Anxiety disorders are the most commonly diagnosed mental disorder in the United States, affecting upwards of 40 million American adults aged 18 and over – roughly 18 percent of the total population. Anxiety disorders typically develop as the result of a complex set of risk factors, such as genetic predisposition, personality, brain chemistry, and upbringing. Interestingly enough, substance dependency has also proven to be a major determining factor in the prevalence of anxiety – anxiety sufferers are between two and three times more likely to simultaneously struggle with an alcohol or substance abuse disorder at some point in their lives than members of the general population. Roughly 20 percent of individuals with substance abuse disorders are later diagnosed with anxiety disorders, and roughly 20 percent of individuals with anxiety disorders are later diagnosed with significant addiction issues. So… which comes first?
Anxiety and Addiction – Which Comes First?
It is usually difficult to determine which disorder came first, considering the fact that the prevalence of both can quickly become a vicious and unrelenting cycle. The symptoms of one disorder can exacerbate the symptoms of the other, and before long, each disorder can become equally as out of control. In many instances, an individual who suffers from undiagnosed anxiety will turn to alcohol or drugs as a means of self-medication. The co-occurrence of substance abuse is particularly high amongst men and women who suffer from social anxiety disorder. Many who suffer from this specific disorder report that having several cocktails before a party or social gathering helps reduce their anxiety – though in reality, resorting to chemical substances will only intensify symptoms in the long run. It is not uncommon for alcohol abuse to develop after the onset of social anxiety disorder.
PTSD and Substance Abuse
Post-traumatic stress disorder and substance abuse issues also frequently co-occur. Those who suffer from undiagnosed and untreated PTSD are significantly more likely to develop substance abuse disorders, seeing as related symptoms (such as disrupted sleep patterns, overwhelming and intrusive thoughts, and severe agitation) can be temporarily alleviated with the use of chemical substances such as alcohol or benzodiazepines. Of course, self-medication of any kind if often only fleetingly assuaging – once the effects of the chemical wear off, the afflicted individual will be left feeling even more mentally distressed than before. The first inclination will be to reach towards the chemical substance once more – and thus begins the vicious cycle of dual-diagnosis dependency. We at Next Chapter have extensive experience in treating men who suffer from PTSD and substance dependency, and understand that in order for one to achieve long-term sobriety, both issues must be treated concurrently. Untreated symptoms of PTSD will often cause a relapse into damaging patterns chemical abuse.
Treatment of Anxiety Disorders and Addiction
It is important to keep in mind that treating substance abuse disorders will not necessarily eliminate symptoms of anxiety. While in some instances anxiety itself can stem exclusively from the effects of chemical substance on the central nervous system, it is more common that anxiety is a separate disorder that needs to be treated professionally and simultaneously. It is important that patients are prescribed anti-anxiety medications with exceedingly low abuse potential, so that recovery in all areas can be maintained indefinitely.
We at Next Chapter have prescribing physiatrists on staff, who will carefully evaluate each individual client and clinically decide which course of action is best to take. Of course, psychiatric treatment is one mere component of adequate, dual diagnosis treatment. Intensive therapeutic care is essential, and the implementation of numerous proven therapeutic techniques such as CBT (cognitive-behavioral therapy) have proven exceptionally beneficial. Daily participation in a 12-step support group and the identification and treatment of all related core issues are also crucial components of long-term, fulfilled recovery. We at Next Chapter offer comprehensive care to each of our clients, working tirelessly to resolve all underlying issues while instilling crucial life skills pertaining to recovery from both anxiety and addiction.
For more information regarding our dual diagnosis program of recovery, please feel free to contact us today.