It is normal for individuals to experience bouts of nervousness or stress from time-to-time. Anxiety disorders, unlike common, passing feelings of anxiety, are likely to cause high levels of emotional and psychological distress, and often interfere with one’s ability to lead a normal and successful life.
Anxiety disorders are not uncommon – especially amongst addicts and alcoholics. Individuals who suffer from anxiety disorders are two to three times more likely to suffer from a substance abuse disorder than members of the general population. Being afflicted with both disorders, regardless of which came first, can quickly become a vicious and devastating cycle. In many instances, the symptoms of one disorder will work to exacerbate the symptoms of another; an individual with an anxiety disorder may turn to drugs or alcohol in order to alleviate overwhelming psychological symptoms.
We at Next Chapter have extensive experience working with clients who are suffering from both anxiety disorders and substance dependency disorders. We understand that in order for one problem to be resolved, both must be thoroughly treated – seeing as they are so closely linked, and oftentimes work to intensify one another. Because of this, we have developed a comprehensive and individualized program of addiction recovery that focuses intently on mental health and past traumatic experience.
Types of Anxiety Disorder
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
It is common to feel high stress levels on occasion – perhaps before taking an exam, before publicly speaking, or before meeting potential in-laws for the first time. These feelings may even help us to perform better or meet deadlines more efficiently, and rarely result in serious or lasting impairment. Individuals with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), however, tend to feel anxious and stressed out the majority of the time – not just during particularly stressful situations.
Those who are afflicted with Generalized Anxiety Disorder will typically experience symptoms (excessive stress and anxiety related to a wide range of daily tasks and circumstances) for 6 months or more. The crippling anxiety they feel throughout the day will prevent them from living healthy and productive lives, interfering with social functioning, work, school, or the completion of menial (but necessary) tasks. Like most other anxiety disorders, GAD can be caused by a wide range of potential factors – from biological predisposition to stressful like events or psychological factors. Those suffering from GAD can often be treated with intensive therapeutic counseling – and, if necessary, with medication.
Social Anxiety Disorder
For individuals with a social anxiety disorder, interacting with others in any capacity will lead to overwhelming feelings of anxiety, stemming from the irrational fear of being unfairly judged, criticized, humiliated, or laughed at. Those who suffer from this specific disorder will often have great difficulty participating in the most menial social tasks, such as eating in public or using public transportation.
Many individuals who suffer from this specific anxiety disorder will turn to drugs and alcohol in order to self-medicate symptoms, attempting to alleviate the intense psychological discomfort that tends to go hand-in-hand with social functioning. Men and women who suffer from social anxiety will often report that excessive drinking helps them to lessen their nervousness – in reality, however, substance abuse only works to worsen symptoms in the long run. Many individuals will begin abusing alcohol and other chemical substances after the onset of this particular disorder.
Just like other anxiety disorders, social anxiety may be caused by a number of factors. Among the most common are family history, early environment, and learned behaviors. Some individuals will attribute their social phobias to being abused or neglected from a young age, or undergoing traumatic experiences having to do with being publicly humiliated or scorned. While psychological treatment is often highly successful in treating social anxiety disorders, medication may be necessary in extreme cases.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
In some cases, anxious thoughts can benefit us – if they are infrequent and rational. For example, we may believe that we forgot to turn off our headlights before heading inside for the evening. We check the headlights once, see that they are off, and return to our normal routine. For the individual suffering from OCD, however, the thought ‘I forgot to turn my headlights off’ may quickly become obsessive, and lead to compulsive and uncontrollable checking. For those who are afflicted with obsessive compulsive disorder, obsessions and compulsions (acts that are performed in order to help alleviate immense stress or neutralize obsessive thoughts) are present – and will severely interrupt normal daily functioning.
Those who are suffering from the symptoms of OCD will often feel a great amount of shame and guilt regarding their uncontrollable need to carry out compulsions. These feelings of shame can add additional stress and anxiety, and work to exacerbate the disorder, therefore exacerbating the shame in turn – eventually, this will lead to a vicious cycle of compulsion and psychological consequence. Many afflicted individuals will attempt to keep their symptoms private, which may lead to a delay in professional diagnosis. Many untreated OCD sufferers will turn to drugs and alcohol as a means of self-medication, which can in turn lead to substance dependency disorders. In most cases, intensive therapeutic treatment is an effective form of treatment.
Those who are afflicted with panic disorder will experience frequent panic attacks, coupled with a range of physical symptoms. These symptoms may include shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, dizziness, chest pain, and profuse perspiration. These panic attacks are both recurrent and highly disabling, causing major interruptions in the ability to carry out normal, day-to-day activities.
Anxiety revolving around perceived implications of the anxiety attack (such as fear of an undiagnosed medical problem). Irrational fear of dying, going crazy, or losing complete control of bodily functions.
Most often, panic attacks will peak within 10 minutes of their onset and could last for up to half an hour. After experiencing a panic attack, an individual will likely feel physically exhausted and emotionally drained. Panic disorder can occur at any stage in life, but it is most common amongst men and women in their late 20s and early 30s. M
any individuals who suffer from an undiagnosed and untreated panic disorder will turn to drugs and alcohol as a means of self-medication. Panic disorders can often be fully resolved with intensive therapeutic treatment. If a panic disorder and substance dependency disorder are co-occurring, each must be treated comprehensively in order for both to be eradicated.
The Next Chapter Approach
Next Chapter takes a highly-personalized approach to treatment for all of our clients, beginning with a thorough psychosocial assessment completed by patient’s therapist and a psychiatric evaluation completed by our medical director. Later in the process we often will include a psychological assessment to aid in the diagnosis of the condition or conditions each client is facing. These initial evaluations are followed up by weekly visits with our medical director and patient’s therapist and supported by our clinical team approach in which each client’s unique needs and treatment are addressed by the entire treatment team. The team meets daily to discuss in detail each of our client’s needs.
Together, our clinical team will prescribe a course of action that may evidence-based treatments practices such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Motivational Interviewing (MI), Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), Solution Focused Therapy, Interpersonal Therapy, EMDR and other Trauma focused modalities. Individualized treatment plans also include therapeutic groups, individual sessions, family work, and 12-Step education groups.