How to Recognize an Anxiety Disorder
Did you know anxiety isn’t always a harmful thing? Anxiety is the normal reaction to stressful, dangerous, or unfamiliar situations It helps prepare you for unknown situations by staying alert and aware. A good way to think of it is normal anxiety helps regulate the body’s natural “flight or fight” response.
However, an anxiety disorder can be a different beast. People diagnosed with anxiety disorder experience higher levels than what is considered healthy. The level of anxiety experienced by people with this disorder is often debilitating and interferes with the person’s ability to lead a normal life.
Anxiety disorder can interfere with day-to-day activities and interpersonal relationships. Anxiety manifests as a constant but irrational worry or fear. Unfortunately, when substance abuse is added to the mix, it only elevates the detrimental physical and psychological effects of anxiety. Some of the key indicators of anxiety are:
- Uncontrollable, irrational feelings of worry and fear – that recur for several months
- An increased heart rate
- Trouble concentrating and low energy
- A decline in social relationships, job performance, social activities, or overall satisfaction with life
- The tendency to avoid things that trigger anxiety
- Substance misuse, self-medication, or other compulsive behaviors such as overeating as a way of managing anxiety symptoms
Did you know there are also multiple types of anxiety? Anxiety encompasses four different categories including panic disorders, generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, social anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
The most common anxiety disorder is Generalized Anxiety Disorder, which impacts about 6% of the population. The name speaks for itself, people suffering from this form of anxiety experience chronic stress when dealing with day-to-day situations. Anxious people are often trapped in an invisible war that makes it easy to want to self-medicate with drugs like benzos.
What Are Benzos?
Benzodiazepines, or benzos, are a form of anxiety treatment. Benzos are a class of prescriptions that help people with anxiety, calm their symptoms. Alprazolam commonly known as Xanax is one type of benzo that was created to manage anxiety.
Other popular benzos Valium, and Klonopin. According to DrugAbuse.gov, “between 1996 and 2013, the number of adults who filled a benzodiazepine prescription increased by 67%, from 8.1 million to 13.5 million.”
Why is this important? Well, prescription drug abuse is on the rise. Just because a drug is medically available does not mean it is not dangerous.
The reason benzos like Xanax may not always be the best method for coping with stress and anxiety is that you can form a dependence on them. According to the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) some of the side effects of benzo misuse include:
- Vivid or disturbing dreams
- A potentially fatal overdose. Signs may include: shallow respiration, clammy skin, dilated pupils, weak and rapid pulse, or coma
When drugs like Xanax are misused, they can do more harm than good. Misusing Xanax may look like taking them when you don’t have a prescription, taking more than the listed serving size, or using them for recreational purposes.
If you are misusing substances, understand that there is no need to feel ashamed or embarrassed. Far too often, the link between substance abuse and disorders like anxiety is not well known.
You may be using benzos as a form of escape from your symptoms, and if so it helps to understand why that is an urge in the first place.
How Anxiety is Linked to Substance Abuse
Typically, substance abuse disorder and anxiety disorder happen independently of each other. The problem is juggling both can be tremendously difficult and dangerous.
A person with anxiety may use alcohol or drugs like Xanax to cope with their symptoms. This can lead to a variety of short and long-term consequences for the individual.
Once a dependence on benzos is formed, those suffering from anxiety may face withdrawal symptoms when they attempt to stop. This is because of the intense effects drug abuse has on the brain.
Over time, the brain requires more and more of the drug to get the original effect. If you abuse benzos these withdrawal symptoms may include restlessness, irritability, insomnia, muscle tension, weakness, aches and pains, blurred vision, and a racing heart.
Don’t these symptoms sound familiar? Withdrawal symptoms from benzos mimic a lot of the symptoms of anxiety. It is easy to see why this creates a dangerous cycle that makes coping with stress and anxiety solely through drugs a risky option.
Another shocking fact? People with an anxiety disorder are two to three times more likely to develop a substance disorder compared to the general population.
Many who fall victim to this occurrence also fail to realize that substance abuse can make their symptoms worse. Unfortunately, while looking for relief, many just end up being caught in a vicious cycle of using one bad habit to “fix” the other.
On a biochemical level, both anxiety and addiction are linked to low levels of serotonin. This is why finding a Xanax substitute is so important if you know your drug use is getting out of hand.
Finding a Healthy Xanax SubstituteQuitting does not happen in a vacuum. If you do not replace one habit with another, it will be easier to backslide into the habit you intended to quit. While this principle is easier said than done when it comes to drug use, it is worth it in the long run. So, what makes a good Xanax substitute? Well, the main priority is finding healthier options. You cannot focus on coping with stress and anxiety if you are doing things that make symptoms worse. Instead, you may want to opt for activities like yoga, exercise, or breathwork to help you relieve stress. According to The Centers for Disease Control (CDC), other ways to manage stress include: Take care of yourself: Eat healthy and well-balanced meals, get plenty of sleep Give yourself a break if you feel stressed out Talk to others. Share your problems and how you are feeling and coping with a parent, friend, counselor, doctor, or community leader. Take a break. If news events are stressful, take a break from listening to or watching the news. Recognize when you need more help. If problems continue or you are thinking about suicide, talk to a psychologist, social worker, or professional counselor. A common theme in anxiety management is putting yourself first and being vulnerable. If you tend to isolate yourself the people around you may not even realize that you need help. Diseases like addiction and anxiety are community problems. They impact you and everyone around you and you owe it to yourself to ask for help. Make relaxation a part of your routine and find fun ways to manage the stress that does not rely on benzo or alcohol use. Most importantly, know that treatment is the best option if the struggle gets to be too much.
Treatment of AnxietyIf you are tired of substance abuse and mental illness getting in the way of you living a happy, fulfilling life then it’s time to begin the journey toward recovery. Research has found that it is best to treat disorders like substance abuse and anxiety simultaneously. This approach is the best way to lessen the chance of relapse and ensure long-term recovery. Along with lifestyle changes and support groups, there are so many great treatment options for anxiety under the umbrella of psychotherapy.
What is Psychotherapy?Psychotherapy is an anxiety treatment option that has long-term benefits. It is a method of treating anxiety by getting to the root psychological causes which are often linked to thought and behavior. Psychotherapy helps you to learn healthier coping skills that you can apply to anxiety and a variety of life’s challenges. Psychotherapy provides a safe space for you to discuss your mental state with professionals like psychiatrists, psychologists, or other mental health providers One form of psychotherapy is particularly beneficial to treating anxiety and that is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT).
What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?CBT is great because it is patient-focused. This form of psychotherapy is centered on examining your thoughts and feelings. Through CBT you can learn to identify what it is that triggers your anxiety and you will learn healthy ways to deal with those triggers. What anxiety so often does is create a completely inaccurate reality. You may be someone that overthinks things or feels judged in social situations, the great thing about CBT is that the therapist helps uncover the lies anxiety has led you to believe. In therapy, you learn new techniques for responding to anxiety-inducing situations, and as you are constantly exposed, those things do not trigger you like they used to. Plus, CBT provides long-term benefits. It is arguably the best alternative to Xanax and other medications.