Anxiety disorders cover a wide spectrum of troubles, including depression, bipolar disorder, and eating disorders, which will all be covered in different blog posts. However, in this article, we’d like to focus on the less well-known anxiety disorders, like PTSD, panic disorders, and social anxiety.
Even patients with no history of anxiety disorders can experience panic attacks and anxiety when withdrawing from drugs and alcohol, so managing anxiety in addiction recovery patients who have clinical disorders can be a double challenge.
Anxiety Disorders Defined
Anxiety disorders are characterized by episodes of extreme anxiety, to the point that fear and panic attacks dictate the patient’s life, choices, and even personality. A common symptom in many anxiety disorders is panic attacks.
Panic attacks are extreme episodes wherein a patient experiences trouble breathing, chest pain, sweating, shaking, paranoia, and dizziness. Sometimes they can escalate into vomiting or fainting. Although they don’t cause long-term damage, in the moment, they feel life-threatening. Panic attacks include every upsetting fight-or-flight response in the human system, but they can be triggered by completely irrational phenomena. Sometimes, they’re set off by nothing but the fear that a panic attack might happen.
Although many people experience panic attacks at some point in their life, it’s only a clinical disorder if they experience it most of the days of the week, for 6 months or more.
Different Types of Anxiety Disorders
- PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder): PTSD happens after an individual experiences severe trauma. That could include military combat or extreme violence, sexual assault, or a natural disaster. It’s characterized by flashbacks to the event, trouble sleeping, hypervigilance and paranoia.
- Social Anxiety: This condition is especially common in conjunction with alcohol dependence. Many people say that alcohol, a depressant, relieves the symptoms of social anxiety. After this connection is discovered and used a few times, the individual can become dependent on alcohol in order to function in daily life.
- Panic Disorder: This condition is characterized by sudden episodes of terror and panic attacks. Patients with panic disorder often avoid anything new (or even old) for fear of triggering an attack. The fear of the attack is as problematic as the attack itself.
- Clinical Phobias: These are fears that dominate and preoccupy individuals. Although they’re irrational, they can trigger severe physical and mental symptoms. These phobias interfere with your life on a daily basis, taking over your relationships, your work, and your ability to function in daily life.
Anxiety Disorders with a Dual Diagnosis
Individuals with anxiety are twice as likely to struggle with substance abuse as the general population. Alcohol can temporarily alleviate the symptoms of an anxiety disorder, which is probably why it’s the most common addiction for those suffering from an anxiety disorder. However, alcohol can also make an anxiety disorder worse in the long run. Hours later, or even the next day, alcohol use can lead to increased irritability, anxiety, and depression.
People with social anxiety might find group therapy options too much to deal with without a drink. It’s important to find the most effective way to build confidence and have a safe space in which to talk about your disorder and addiction. Sometimes hands-on therapy options, or things like journaling and exercising, are the best methods to start out with in this situation.
We can help you find the treatment you need to become functional and substance-free. Contact us today.