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Dual-Diagnosis // Anxiety


Overview of Anxiety

More Americans suffer from anxiety disorders than any other type of mental illness.  According to The National Institute on Mental Health, over 18% of adults in the US experience some form of anxiety. (NIMN) Anxiety is an emotional state of mind that can create feelings of worry, intrusive thoughts, and increased heart rate, usually regarding an experience in the past, present, or future.  Unlike the normal reactions most people experience regarding stressful or dangerous situations, anxiety is characterized by persistent, often unfounded fears that can interfere with work, close relationships, and social activities. (AAC) Anxiety symptoms can be both mental and physical, and addressing anxiety and addiction requires a dual-diagnosis approach to treatment. 

Anxiety and Addiction

It is not uncommon for individuals suffering from anxiety to turn to drugs or alcohol to help elevate some of their symptoms.  If not correctly dealt with, anxiety can fuel a full-on substance use disorder (or SUD).  In Fact, individuals with anxiety are twice as likely to suffer from a SUD than the general population, according to The National Institution on Drug Abuse. (NIDA) The combination of anxiety and SUDs are commonly referred to as co-occurring disorders or comorbidity.  These types of disorders should be treated with a Dual-Diagnosis procedure.

How Do I Know If Anxiety Is a Symptom of Addiction or a Co-Occurring Disorder?

It is very difficult to find the root of many of our problems.  Figuring out the reason(s) for your anxiety is no different. 


It is prevalent that mental illnesses such as anxiety and substance use disorders go hand in hand. But this does not mean that one caused the other.   While it is difficult to decipher where our co-occurring disorders started, there are some theories, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, that may lead us in the right direction.

  1. Drug abuse can cause abusers to experience one or more symptoms of another mental illness. The increased risk of psychosis in some marijuana abusers has been offered as evidence for this possibility. 

  2. Mental illnesses can lead to drug abuse. Individuals with overt, mild, or even subclinical mental disorders may abuse drugs as a form of self-medication. 

  3. Both drug use disorders and other mental illnesses are caused by overlapping factors such as underlying brain deficits, genetic vulnerabilities, and/or early exposure to stress or trauma. 


All three scenarios probably contribute, in varying degrees, to how and whether specific comorbidities manifest themselves. (NIDA)  At LA Valley Recovery,  we offer an individualized Dual-Diagnosis treatment program to address your co-occurring disorder with the best possible options. Click here for more information on our Dual-Diagnosis treatment program.

Do I Need To Be Medicated To Treat My Anxiety?

No, not necessarily, but they could be a valuable option for immediate symptom relief. There are different forms of medication when it comes to treating anxiety disorders.  Traditionally, anti-anxiety drugs such as benzodiazepines are prescribed for short-term relief.  Newer options like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) can also help.  Anxiety medications can help ease your symptoms, but they are not suitable for everyone.  It is up to you to talk to your healthcare provider to decide what works best for you. While medication may cause short-term relief, there are side effects you should be aware of.


Benzodiazepines are the most commonly prescribed type of medication for anxiety.  Some of the most common drugs for anxiety are: 


  • Xanax (alprazolam)

  • Klonopin (clonazepam)

  • Valium (diazepam)

  • Ativan (lorazepam)


Benzodiazepines are effective in short-term dosages but can be physically addictive and are not recommended as a long-term solution for your anxiety. 


Common side effects of benzodiazepines include:

  • Drowsiness

  • Dizziness

  • Poor balance or coordination

  • Slurred speech

  • Trouble concentrating

SSRIs are anti-depression medication that is now commonly prescribed to help with anxiety disorders.  They are not as addictive as benzodiazepines, but it could take between 4-6 weeks to see the results of taking the medication.  Some of the most common SSRIs are:

  • Citalopram (Celexa)

  • Escitalopram (Lexapro)

  • Fluoxetine (Prozac)

  • Paroxetine (Paxil, Pexeva)

  • Sertraline (Zoloft)

Common side effects of SSRIs include:

  • Fatigue

  • Nausea

  • Agitation

  • Drowsiness

  • Weight gain

  • Diarrhea

Although physical dependence is not as quick to develop with antidepressants, withdrawal can still be an issue. If discontinued too quickly, antidepressant withdrawal can trigger symptoms such as extreme depression and fatigue, irritability, anxiety, flu-like symptoms, and insomnia. (helpguide)

  • Insomnia

  • Sexual dysfunction

  • Nervousness

  • Headaches

  • Dry mouth

  • Increased sweating

  • Memory problems

  • Confusion

  • Stomach upset

  • Headache

  • Blurred vision

Other Options For Anxiety Relief

While it can be beneficial to get prescribed medication for your anxiety, it is not the only option available.  There are other non-medical treatment options such as:

Exercise: Lifting weights, running, cycling, or even taking a daily walk have all been shown to provide great anti-anxiety benefits.  Be sure to take your health into factor before starting any strenuous activities for your safety.  


Therapy: Talking to a professional about your anxiety can help you conquer your fears, build new–healthy habits, and become a better, more functional person.


Yoga and Meditation: Yoga goes hand in hand with meditation.  Practicing yoga and meditation allows you to look inwards and brings a focus onto your breathing.  Often utilizing deep breathing or yogic breathing techniques,  you find your mind a blank slate.  The creative body poses and stretches, in combination with focusing on your breath, allows you to ‘get away’ or ‘forget’ the outside world for a while.  The overall purpose of practicing yoga and meditation is to allow your mind to become empty of the constant distraction-driven society we live in today.  The medical benefits of yoga and meditation are not 100% guaranteed and depend wholly on the participant.

In The End

Whether you tackle your anxiety by seeking professional, medically assisted treatment, such as the Dual-Diagnosis treatment program we offer here at LA Valley Recovery, or you go your unique route, know that you are not your anxiety.  You can overcome it, it will take a lot of willpower and help from others.  But, in the end, your anxiety should never completely control your life.  If you think you are suffering from a co-occurring disorder involving anxiety and a substance abuse, contact us today for a confidential callback, so we can discuss what treatment options are best for you.


We are here for you

LA Valley Recovery is standing by 24 hours a day, 7 days a week ready to help find the best treatment options for you.

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