Substance abuse and mood disorders are closely linked for a variety of reasons. Many people believe that using substances is an effective way of feeling happier and calmer. People with severe anxiety may discover that alcohol or drugs give them short term relief and may resort to using them regularly. Often, people with anxiety are prescribed drugs like Xanax. They may like the calmness they feel when on this medication and may begin to take dosages higher than those recommended by their psychiatrist.

What is Anxiety?

There are many different kinds of anxiety disorders - obsessive compulsive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, social anxiety and panic disorder. Many of these are caused by severe chemical imbalances in the brain, something that alcohol and drugs alter further. Alcohol and drugs make anxiety disorders worse, rather than better, in the long run. In addition to feeling anxiety, a substance abuser with a dual diagnosis of addiction and anxiety, is likely to feel symptoms such as:

- Irritability

- Restlessness

- Paranoia

- Psychosis

- Physical complications like highly elevated heart rate and shortness of breath

What does it have to do with addiction?

While people with anxiety may use alcohol or drugs to calm themselves, and not ‘get high’, they may find excitement in a calm euphoria. Their addiction begins to develop as they find that they are unable to feel calm and happy without drugs, not realizing that the continued abuse of drugs and alcohol would render them unable to feel happy or calm at all. These positive emotions can only return once addicts enter recovery, where not only their addiction is addressed, but also its underlying issues.  

Another common form of anxiety is phobia - a disorder which is characterized by an extreme, irrational fear of an object or situation. Common examples of these are claustrophobia and agoraphobia. As alcohol is known to release inhibitions, people with phobias may find that they are more relaxed and less on-edge when they drink. Somebody with agoraphobia may actually have the courage to leave their house, when they know that they can consume drugs that consume their fear.

What hope does?

One of the risks in addiction treatment is the process of detox. Detoxification comes with many withdrawal symptoms, a very common one being panic attacks. When a person with anxiety goes through withdrawal, they are likely to have severe panic attacks with acute physical symptoms. This is why rehabilitation centres like Hope Trust monitor clients throughout the process of detoxification.

With anxiety, as with all dual disorders, patients are trapped in a vicious cycle. Their anxiety will lead them to consume drugs or alcohol; and their consumption of drugs and alcohol will cause them more anxiety. This is why patients must be treated in a highly specialized way with individual attention placed on them.

Hope Trust places emphasis on keeping our in-patient group small so we can ensure that patients with dual disorders, such as addiction and anxiety, receive specific treatments targeting their personal issues, with reference to their bio-psycho-social background. At Hope Trust, we aim to enable addicts to break free from their problems - whatever they may be - so they can live a happier, fuller and more content lives.