Most all forms of alcohol and drug abuse breed feelings of anxiety when withdrawal effects start to take shape. Since this interrelationship between anxiety and substance abuse occurs early on, it no doubt plays a role in shaping substance-induced anxiety disorders.
According to the U. S. National Library of Medicine, both anxiety and substance abuse disorders rank as the most prevalent forms of mental illness. For people with long histories of substance abuse, the risk of developing substance induced anxiety disorder increases considerably.
In effect, people affected by substance induced anxiety disorder battle two sets of symptoms, which can ultimately complicate the treatment process. Consequently, the co-occurrence of these two conditions makes it especially difficult for a person to progress in the recovery process.
Treatment help for substance induced anxiety disorders uses both medication- and psychotherapy-based interventions based on each person’s individual treatment needs. As symptoms of anxiety and substance abuse tend to feed off one other, an integrated treatment approach offers the best chance of a successful recovery.
Substance Induced Anxiety Disorder: A Vicious Cycle of Symptoms
Alcohol and drug addictions exist within a self-perpetuating cycle of effects made up of “high” experiences and withdrawal effects, both of which drive continued drug use. Before long, addicts come to rely on a drug’s effects to cope with everyday life, which further aggravates drug-using behaviors.
During a withdrawal episode, symptoms of anxiety develop out of the brain chemical imbalances that result from drug use. Anxiety symptoms also feed into a person’s psychological dependency in terms of him or her “needing” the drug to cope with daily life. In effect, the drug abuse cycle and anxiety symptoms work together to drive compulsive drug-using behaviors.
People struggling with substance induced anxiety disorder use addictive substances as a means for self-medicating anxiety symptoms. As anxiety becomes a powerful trigger for drug-using behaviors, treating this aspect of the disorder is essential to getting a handle on addiction-based behaviors.
Behavioral treatments help a person develop strategies for coping with anxiety symptoms, which in turn works to break the “self-medication” cycle, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information. Behavioral therapies commonly used include:
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy – focuses on replacing destructive thinking patterns and behaviors with healthy coping strategies
- Dialectical Behavior Therapy – uses cognitive-behavioral techniques to help a person lessen the intensity of symptoms experienced
- Exposure Therapy – works to extinguish feelings of anxiety by gradually exposing a person to anxiety-producing scenarios
While a range of medications exist to treat anxiety, using medication treatments may actually reinforce the self-medicating tendencies that drive substance-induced anxiety disorders. For this reason, behavioral therapy interventions become the primary means for treating this condition.
In cases of chronic addiction involving alcohol or opiates, medication-assisted therapies may be used to relieve the aftereffects of chronic drug use, particularly withdrawal and drug craving effects. Medications used for this purpose include:
Ultimately, the need for medication-assisted therapies depends on the severity of the addiction rather than the severity of anxiety symptoms. In some cases, the therapeutic effects gained from medication-assisted treatments may actually help to relieve anxiety symptoms.