As strange as it is to think about it, anxiety serves a purpose. When we’re confronted by danger (such as a saber-toothed tiger), our brains would release adrenaline and cortisol. These stress hormones help our hearts pound faster and our blood pressure to increase as we get ready to fight the tiger — or run away from it. (Hence the term “fight or flight.) While we’re rarely confronted with saber-toothed tigers these days, the fight or flight impulse can still serve us well in moments of legitimate crisis or danger.
However, many stressful situations — such as traffic or a work deadline — can elicit the same fight or flight response, even though there’s nothing to battle or flee. When this response takes over and persists, it can become an anxiety disorder.
It is not at all uncommon for individuals suffering from anxiety to rely on substances to help them deal with the challenges they face every day. By self-medicating with drugs or alcohol, it’s possible to achieve an artificial sense of calm and normality — at least for the short term. However, this strategy doesn’t work for long.
Drugs and alcohol create anxiety as they wear off and withdrawal symptoms begin to set in. As your reliance on those substances progresses, so do the withdrawal symptoms — including a powerful sense of anxiety. In addition, the sense of shame and isolation that often accompanies active addiction can become its own source of anxiety. And so you require more substances to blunt those uncomfortable feelings. While your intentions may have been understandable, self-medication of anxiety almost always results in a vicious cycle. Fortunately, there are much more effective ways of treating anxiety that doesn’t involve drugs or alcohol.
If you suffer from an anxiety disorder, you’re likely familiar with its many physical signs. Some of the most noticeable symptoms include:
The emotional signs of anxiety disorders are a bit more subtle. For example, you may experience a consistent sense of fear for months at a time, and tried (but failed) to address it. You might also have difficulty socializing, managing relationships, and maintaining your work or school. And, like many, you may have come to rely on substances or unhealthy behaviors as a way of dealing with the symptoms of anxiety.
Fortunately, anxiety has been well-studied, and there are many effective ways to treat anxiety and substance abuse that occur together.
Harbor Village begins by helping you detox from addictive substances. Our medical staff makes sure you’re safe and comfortable, and that any withdrawal symptoms are managed with medication. Then, once you’re stable and ready to undergo the real work of treatment, we’ll work to diagnose and treat any co-occurring mental health conditions like anxiety, trauma and PTSD.
Harbor Village provides a variety of effective therapy techniques for anxiety, including cognitive behavioral therapy, trauma therapy, music therapy and art therapy. We also have a wellness curriculum, including yoga and meditation, where you’ll learn how to manage anxiety without needing substances. And along the way, you’ll meet new friends who understand what it’s like — because they’ve been there, too.
Anxiety and addiction feed one another, but we can help you break the cycle. With substance abuse rehab, Harbor Village can treat your addiction and co-occurring anxiety disorder, so you can find the peace and healing you deserve.