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How Anxiety May Put Some at Risk of Developing an Addiction

Healthy coping strategies for anxiety may prevent substance abuse. Anxiety! We all suffer from it on some level. Whether it is the distress of being stuck in traffic and late for an appointment or the tension experienced while watching your team compete in the finals of a championship game. These are examples of “everyday” anxieties that are part of the human condition, but what about anxiety that goes beyond the “everyday”? While the anxiety and frustration of the traffic jam is stressful, most people deal with it in a rational and accepting manner. Extreme anxiety situations – losing a job, a marital break-up – will, of course, involve a more intense response and many seek assistance or guidance in dealing with such extreme events. It is not considered to be abnormal in any way to have great difficulties in such a situation and there are plethora of organizations and medical treatments available and are socially acceptable. But what about those who are in the traffic jam and react in a manner that approximates the behavioural anxiety of those going through a divorce? This would be considered by most as being excessive – disproportionate anxiety. Many do, indeed, suffer from this kind of “disproportionate” anxiety and they are often unwilling or unable to seek professional help in dealing with it. This can often lead the suffering individual to seek out an individualised form of “treatment” – and that treatment more often than not, takes the form of alcohol abuse or drug addiction.

The results of anxiety manifest in a variety of ways – from manic behaviour to extreme lethargy. Coping with these debilitating behavioural traits becomes problematic and often increase the levels of anxiety. Alcohol, drugs, food; these are a few of the items that the individual will turn to, and possibly abuse, in order to cope with their stress and anxiety. When this occurs, the results are more crippling and, more often than not, exasperate the problem rather than ease the situation. Substance abuse gives an illusion of temporary satisfaction – it is a “surface” treatment that in no way tackles the medical or social causes of the anxiety. In most cases, once the “effects” of the abused substances wear off, the individual suffers an even greater anxiety, having done little to address the “root” of the problem. The temporary relief obtained through substance abuse blinds the individual regarding the “real” issue and often steers that individual away from other approaches that can have a lasting effect.

Nevertheless, once the anxiety is coupled with an addiction, both problems need to be addressed. There are a number of options available; from medications to SMART Recovery to rehabilitation centers. What is important is that the individual find the kind of treatment that is best suited to him or her. This treatment needs to address the addiction and find a means by which to reduce the anxiety. Alternatives to medicinal treatments include meditation, psychotherapy and a number of behavioural techniques. These behavioural techniques can often address both the anxiety and the addiction. They are a big part of rehab center programs and have met with great success. At Sobriety Home, a number of treatment programs are available that focus on an overall plan of recovery. These include behavioural therapy, cognitive therapy, psychodynamic therapy and a psycho – educational approach. There are also less traditional approaches offered such as human relations therapy, creative arts therapies and traditional native healing. All these approaches focus on an overall treatment that takes into account the diversity and complexity of the human condition and recognises that addiction involves an overabundance of variables that all contribute to the addiction and the ensuing recovery that the individual is seeking.

Ultimately, those suffering from “disproportionate” anxiety are better served by seeking professional treatment before turning to substance abuse for relief. Unfortunately, this is often not the sequence that plays out. The benefits of rehab centers that offer a program that incorporates behavioural treatments geared towards both the addiction and the anxiety are obvious. The goal in such programs is to achieve specific results that will benefit the individual in ways that will allow him or her to control their addiction and develop a lifestyle that will allow them to manage their anxiety and maintain functionality so that they can live a full and developed life.

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