Addiction And Anxiety

We all have different pressure and stress thresholds. Most of us need a certain level of these in order to maintain our motivation to function. It can even be said that we can thrive on a certain level of pressure, to an extent. It gives us a sense of satisfaction when we achieve something under these conditions. The brain produces chemicals, such as serotonin and dopamine which boost our alertness, allowing us to focus on the task at hand.


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In moderation, the production of these chemicals in our bodies is healthy. Their production increase in accordance with a situation we are in and when that situation has passed, our bodies and minds readjust. However, chemical imbalances can leave us susceptible to feelings of depression and anxiety.

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For some of us, the prospect of feeling under pressure to do something can cause a fear that we find impossible to overcome, which is known as anxiety. When this fear reaches extreme levels, we enter into anxiety disorders.


There are a number of different categories of anxiety disorder. These include:


General Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Panic Disorder

Social Anxiety Disorder

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Health Anxiety


General Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is the most common of these types of disorder and has the broadest set of symptoms and circumstances attached to it. It really catches every reason for anxiety in a person, outside of the more specific categories that are listed above.


Aside from GAD, the more specific categories of anxiety disorders I have listed can be characterised by the focus of the anxiety being triggered by one particular environment, circumstance or issue. They can cause us to think obsessively and irrationally about how we perceive those issues.


PTSD is a diagnosis relating to anxiety issues experienced following exposure to a traumatic event or situation. This can result in flashbacks that can feel like we are reliving the feelings of fear and anxiety that were experienced during the  trauma.


Panic Disorders are the frequent experience of rapid onset of intense physical feelings. These can include increased heartbeat, feeling faint, dizzy or light-headed, hot or cold sweats, nausea, trembling or shaking, chest or abdominal pain, struggling to breathe. During these attacks, it can make us feel like we are going to faint, have a heart attack or even die.


However, the scope of this blog will mainly focus on GAD and its links to addiction.


Definition and Signs of GAD


The 5th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), published by the American Psychiatric Association in 2013, defines the diagnosis of GAD as follows:


The presence of excessive anxiety and worry about a variety of topics, events, or activities. Worry occurs more often than not for at least 6 months and is clearly excessive. Excessive worry means worrying even when there is nothing wrong or in a manner that is disproportionate to the actual risk. This typically involves spending a high percentage of waking hours worrying about something. The worry may be accompanied by reassurance-seeking from others.


DSM-5 further states that at least three of the following physical or cognitive symptoms should be present in order to diagnose a case of GAD:


  • Edginess or restlessness
  • Tiring easily; more fatigued than usual
  • Impaired concentration or feeling as though the mind goes blank
  • Irritability (which may or may not be observable to others)
  • Increased muscle aches or soreness
  • Difficulty sleeping 



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When we consider this list of symptoms, we can start to imagine how difficult this level of anxiety can be to constantly live with.


The truth is that there is often very little let up in these feelings and symptoms when an anxiety disorder develops. They often don’t speak with the onset of a particular event and then relent with planning ahead of an event or situation and then ease after the event or situation has passed.


They become omnipresent – a way of life and a constant issue to have to live with. A way of thinking that is second nature and is entered into automatically, through learned behaviour going back years to the point where not feeling anxious about any number of things can seem an unusual concept for somebody experiencing such a disorder.


There can be lots of analysis, conscious or subconscious, that the mind cycles through, long after an event that causes anxiety and long in advance of another such event. It can become a default to go into a negative thought cycle – ‘this is going to go badly’, ‘there will only be a bad outcome to this’, ‘I am not good enough….’ and so on. In extreme cases, if anxiety becomes ingrained into thinking patterns, then any number of things, however insignificant they may seem, can trigger these thoughts and feelings.


The Addiction Cycle


The behavioural and thought cycles that link to feelings of anxiety can become addictive in themselves.


They can be managed with a combination of prescribed medication and psychological treatments. However, some people don’t want to go down the reliance on medication or psychological treatment routes.


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Some people suppress these with the use of other addictive behaviours – such as the consumption of alcohol or drugs, eating habits or even self-harm.


At the outset, these methods can conceal the feelings of anxiety. We can feel more confident or more functional in situations that would usually cause us to feel anxious. However, this behaviour merely masks what is really affecting us.


Drugs and alcohol consumption can actually create new layers to our feelings of anxiety. Because the brain’s circuitry comes to equate feeling good with the use of these substances, it can make us feel anxious to recreate this feeling by using substances more. It can create cravings for these substances and use the onset of anxious situations not only as triggers for our anxiety but also as triggers to use substances in an attempt to control these feelings and symptoms.


Then, as with the basic principle of substance addiction, as we increase consumption of substances, our body’s tolerance levels for these also increase, so we need more frequent use or bigger quantities to satisfy these cravings.


Some substances can cause states of paranoia, which we might experience while under their influence and may simply add to the list of reasons and situations why we are feeling anxious when in periods of withdrawal from these substances.


A recent post on the Help4Addiction website looked at eating disorders and the anxieties associated with their development.


Another category of addictive behaviour that can develop in response to feelings of anxiety is Self Harm.


In its most common forms, this involves deliberately inflicting injury on the body, through various means, including cutting or burning, This is often done as an attempt to regulate mood if they have been feeling upset or anxious. It can provide a form of ‘release’ and often develops when people find discussing their emotions difficult.


Treatment for Anxiety and Addiction


So what can we do to effectively and safely make progress in dealing with anxiety disorders?


Scientific studies have shown that maintaining appropriate levels of physical activity can help in many ways. These include helping the body to produce chemicals called endorphins, which have a number of positive functions including reduction of fatigue, improving alertness and concentration and enhancing general cognitive functions. Exercise can help regulate our sleep patterns, which can reduce stress levels by ensuring we get an appropriate amount of rest at night, readying us to function more effectively the next day.


One option might include a combination of help, such as appropriate medication or referral to structured withdrawal programmes for addiction otherwise called a Detox. These will need to be regularly reviewed to ensure ongoing effectiveness. But it will also likely include referral for psychological treatments, such as a residential rehab, seeing a psychologist or having counselling.


Counselling, in particular, can complement other treatments by looking at the underlying causes of the anxiety using a variety of different methods, based on each individual client’s needs.


Two of the main types of treatment that can be used in these circumstances are cognitive and psychodynamic therapy.


Cognitive therapy can address long established thought processes that are conducive to the development of anxiety, can examine the beliefs that have led to these thought processes developing and can gradually replace them with alternative ways of thinking that allow a person to better manage their anxieties.


Psycho-Dynamic therapy focuses on how relationship developments going right back to childhood might have influenced our thinking and development of defence mechanisms which have been operating ineffectively and have contributed to the development of these anxieties.

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Attending self-help or support groups in person or online, whether for support with the anxiety symptoms alone or for addiction these feelings have led to. This can act as a vital source of support for those suffering from anxiety issues and disorders and can complement other sources of support of structured recovery.


A Residential Rehab is a safe place where you can have a medical detox along with intensive counselling and psychotherapy. It will include all of the above-mentioned therapies and more. To find out if residential rehab is the right option for you, please call 0203 955 7700








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    Detoxification (detox) is the medical intervention required for someone who is physically dependent to drugs or alcohol. If required, medical detoxification would be the first step taken in residential rehab. Detox is used to prevent uncomfortable and dangerous (even fatal) withdrawals symptoms resulting in suddenly becoming abstinent from alcohol/certain drugs.

    The goal of a medical detox is to aid in the physical healing required following long term addiction and rid the body of all together of substance whilst providing a cushion for unpleasant symptoms of withdrawals. Detox is not considered the whole treatment for drug/alcohol addiction and it is always recommended that a comprehensive rehabilitation program is used along side to help maintain long term abstinence.

    Medication is often required for alcohol detox. If you are dependent on alcohol and experiencing withdrawal symptoms it is vitally important to seek medical advice prior to stopping. There is a long list of medications used when treating alcohol addiction and the exact medication given to an individual will depend on their needs/medical history. Some of these include;

    • Chlordiazepoxide (Librium)
    • Lorazepam (Ativan)
    • Diazapam (vailium)

    Librium and Valium are the most commonly used detox medication in the UK. All medication used to help with alcohol detox have been proven to help reduce the effects of withdrawal symptoms.

    There are also a number of drugs recombined by the NHS to help treat alcohol misuse. Some of these include:

    • Naltrexone
    • Disulfiram (Antabuse)
    • Nalmefene
    • Acamprosate (campral)

    Medication is always required for heroin detox. For someone suffering from heroin addiction, the thought of detoxification (detox) can be exceptionally daunting. Withdrawal symptoms from opiates, such as heroin, can be severe and include pain, vomiting, nausea and shaking.

    There are different ways that heroin detox can be carried out, most usually either ‘maintenance therapy’ or ‘full medical detox’.

    Attempting to switch from heroin to a heroin substitute, usually on a controlled prescription, is known as Maintenance therapy. Subsites used are most often methadone or buprenorphine.

    A full medical detox from heroin will always be carried out in a residential rehab setting and will allow the individual to switch form heroin to a substitute and slowly withdraw completing treatment free of all substances. Someone using a heroin substitute can choose to have a full medical detox at any time, however detoxing substances such a methadone can often add to the length of detox required. Drugs most commonly used to fully detox from heroin are, Subutex, Suboxone and Methadone. Much like alcohol, the exact drugs used will be dependent on the individuals needs/medical history.

    Once detoxed from heroin the risk of overdose is much higher following relapse due to tolerance following withdrawal.

    The length of treatment in a residential rehab depends on a number of elements. Some substances require longer periods of detox than others.

    Private paying patients will also often choose a length of stay that suites their therapeutic and financial needs. As a rule, a full treatment program in a rehab is considered to be 28 days (often referred to as a month), however, treatment is offered in several different ways and lengths starting at 7 days.

    Treating alcohol addiction will always require a minimum of 7-10 days, this would be considered the detoxification (detox) faze. The length required for treating drug addiction can vary drastically depending on the substance being used. Detox for Heroin addiction is generally around 14 days minimum, with more time required if substances such a methadone are being used. Treating prescription drug addiction can often take the longest. The time required for treating gambling addiction, eating disorders and sex addiction will be based on the individuals needs.

    Rehab programs can be as long as an individual requires but primary treatment is normally caped at 12 weeks, with the offering for further secondary and tertiary treatment thereafter.

    *based on average rehab stays, everyone will vary dependant on needs and medical requirement/history.

    There is no need for your employer to know that you are seeking help for trauma and addiction unless you choose to involve them with the process. All employers should have a policy that explains what you do if you cannot come to work due to illness – illness to include treating alcohol addiction/treating drug addiction.

    If your work absence extends over 7 days your employer is likely to require an official statement of fitness to work which would be obtained from your GP. This would need to supply evidence of your illness as well as any adjustments required for returning to work, fazed return or reduced hours, but does not need to specify in detail the reason why you have been absent.

    If you are absent from work for 7 days of less, for example entering rehab for a detoxification (detox) on a Saturday for 7-10 days taking a full week away from work, you can self-certify your illness by letting your employer work you will not be attending work for that period of time. Exactly how an individual would do this would be dependent on a specific companies’ policies on taking sick leave.

    Any time longer than 7 days it is likely an employer will require a note from the individuals GP certifying their sickness and a fit note on return. Most companies have a clearly outlined policy on sickness and receiving sick pay so the exact requirement can vary. A rehab will always be willing to advise on time off work.

    How much does rehab cost is a very frequently asked question. The cost of treatment can range from £1,000 per week upwards depending on the place, with luxury rehab being the most expensive.

    There are free options available on the NHS but the waitlist of those looking for free treatment is longer than that for privately paying patients. Some private health insurance policies will cover treatment in some rehabs around the country.

    Choosing the right rehab centre will often be based on priced but it is important to follow guidance on the most suitable treatment centre for an individual’s needs which our expert team of advisers are on hand to offer.

