How Anxiety and Addiction Overlap

How Anxiety and Addiction can overlap

It’s not uncommon for someone struggling with addiction to also have a diagnosis of mental illness. It’s also not unusual for someone diagnosed with a mental illness to battle addiction. Approximately 32% of individuals with anxiety or depression have a substance abuse disorder. While it’s common for the two conditions to co-occur, it can still be difficult to diagnose and treat anxiety and addiction. Continue reading to learn more about dealing with mental health issues and alcohol or drug addiction and how to locate help.

Understanding the Shared Risk Factors Between Anxiety and Addiction

It’s vital to examine the potential risk factors of addiction and mental illness to understand the shared risk factors.

Risk Factors for Mental Illness

Mental health refers to how you think, feel and react to specific situations. It involves your emotional, psychological and social health. Individuals diagnosed with mental illness respond differently to situations and relationships. Some of the most common types of mental illness include anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Eating disorders are also considered a mental illness.

Mental illness is caused by a wide range of factors, including:

  • Childhood trauma
  • Developmental delays
  • Chronic stress
  • Long-term social isolation
  • Emotional abuse or neglect
  • Heredity
  • Physical illness
  • Substance use causing a substance-induced anxiety disorder

Risk Factors for Addiction

Addiction is a chronic disorder involving substance abuse despite the negative consequences. Addiction may alter an individual’s brain circuits, leading to a lifetime of treatment. Individuals who struggle with addiction may start innocently. Narcotics are highly addictive but often prescribed for mild to moderate pain. Over time, it takes higher doses to achieve the same results even when taken as directed, which leads to addiction. Like mental illness, there are multiple risk factors for addiction:

  • Trauma and neglect as a child
  • Poor home environments
  • Stress
  • A history of family substance abuse
  • Peer pressure

Trauma, neglect and heredity are the most shared risk factors between the two. Both addiction and mental illness tend to run in families. Stress and lack of parental involvement as a child also make an individual more susceptible to developing one of both conditions. Illegal drugs cause anxiety as an individual stresses over obtaining and hiding their substance use disorder.

Significance of a Dual Diagnosis

A dual diagnosis refers to an individual who’s been diagnosed with both a mental disorder and a substance abuse disorder. The symptoms of both conditions may overlap, including persistent sadness, changes in sleep patterns, inability to think clearly, emotional outbursts, suicidal thoughts or tendencies and risky behaviors.

Individuals who struggle with addiction may find it difficult to complete a treatment program without addressing their mental issues, which makes dual diagnosis important. A proper diagnosis makes it possible to focus on all areas of the problem, which is crucial to recovery.

Some of the most common challenges for a dual diagnosis include:

  • Determining whether the issue comes from mental illness or substance abuse
  • Medications may not be effective in treating both conditions
  • Failed treatment for one condition may mean a failed treatment for both

Integrated Treatment Approaches

Integrated treatment is the most successful approach to a dual diagnosis. The best treatments for dual diagnosis include individual and group counseling, lifestyle changes, detox, behavioral therapy and medication. Inpatient or outpatient treatment is available, depending on the severity of the condition.

Outpatient Treatment

Outpatient treatment offers flexibility and personal freedom and may be ideal for parents and professionals who can’t take time off from family or work. Treatment sessions last several days a week for several hours and can occur multiple times during the day.

Inpatient Treatment

Inpatient treatment is recommended for individuals who require detoxification from alcohol or drugs and those who’ve tried to complete an outpatient program unsuccessfully. Inpatient care can last 30 to 90 days or longer and completely removes an individual from the stress of everyday life. This treatment option involves structured days with no outside contact and therapy from morning to night.

Intensive Outpatient Treatment

Intensive outpatient treatment is similar to inpatient care but allows an individual to return home each night. Intensive outpatient treatment may be the best option for an individual who has completed an inpatient program and is already receiving treatment for their mental illness.

Coping Strategies for Managing Anxiety and Preventing Addiction Relapse

Relapse is a possibility at any stage of the recovery process. Daily triggers, including stress, boredom, anger, financial problems, relationship issues and places, can also contribute to a relapse. Coping strategies reduce the chances of relapse and help create healthy and positive habits. These strategies may differ depending on individual needs, so it’s important to create one that works for you.

  • Identify possible triggers: Write down each time you’re reactive. Create a chart of when the trigger occurred and how you responded. Try to avoid situations and people that cause triggers. When this isn’t possible, identify ways you can deal with them, including talking to a loved one, meditating, journaling or deep breathing.
  • Practice self-care: Lack of sleep and fatigue are common triggers for anxiety and stress. Get an adequate amount of sleep each night, eat regular healthy meals, exercise frequently and take time out to develop and nurture your hobbies and interests.
  • Practice mindful meditation: When a trigger hits you, close your eyes, breathe in through your nose for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 7 seconds and then release slowly. Repeat this deep breathing technique to naturally slow your body’s response and calm down.

Importance of Seeking Professional Help and Support

If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction and mental illness, seeking help is the first step in the recovery process. At Restore Mental Health, we offer a wide range of treatment options to help address your dual diagnosis. To learn more about our programs and get answers to any questions you may have, contact one of our caring counselors 24/7. We can go over our admission process and get you started on a path to recovery.