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Anxiety and addiction often go hand-in-hand. In many cases, substance abuse and addiction develop when people attempt to quell anxiety with drugs or alcohol, which may seem like the only way to escape the suffocating feelings. This is a temporary and potentially dangerous solution, because turning to substances for relief often results in severe “rebound” anxiety that is much worse than the original problem. For others, addiction comes first and leads to tremendous stress and increasing anxiety.
Regardless of which came first, addiction and anxiety can become a vicious cycle with one contributing to the severity of the other. Anxiety must be taken seriously; the longer the cycle of self-medicating and rebounding continues, the more difficult it is to address either issue and recovery becomes more challenging.
Anxiety: a Common Disorder
Anxiety is the Western world's most common mental disorder, with an estimated 18 percent of the population struggling with various types of anxiety such as generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD); post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), agoraphobia or other specific phobias. Approximately 20 percent of those people are addicted to drugs or alcohol, with an even higher rate of addiction among certain groups such as veterans or victims or rape or other trauma.
Addiction researchers have discovered that it doesn’t work to treat one problem without treating the other. Anxiety and addiction must be treated simultaneously; otherwise drug and alcohol treatment tends to be ineffective, greatly increasing the risk of relapse.
Unfortunately, many individuals avoid drug and alcohol treatment because they are fearful of extreme anxiety, especially during withdrawal. However, a good drug and alcohol treatment center or rehab is well-equipped to help people manage anxiety and other difficulties that may occur.
Treatment for anxiety typically includes therapy such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), which can offer insight and help people change negative thinking patterns; or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing therapy (EMDR). Other strategies may include yoga, meditation, exercise or acupuncture. Biochemical restoration following a thorough medical checkup to exclude any other underlying illness or metabolic/hormonal malfunction is also key.
Help for Friends and Family
Caring about a person with an anxiety disorder is challenging, especially for spouses and partners. Financial issues become a problem if the person has trouble maintaining a job. Anxiety can take a significant toll on relationships, and it’s difficult to know how to help. Partners may feel resentment, anger and guilt. Social life is often interrupted by the disorder, causing feelings of frustration and isolation all around.
If somebody you care about is struggling with an anxiety disorder, consider the following advice: