, the sensations and feelings associated with anxiety disorders can be intense and very uncomfortable to say the least. It’s natural to want to do something about these intense negative feelings, especially when you find they are keeping you from living the life you want (or need) to live.
Many Patients Find Themselves Self-Medicating with Drugs and Alcohol in Response to Anxiety Disorders
At Shanti, many of our patients report that their problems with drugs and/or alcohol really began when their anxiety disorder snowballed into an unmanageable condition. Patients report that, at first, drugs and/or alcohol brought a welcomed short-term relief to their anxiety symptoms. And it’s true: substances like alcohol, benzodiazepines, marijuana and opioids all work on parts of the brain that are overactive in patients with anxiety conditions.
Of course, this short-term fix frequently backfires, especially with repeated use.
As the Body Becomes Habituated to Drugs and Alcohol, it’s Easy to Become Physically Dependent (AKA Addicted)
Drugs of abuse work on the brain to leave users needing a larger dose to achieve the same wanted effect.
Unlike legitimate prescriptions associated with anxiety disorders, the substances associated with self-medicating for anxiety require the user to take more and more of the drug to experience the same relief. Conversely, when the patient discontinues the substance of abuse, they experience withdrawal symptoms which will often exacerbate the symptoms associated with anxiety disorders. This phenomenon is called physical dependence.
It’s Imperative That You Treat Anxiety Disorders and Addiction at the Same Time
Because they are so interconnected, it is vitally important that you address anxiety disorders and other mental health concerns at the same time as addictions. Treating either anxiety or addiction in isolation puts you at heightened risk for relapse and hinders the overall success rate of treatment for either condition.
At Shanti, We Provide Mental Health and Behavioral Health Support for Patients with Anxiety and Addiction
At our clinic, we’re committed to treating the whole person as a person, not just a collection of diagnoses. Our philosophy is to treat both addiction and anxiety at the same time, all in one convenient clinic location, with a small team of professionals to optimize care coordination and make it easier for you to achieve lasting remission from both conditions.
Barriers to treatment for mental health disorders are still very high and public awareness of what is – and what’s not – a treatable anxiety disorder is still somewhat dim. Many patients don’t realize that they suffer from a mental health condition in addition to a behavioral health condition when they first walk through our doors.
Looking for help in Portland Oregon? Ready to Make Your First Addiction Treatment Appointment at Shanti?
Interested to learn more about how we can help?
Give us a call today to begin your journey to freedom from addiction.