Some anxiety comes naturally for everyone – awaiting test results, working against an impending deadline, or expecting to hear bad news. For most of us, this anxiety dissipates when the moments pass and life goes on. People suffering from anxiety disorders, however, are trapped in paroxysms of anxious thoughts, feelings, and behaviors against their will. Thankfully, anxiety treatment is available and can help those who suffer to achieve balanced, healthy lives.
Anxiety and Substance Abuse
Many times, patients with anxiety disorder do not realize that what they have is not just a simple phase, but part of a much larger psychological problem. For this reason, they often attempt to self-medicate by abusing drugs or alcohol in an attempt to control their fearful reactions and calm their anxious thoughts. Unfortunately, while this can provide temporary relief, it does not address the underlying causes of the anxiety disorder, and instead can contribute to an addiction to the substance the patient has been abusing.
In other cases, there is no anxiety disorder-related symptoms before substance abuse. Either as a direct result of the drugs or alcohol or due to withdrawal attempts as a result of an attempted self-detoxification or lack of intake, the patient develops anxiety in the absence of their drug of choice.
Treating anxiety disorder that presents with substance abuse involves taking care of both issues simultaneously. The process of weaning a user off their drug or alcohol addiction is known as detoxification, and it should only be attempted under the supervision of medical professionals.
Detoxing can often cause panic as a result of the patient’s body and mind struggling to adapt without the illicit substances on which they had been hooked for a long period of time. Treating medical professionals will decide if the condition is severe enough to prescribe anti-anxiety medication. Commonly prescribed medications are known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, which work by preventing the reabsorption of serotonin in the brain, leaving more serotonin and leading to a better mood. Such drugs in this category include fluoxetine (trade name Prozac), paroxetine (Paxil), escitalopram (Lexapro), and fluvoxamine (Luvox).
When detoxification is complete and the patient is no longer dependent on controlled substances to try and cope, therapy should commence. Therapy can involve such treatment approaches as cognitive behavioral therapy, which works by helping the patient learn how their negative thoughts and behaviors contribute to their anxiety and then teaches them how they can replace their negative thoughts with realistic thoughts that do not lead to intrusive and unhealthy behaviors.
Another form of therapy is exposure therapy. With this therapy, the patient is gradually and carefully exposed to the situations that would trigger an anxiety attack. With the supervision of a therapist, the patient is shown that the situations do not cause actual harm, and the lessons from the experience are adapted to the disorder at large.
Anxiety disorder can be unpleasant and debilitating, but it does not have to be a way of life. Treatment to help you, or a loved one, get control of your anxious thoughts and feelings is available. We here at Circle of Hope want to help you get started. Please give us a call and ask us about our anxiety treatment options.