Anxiety Inducing Addiction

Sudie E. Back and Kathleen T. Brady wrote Anxiety Disorders with Comorbid Substance Use Disorders: Diagnostic and Treatment Considerations, in which they discuss generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and substance use disorder (SUD) and the relationship between the two. They cited a recent study in which nearly 6,000 adults stated that GAD was the anxiety disorder most frequently attributed to using substances to overcome the symptomologies associated with anxiety. GAD that is accompanied by other disorders is shown to increase the rate at which people go from first starting to use substances and getting to a point of reliance on them. Furthermore, SUDs that are experienced in conjunction with anxiety disorders have proven to make GAD much harder to overcome and be successful against. In order for many anxiety disorders to be clinically diagnosed, they must be present in an individual for at least six months before they can be considered a disorder. Treatment of anxiety disorders, namely GAD can be quite difficult in those who are more prone to substance use or those who already have SUD. While there are some medications that can be effective, others are generally off-limits due to the addictiveness of the substance. Despite treatment seeming like a difficult thing to obtain, there are ways to get help with the treatment of both disorders. However, one of the most important steps is to understand why those with anxiety feel the need to seek out substance use as a means to quell their anxiety and what can be done in those instances.

Those who have GAD or any other type of disorder involving anxiety know that it can be extremely hard to cope with on a daily basis. Individuals with anxiety often experience symptoms such as feeling fatigued, muscular issues such as tensing or twitching, feelings of being on edge or nervousness, feeling as though they’re in harm’s way, an inability to focus, inability to sleep, feeling week, increased heart rate and breathing pace, along with gastrointestinal issues. In addition to these issues, many individuals experience symptoms associated with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), engaging in repetitive behaviors such as rocking back and forth, flashbacks to various occurrences such as those experienced accompanied with some sort of trauma associated with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and avoiding situations that may induce anxiety, which can keep someone from being out in the real world because they are afraid about what could happen in any given situation or environment. Since there are so many symptomologies associated with anxiety, it is easy to imagine why someone would want to escape all these feelings, both the mental and the physical. However, it is important to find out why people with anxiety turn to substances in order to assuage their symptoms.
Why is Anxiety Linked to Substance Use?

People often turn to substances to relieve their symptoms associated with anxiety. They believe that various substances will help to calm them down and take their mind off things that are bothering them. No matter the substance of choice, there is the appeal of stepping outside of oneself and being able to feel anything other than what they’re experiencing. Most often, substance use tends to begin as a means of escaping what they’re going through by being utilized as a coping mechanism. Although, it should be noted that this is not a permanent solution, merely a temporary one. For those with anxiety, it is seen as a means to calm nerves and to help them relax. The problem with this type of coping mechanism is that it can have the tendency to make someone’s situation worse than it was, to begin with. Certain individuals experience the adverse side effects of substances, for example, paranoia, which can only heighten anxiety. Others may have impaired judgment, which can also lead to increased symptoms of anxiety, whether in the moment or the next day after trying to remember what they did the night before. While many substances are unfortunately readily available, that does not mean that they are viable options. Not to mention, after having begun using substances, there is the tendency to continue to do so, which can add to problems already being experienced in life. Everyone has a multitude of situations that they are currently experiencing and finding more suitable options for coping with life’s difficulties will not only help people learn how to better overcome obstacles, but it can help them to have fewer problems in the future and to be healthier overall, which is something we all should strive for.
Alternatives for Relieving Anxiety

Rather than looking to substances as a means of escape, facing anxiety head-on and being able to conquer it will lead to much more positive outcomes in the future. First, you must understand what your triggers are. Do you have GAD and simply remain on edge on a seemingly constant basis or do more specific situations trigger your anxiety? Understanding the type of person you are is a great first step, and while it may take time, it will help you, in the long run, to truly know yourself. Once you understand what causes your anxiety, you should try to break down the situations and look for alternatives to help you get through them easier. For example, if having to make phone calls to a doctor’s office for an appointment gives you anxiety, try talking on the phone with friends and family more frequently, then you can maybe three-way the office and know that you have support with you should you begin to feel anxious. Work your way up until you can make those calls alone. Even though they seem like small steps, they are worth taking in order to feel more confident in difficult situations. There are also alternatives such as exercising, getting massages, reading, and drinking tea, among other things. Anything to do with self-care and helping you to be calm and in the right headspace is worth doing. You have to make yourself a priority and take care of yourself first before you can worry about anything or anyone else.

