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Addiction And Anxiety

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We all have different pressure and stress thresholds. Most of us need a certain level of these 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

What is Anxiety?

Anxiety is that rising feeling of panic in your chest that you get when you are doing something that you shouldn’t be doing, and you don’t want to get caught.

Now imagine if you started to get that feeling while you were in the queue at the supermarket, doing the dishes, or sending an email at work.

Now imagine if that feeling happened to you multiple times throughout the day, even though you had checked numerous times, and everything seemed OK.

This is the outline of any given anxiety disorder. You live with the constant feeling of something being wrong and it being your fault.

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Different Types of Anxiety Issue

There are multiple types of anxiety disorder, and a patient can suffer from as many or as little of them as exist. The ones we see most often include:

Let’s work through each of these in greater detail.

GAD

Generalised Anxiety Disorder is a generic term given to any diagnoses of anxiety disorder that requires more research. If the doctor is referring you to the psychiatrist for the first time, they will probably say you have GAD. This is down to your doctor needing a specialist to diagnose you and nothing else.

Your specialist might then decide that you have multiple anxiety disorders, thereby classifying you as GAD from that point forward. In this case, it would mean that they didn’t know what was causing your anxiety, or that you had more than one of the other anxiety disorders, and the therapist is hedging their bets.

PTSD

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is commonly suffered by those who have been to war. However, we all go through traumatic situations that have nothing to do with combat and this can result in PTSD. For example, children from abusive households often suffer from PTSD or CPTSD (Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) in later life[i].

This condition is filled with triggers and random bouts of panic. You can flashback to events through a smell, sound, or sight. Attacks can happen anywhere and might even include vivid hallucinations.

Panic Disorder

Panic disorder is characterised by 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[ii]. During these attacks, it can make us feel like we are going to faint, have a heart attack or even die.

Social Anxiety Disorder

This is a debilitating condition that gives the sufferer an intense fear of social interactions. This can lead to panic attacks when they are forced to attend events, the inability to work as a team, and extreme discomfort when in public places. Someone with social anxiety is at risk of developing aggravated phobias that stop them from interacting with people in day to day life. Agoraphobia is perhaps the best example of this[iii].

OCD

Someone who is obsessive compulsive has those feelings of dread described above, and then has the obsession over it. The thought of something being ‘not right’ will go around in their head for hours. Eventually, they will do things to make themselves feel better, which is the ‘Compulsion’ part.

People with OCD will check the cooker is off six times before bed, they will then get out of bed one more time, just to check. They will imagine worst case scenarios and won’t be able to let things go. They will appear to have an inability to relax[iv].

What are the symptoms of anxiety disorders?

Asides from those mentioned above, some generic symptoms of anxiety disorders might be:

People with anxiety disorders swing between bouts of superior productivity and the inability to get out of bed.

What is an Addiction?

Unlike anxiety, an addiction is something we develop over time without realising we are doing it. Addiction is cyclical, meaning you take the drug or drink because you feel bad, then when it has run out you feel worse, so you buy more.

It is possible to become addicted to anything that triggers the reward centres of the brain. This means you can be addicted to things with no substance involved, such as sex or gambling.

Some common substance abuse related addictions include:

How to tell if you have an addiction?

If you have an addiction, you will experience strong cravings for the substance or action you are addicted to. You will continue to take it even though you know it is bad for you. You may borrow, steal, or sell off your things to raise money for drugs or alcohol, and your family and friends will raise their concerns.

If you receive more than one of the above warning signs of addiction, it is time to seek help. If you have social anxiety but want help for an addiction, you can fill in our online consultation form and tell us that you are nervous. Our expert staff can handle any situation you throw at them.

Why do we get anxious when we have an addiction?

We get anxious during an addiction because there are so many factors to cause worry.

First, the drug you take may not be legal. You have the constant feeling of doing something wrong when you carry it or go to get more. Added to this, there is the anxiety that your dealer won’t have any and you will have to go without.

There is anxiety about where money is coming from and how you would pay your bills if you spent all your cash on drugs. There are numerous things that can make you anxious when you are suffering from an addiction. The anxiety and addictive cycle are described below to shed more light on this.

The Cycle of Addiction and the Cycle of Anxiety

The cycle of addiction is when a drug addict goes to use a drug. Once it has been consumed, they need to buy more. To buy more, they need to find money. They hurt someone they love to do so and then go buy their drugs.

After the drugs are used, they are back to square one again. This can be likened to the cycle of psychological addiction. The user suffers emotional pain and craves relief, They suppress these feelings with the use of other addictive behaviours – such as the consumption of alcohol or drugs,eating habits or even self-harm.

This part is a compulsion, much like the obsessive needs to complete the action to feel better. The drug or the action both bring short term release. In the case of drug addiction, negative behaviours are punished, and this causes emotional pain, which restarts the cycle.