    There are certainly pro’s for both treatment near by and traveling for treatment with one of the most asked question being should I get rehab near me? There are rehabs all over the UK and around the world that all offer expert programs, let’s look at how to choose a rehab.

    Local treatment

    Being close to home gives certainly has benefits. Visitors are normally permitted in rehab following the first 7 days stay, therefore if an individual is in treatment for a length of time longer than that being local will make it easier for loved ones to visit.

    Most rehab centres will also provide a full aftercare plan for someone following treatment, this will include ongoing aftercare in the specific treatment centre. Living close by can make it easy to take full advantage of ongoing aftercare. There can also often be the option for ongoing care with an individual therapist, again being close by will allow that treatment to be carried out face to face.

    Some individuals wish to be local but are willing to look broader, for instance the greater city of residence (London, Manchester, Liverpool, etc)

    Treatment Away

    Getting treatment away from home can be very appealing to some. Being out of the local area makes it a lot harder to just walk out of treatment as resources locally are unknown. Some also take comfort in knowing that they are not near home and focus more on treatment.

    As the price for treatment can vary so much from one residential treatment centre to another, private paying patients often would rather travel to keep the cost down. Those using private health insurance may also have to travel to find a treatment centre covered in their policy.

    When opting for treatment away from home this can be anywhere in the UK and also abroad. Aftercare can still be carried out and very successful using tools such as The Online Rehab.

    There is no right or wrong when choosing where to go to residential rehab, but our expert advisors are always on hand to help provide information on all possible options.

    Whilst millions of people in the UK have taken recreational drugs (amphetamine, cannabis, cocaine, crack, crystal meth, GHB, heron, ketamine, methadone, and prescription drugs) and drank alcohol not all become ‘addicted’. Most recent reports show that 279,793 individuals were in contact with drug and alcohol misuse services in the last year with over half of that being from opiate addiction and a quarter for alcohol.

    There are several risk factors invoiced in addiction and those using drugs and alcohol socially, simply take the risk. These risks are as follows;

    Tolerance – basically, if a substance is used repeatedly an individual’s tolerance to it will build. This will result in more of the same substance being required to get the same effect. In the long run this can easily lead to addiction and physical dependencies.

    Environmental risks – these can include influences such a peer pressure and stress as well as physical or mental abuse of an individual (particularly as a child). Overall, those who live with frequent pressures and stress are more likely to reach for a substance to cope and are therefore at higher risk of becoming addicted.

    Drug type – it is very well known that certain drugs are simply more addictive than others. Using substances such as heroin increases the risk of becoming addicted for need to ‘chase’ a high as well as physical dependency.

    Drug administration – how a drug is administered can affect its addictive qualities. A drug injected rather than smoked or snorted will release a quicker and more intense high thus making it psychologically (and in many cases physically) more addictive.

    Biological factors – it is now widely reported that being an addict is not only psychological but also biological. This includes your genetic makeup, mental health, sex and age. It is also reported to be 8 times more likely for the child of an addict to become an addict themselves.

    Its believed that addiction is approximately half genetics and therefore some are 50% more likely to become addicted than others.

    How do you help a loved one trapped in addiction?

    The first step is to help and encourage the individual to become willing to accept help. They do not need to be shouting this off the rooftops, but they do need to be willing to go into treatment. There are ways to help someone become willing to get treatment for alcohol or treatment for drugs.

    Set boundaries – set boundaries and stick to them. Once you have laid them out follow through with whatever consequences you have set however hard it is.

    Stop finances – if you are financially supporting someone stopping these finances can be the quickest way for the addict needing to ask for help. With no money to acquire a substance an addict’s options become very limited.

    Intervention – getting together with other family members/friends/colleagues and staging an intervention is often very successful in the fist stage of acceptance and gaining an admission to residential rehab.

    You can’t make them quit, this can lead to dangerous withdrawal. Boundaries are very important in helping someone become willing to get help. Unfortunately you cannot do someone’s recovery for them and without self-motivation it is very hard to make it work.

    The next step is to call our highly trained advisers 0203 955 7700.

    There is a huge range of rehab options available and where to start can be completely over whelming so let us help.