Having anxiety can be hard to deal with and we understand that it can be a hard disorder to navigate life with. While you may have chosen a coping mechanism that you thought would help, it’s okay to find out that maybe it wasn’t the best choice for you. To help you reduce your anxiety and feel your best, call us today at (805)719-7954.

Co-Occurring Disorders: Addiction and Bipolar Disorder

It is difficult enough to come to terms with addiction in our lives. But sometimes, that is not all that is keeping us from experiencing a high quality of life. Some of us have a co-occurring disorder, also known as dual diagnosis. The most common dual diagnosis is an addiction and bipolar disorder. If we treat only the addiction, then the bipolar disorder will likely impact our recovery and vice versa.

Stigma: A Stumbling Block to Treatment

There is plenty of stigma about addiction. Even in the year 2019, movies, the media, and social media often paint a very denigrating picture of people who struggle with addiction. However perhaps even more crippling is the stigma around mental illness. Even for people who don’t place immediate judgment when we tell them we have bipolar disorder, depression, or some other mental illness, there is little education about mental illness or how to help someone struggling with it. People just don’t know what to say or do to help.

Despite the fact that the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) reports that as many as one in five people suffers from a mental illness, there is still more fear than understanding amongst the general public. That changes every time we read or learn more about mental illness, and every time we are willing to speak up for ourselves and our loved ones and educate others. Bipolar disorder isn’t a mark of shame, it’s a serious medical condition that impacts “normal” people like you and me.

What is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder in which the person experiences periods of both mania and depression, or “highs” and “lows.” These periods can last from a few days to weeks, months or even years. There can also be periods of “normalcy.”

Studies still continue as to exactly what goes on in the brain to cause the chemical imbalance which impacts our mood and behavior so significantly. A simple version of what happens in the brain is that serotonin levels are not properly regulated, which then inhibits normal function. Much like diabetes is a disease where so much is impacted by the body’s inability to produce or regulate insulin, bipolar disorder is where normal brain function is impacted by the inability to regulate serotonin.

There are different types of bipolar disorder, based on types of manic and depressed episodes. Everyone is different, some people suffer from chronic and debilitating depression, with only short spells of normalcy or some level of mania. Some people hardly have any depression, others never have a true manic episode, but rather experience hypomania.

Hypomania is a period of time that can span from days to weeks in which the mood is elevated, there is less need for sleep, and these episodes are often filled with high productivity. However, there are often impulsive or risk-taking behaviors, especially spending or unusual sexual activity. However, some people are more irritable and angry when they have hypomania. A true manic episode is similar but more extreme, and often people exhibit a greater distance from reality and there is a higher risk of harm to self or others. For example, some people may think they can fly or do things that aren’t physically possible.

Depression is a little more well known and is more common within bipolar disorder. In fact, many patients are diagnosed with depression only, without realizing that the times that they felt a little too good were actually hypomanic episodes. This is a challenge because treatments for depression can actually worsen symptoms of bipolar disorder. Depression is more than just feeling sad, in fact, many people don’t feel anything at all. It is typically a period of time for more than a few days in which the person feels lethargic, tired, experiences less interest in things, and more. It is a physical condition, not just an emotional reaction to life events, even if some depression is brought on by outside triggers.

How Common is an Addiction and Bipolar Dual Diagnosis?

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), up to 50 percent of people with bipolar disorder will develop a substance use disorder in their lifetime. People with co-occurring bipolar and addiction have the additional challenges of being less likely to respond to treatment and suffering from increased bipolar symptoms, such as higher highs and lower lows. Frighteningly, those of us with co-occurring bipolar disorder and addiction show more instances of hospitalizations and suicide attempts as well.

The most frustrating part of dual diagnosis is that so many of the symptoms are overlapping, so it takes a trained professional to properly make this diagnosis and provide the appropriate treatment. Both substances and treatment can worsen both the bipolar disorder and the addiction, and one of the symptoms of bipolar disorder is denial, which makes it even harder to get help.

The good news is that there is a solution. For someone battling on both fronts, there are places who understand and can help with co-occurring addiction and bipolar disorder. Enlight has the experience and support needed to help. If you or your loved one believe that there might be more than just addiction going on, call us today at (805) 719-7954 to speak to one of our admissions experts.