Right in at the end stage of that cycle, we can see that depression and guilt play a large part in our decision to use again.

With anxiety, the cycle starts as a slow build of bad feelings. Every day, we start off from a tired place but ready to start the day. In the morning we spill our coffee and must get changed, which becomes problem one. We miss the bus, problem two. Problem three happens when the coffeeshop don’t have our flavour, and so on and so on.

By the time it gets to arriving at the office, we are already exhausted from those little things. Someone with no anxiety might be able to shake them off, but we can’t let it go. We exhaust ourselves for the rest of the day worrying about what will happen next. We go home, fall into bed at five pm, and start it all over the next day.

Eventually, without help, we will likely fall into the cycle of addiction to take that pain away.

Drug Use and Anxiety Issues

Drug use is intricately linked to anxiety since there are all those cyclical worries. To add to it, there are worries about how to get help, what to tell people, and the constant feeling of being judged. The National Institute on Drug Abuse[vi] suggest that a person who takes drugs or drinks is twice as likely to develop a mental health problem like anxiety.

Alcohol Use and Anxiety Issues

Alcohol use and anxiety are often reported together. This is because of the cycle of addiction and the need to always have a fresh supply. Money woes, relationship troubles, and health anxiety, are all possible. People often drink to try and relax, but if you have anxiety, it will likely inflame the problem rather than make it better[vii].

Causes of Anxiety?

Anyone can suffer from anxiety. It is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain that causes the fight or flight response to go haywire. As we know, this might be caused by a traumatic event, by growing up in a household with a parent who suffers from anxiety, or by living on the edge of your nerves for too long. Childhood trauma also plays a role, so does genetic makeup[viii].

Causes of Addiction?

Anyone can fall prey to an addiction, but there are a few factors that can make you more likely to succumb. If you have suffered a traumatic injury, you are more likely to become addicted to painkillers than someone who hasn’t. Similarly, you are at greater risk of heroin use if your come from a deprived area with readily available heroin[ix].

Addicted parents, being born with an addiction, and even genetic predisposition can all be factors that make someone turn to drink or drugs.

Treatment Methods of Anxiety Plus Addiction Patients

If you are suffering from both anxiety plus addiction, you essentially have a dual diagnosis. If you don’t treat both problems simultaneously, you will likely never combat either. To treat both, go to a rehab clinic and opt for detox from the drugs or alcohol you are using. When this stage is complete, work hard in therapy to prevent relapse.

There are several methods your rehab clinic might want to tackle your problems through therapy. These therapy types might include some of the following.

Counselling 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.

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[x].

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[xi].

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.

Free Consultation for Addiction and Anxiety Dual Diagnosis

If you want to know more about anxiety and addiction treatments, you can get in touch for a chat. We have a free consultation service which lets one of our team get back to you and have a chat with you about your options.

Where to get Help for Anxiety Related Addictions?

You can get help for any type of addiction suffered in the UK through Help4Addiction. We are here to help you choose the right rehab clinic for you so that you get the help and support needed for you to get off drink or drugs in a safe, healthy way.

Frequently asked questions

Those who don’t learn how to properly manage their headspace and emotions in the formative years may struggle to manage their anxiety. This can lead to addiction problems in later life.
There is a direct link between addiction and anxiety. Both feed each other. The addict is likely to experience a good deal of anxiety if they cannot get their hit.
Addiction can cause depression and vice versa. Mental health issues and substance abuse are intrinsically related. Often, this is known as a dual diagnosis.
 
This is when you are suffering from addiction and another behavioural problem. It may be that you are suffering from an emotional problem as well as your addiction, such as an eating disorder or mental health issues.
These conditions are usually tackled separately instead of altogether. They will both be treated in the rehab clinic, but you may want to consider taking a longer stay there, to give yourself the advantage.

Dual diagnosis is a very broad term that covers both alcohol addiction with mental health issues, and drug addiction with similar health problems.

Self-medication, particularly of un-diagnosed anxiety issues, can lead to substance abuse addictions.

Addiction can cause rapid shifts in mood and anxiety can be the same.
This is anxiety expressly caused during detox, through the abstinence of your drug or substance.
The only drugs you should rely on to treat anxiety are those that are prescribed by your doctor.

About Author

Nicholas Conn

Nicholas Conn

Nicholas Conn is a leading industry addiction expert who runs the UK’s largest addiction advisory service and is regularly featured in the national press, radio and TV. He is the founder and CEO of a drug and alcohol rehab center called Help4addiction, which was founded in 2015. He has been clean himself since 2009 and has worked in the Addiction and Rehab Industry for over a decade. Nick is dedicated to helping others recover and get treatment for drug and alcohol abuse. In 2013, he released a book ‘The Thin White’ line that is available on Amazon.

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