The Link between Anxiety and Addiction Disorders
Chronic anxiety can make life unbearable. The word ‘anxiety’ comes from Latin and it can be translated as meaning ‘unable to breathe’. This unpleasant mental state can be what drives people into addiction in the first place, and the fear of being unable to manage anxiety can prevent people from choosing sobriety.
What is Anxiety?
Anxiety can be described as a combination of thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations we experience where we are fearful or worried. Some of the common symptoms people will experience while anxious will include:
• Racing thoughts
• Rumination (obsession with worries and concerns)
• A feeling of impending doom
• Over-eating or under-eating
• Muscle tension
• Increased pulse rate
• Panic attack
• A feeling of being overwhelmed by stress
• Digestive problems
It is helpful to differentiate between anxiety and fear -the latter tends to be present-orientated (there is a wolf running towards me) while the former is more future-orientated (I’m worried that there might be a wolf waiting for me). Fear and anxiety both serve a useful function, as they both put your body into a heightened state of alertness – a bit of anxiety before an exam can also encourage you to study harder. Unlike a single episode of anxiety, chronic anxiety can be highly detrimental to you because:
• Being in a constant state of high alertness damages your body
• Stress produces high cortisol levels which reduces the efficiency of your immune system
• Racing thoughts make it much harder to make good choices.
• Expecting the worst can actually cause it to happen – this is known as a self-fulfilling prophecy
• There is always going to be things to worry about in life so chronic anxiety can be never-ending
• Anxiety makes living a lot more difficult than it should be
• The steps you feel you need to take to avoid anxiety can limit your options in life
The Link between Drug and Alcohol Abuse and Anxiety
When you first start using alcohol or drugs, it can feel like you have found the magical cure for anxiety. The problem is that this is actually running away from the problem, and this can only ever work in the short-term. Not only that, but substance abuse increases the things you have to worry about, and you can easily get caught in the vicious cycle of getting intoxicated to escape the problems caused by being intoxicated! Even if you never had a problem with anxiety before, you can develop this condition as a result of substance abuse.
Treatment Centre for Addiction and Anxiety
If you have issues surrounding anxiety (e.g. social anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or phobias), you will want to choose a rehab that can teach you how to manage this type of mental discomfort. Here at Twin Rivers, we provide expert counselling along with psychiatric care as needed. You will develop strategies for dealing with your anxiety so you never again need to turn to alcohol or drugs. Our holistic approach to recovery provides everything you need to enjoy the better life you deserve.
David is the Clinical and Development Director of Twin Rivers Rehab in South Africa and a UK Accredited Addictions Therapist with the Federation of Drug and Alcohol Professionals UK. Articles/Blogs are written with the assistance of researchers and other specialists in the field of addiction and the recovery process