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The Efficacy of Anxiety Treatment While Treating Addiction

The high rate of comorbidity between anxiety and addiction calls for a comprehensive approach that can identify and evaluate both. Here we explain how anxiety is treated and how effective this treatment can be when treating addiction. At the end of the page we invite your questions, comments and experiences with anxiety and addiction treatment.

What Is Anxiety Treatment?

All of us worry about health, money, or family problems at one time or another. But people with GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder) are extremely worried about these and many other things, even when there is little or no reason to worry. They may be very anxious just about getting through the day. With proper treatment, many people with anxiety disorders can lead normal, fulfilling lives.
If your doctor thinks you may have an anxiety disorder, the next step is usually seeing a mental health professional. It is advisable to seek help from professionals who have particular expertise in diagnosing and treating anxiety. Certain kinds of cognitive and behavioral therapies and certain medications have been found to be especially helpful for lessening anxiety.

What Is Anxiety Treatment Like?

In general, anxiety disorders are treated with medication, specific types of psychotherapy, or with a combination of both treatment approaches. Treatment choices depend on the type of disorder, the person’s preference, and the expertise of the clinician.

People with anxiety disorders who have already received treatment should inform their clinician about any course of previous treatment in detail. If you received medication, you should tell your doctor what medication was used, what was the dosage at the beginning of treatment, whether the dosage was increased or decreased while you were under treatment, what side effects occurred, and whether the treatment helped you become less anxious or not. If you received psychotherapy, you should describe the type of therapy, how often you attended sessions, and whether the therapy was useful or effective in reducing your anxiety.

Medication does not necessarily cure anxiety disorders, but it often reduces the symptoms. The principal medications used for anxiety disorders are antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs, and beta-blockers. Be aware that some medications are effective only if they are taken regularly and that symptoms may recur if the medication is stopped.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can be useful in treating anxiety disorders. It can help people change the habitual thinking patterns that support their fears and change the way they react to anxiety-provoking situations. For example, CBT can help people with panic disorder learn that their panic attacks are not really heart attacks, and help people with social phobia learn how to overcome the belief that others are always watching and judging them. When people are ready to confront their fears, they are shown how to use exposure techniques to desensitize themselves to situations that trigger their anxieties.

CBT may be conducted individually or with a group of people who have similar problems. Group therapy is particularly effective for social phobia. Often “homework” is assigned for participants to complete between sessions. If a disorder recurs at a later date, the same therapy can be used to treat it successfully a second time.

Does Anxiety Treatment Work To Treat Addiction?

Several behavioral therapies have shown promise for treating comorbid conditions. These approaches can be tailored to patients according to age, specific drug abused, and other factors. Sometimes, a physical evaluation is advisable to determine whether a person’s anxiety is associated with a physical illness. If anxiety is diagnosed, the pattern of co-occurring symptoms should be identified, as well as any coexisting conditions, such as depression or substance abuse.

IMPORTANT NOTE HERE: Sometimes alcoholism, depression, or other coexisting conditions have such a strong effect on the individual that treating the anxiety should wait until the coexisting conditions are brought under control.

How Effective Is Anxiety Treatment For Addiction?

CBT has received the greatest amount of empirical support for the psychological treatment of anxiety disorders. To be effective, therapy must be directed at the person’s specific anxieties and must be tailored to his or her needs. A typical “side effect” is temporary discomfort involved with thinking about confronting feared situations.

Stress management techniques and meditation can help people with anxiety disorders calm themselves and may enhance the effects of therapy. There is preliminary evidence that aerobic exercise may have a calming effect. Since caffeine, certain illicit drugs, and even some over-the-counter cold medications can aggravate the symptoms of anxiety disorders, avoiding them should be considered. Check with your physician or pharmacist before taking any additional medications.

What Is The Outcome Of Anxiety Treatment For Addiction?

If we take into account the mutual maintenance pattern between co-occuring anxiety and substance abuse disorders, it is not surprising that both conditions impact each other’s course of treatment and treatment outcome. But, considering that anxiety disorders cannot be “cured”, a complete resolution of symptoms and absolute relapse prevention are not expected outcomes due to the following factors:

• Lingering symptoms
• Vulnerability to normal anxiety
• Stress-related intensification of symptoms
• Stress-related recurring anxiety
• Unresolved childhood attachment issues
• Unresolved childhood and adult existential grief issues

However, maintaining a functional recovery is an achievable goal. Especially since all of the above mentioned factors are directly addressed through CBT, which increases the chances of a successful recovery and improves long-term outcomes.

What Are The Benefits Of Anxiety Treatment For Addiction?

Dual diagnosis treatment helps people deal with the challenges of co-occuring disorders such as addiction and anxiety. It’s important to seek professional help since emotional instability can accelerate and is exasperated by substance abuse, allowing the vicious cycle to repeat itself. These are the goals and benefits of engaging in specialized treatment:

• Get a better understanding of how these two conditions are linked
• Deal with both, anxiety and addiction at the same time
• Effectively stop the addiction by managing the anxiety
• Prevent relapse by learning how to deal with fear, stress and grief in daily life
• Manage or cope with the anxiety associated with substance abuse cravings
• Learning healthy ways to cope with anxiety symptoms without the use of substances
• Acquire a state of inner calm and balance to help focus on the rehabilitation process

Anxiety Treatment And The Treatment Of Addiction

There are a variety of treatment options available but there are no one-size-fits all options when it comes to successfully treating addiction challenges and co-occurring anxiety issues. Some therapies have proven more effective for adolescents, while others have shown greater effectiveness for adults; some are designed for families and groups, others for individuals.

Effective medications exist for treating opioid, alcohol, and nicotine addictions and for alleviating the symptoms of many other mental disorders, yet most have not been well studied in comorbid populations. However, some medications may have a benefit and treat multiple problems. For example, evidence suggests that bupropion (trade names: Wellbutrin, Zyban), approved for treating depression and nicotine dependence, might also help reduce craving and use of the drug methamphetamine. More research is needed, however, to better understand how these medications work, particularly when combined in patients with comorbidities.

The Efficacy Of Anxiety Treatment While Treating Addiction Questions

Do you still have questions concerning anxiety and addiction treatment? Ask us anything and we will try to get back to you personally and promptly.

Reference Sources

NIH: Anxiety Disorders
NCBI: Current Diagnosis and Treatment of Anxiety Disorders
Women’s Health: Anxiety disorders fact sheet
NIH: Comorbidity: Addiction and Other Mental Disorders

By Lee Weber