You’ve seen it in all the movies. The hero narrowly escapes a really stressful situation and finally, when out of danger, pours himself a drink to calm his nerves.
The trouble is, this scenario happens outside the movies. People who are anxious often self medicate with alcohol or drugs. It gives them temporary relief from anxiety, but it doesn’t help uncover the cause of that anxiety. It just calms the symptoms. Over time, their brains develop a tolerance and more and more alcohol or drugs are required to keep them calm. In addition, substance abuse can contribute to anxiety.
If you are addicted to drugs or alcohol, your chances of also having anxiety are greater than the rest of the population. In other words, anxiety and substance abuse often go hand in hand.
When your body is threatened, or you perceive that it’s threatened, it goes into survival mode—the ancient flight or fight response. Instead of being chased by a saber tooth tiger, you may have to get into a claustrophobically small space. You may have to speak in front of a large audience. You may have to make small talk at a party. All these things and more can trigger a feeling of panic.
You physically respond with a faster heart rate and breathing. Adrenalin pumps through your body to give you extra strength. You may have chest pain, sweating, dizziness. You may literally shake with fear. You may feel like you can’t breathe. Most attacks like this last about 10 minutes or so. And when they are over, you feel like having a drink to numb your nerves. Before you know it, you’ve got two problems—anxiety disorder and substance abuse.
Treatment for Dual Disorders
Because both issues—anxiety and substance abuse—can be intertwined, it’s important to work with qualified counselors who understand the integrated nature of the problem. One of the most important aspects of becoming healthy is to wean yourself of drugs or alcohol while keeping panic to an absolute minimum. This can be a very frightening process, but it can be achieved with the help of a trained professional.