When a person is living with a mental health issue and an addiction, it is considered having a co-occurring disorder or dual diagnosis. Anxiety and addiction to alcohol or drugs are a combination that tends to feed off of each other and make each condition worse.
Approximately 20 percent of people in the United States who have an anxiety disorder also have a substance abuse disorder, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. The numbers for people with an alcohol or substance abuse problem are just as telling: about 20 percent also have either an anxiety or a mood disorder.
The Cycle Of Disorders That Feeds Off Each Other
With these two co-occurring disorders, sometimes it can be difficult to determine which one came first, the anxiety disorder or the addiction. A person who is experiencing symptoms of an anxiety disorder may start using alcohol or drugs as a way to cope with or numb the symptoms.
In the case of a person with social anxiety disorder, turning to alcohol may seem like a good idea to “take the edge off” and feel more comfortable when being around other people.
However, drinking to excess often leads to anxiety, since it changes brain chemistry and can end up putting the person in anxiety-provoking situations, such as conflicts with family members, coworkers and friends. It can also lead to legal issues (DUI/DWI charges) and financial problems (job loss due to absences from work from being hung over or poor performance while on the job).
Drug or alcohol abuse can lead to panic attacks in some people. A person who has been diagnosed with anxiety or panic disorder is at higher risk for a relapse since they are more likely to turn to a chemical substance to attempt to self-medicate when they start experiencing symptoms.
The Right Co-Occurring Disorder Help
An anxiety disorder with an addiction requires treatment from professionals with experience treating co-occurring disorders. At Maryland Recovery, we specialize in treating mental health conditions with addiction. We provide an individualized treatment plan for all of our clients to focus on their individual needs and goals.
We understand that often the mental health concern can be the underlying cause of a client’s addiction. When a client needs treatment for a co-occurring disorder, we treat both concerns.
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Reviewed by Christopher Schwartfigure MS, LGPC, CAC-AD