Anxiety disorders are a cluster of mental disorders which are characterized by as the feelings of anxiety, worry and fear of certain future events. The common symptoms of anxiety disorders include heart palpitation and shakiness. The term anxiety covers four aspects of experiences that an individual may have: mental apprehension, physical tension, physical symptoms and dissociative anxiety. Some common forms of anxiety disorders are social anxiety disorder, specific phobias, generalized anxiety disorder and few more.

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One of the main reasons of the occurrence of anxiety disorder with the dual diagnosis of addiction is the self-medication or treatment with drugs to obtain temporary relief. But as already said earlier, the relief is only short lived which does long term damage to the mechanisms that actually help relieve the symptoms of anxiety. This cycle of self-medication and rebound anxiety digs a deeper and deeper hole for the addicted person making treatment and breaking this downward spiral harder and harder as time goes by.

The self-medicating behavior usually begins with little consumption of drugs or alcohol to acquire relief. After some time the brain develops tolerance from the drug and no longer feels the calm state with the same amount of drug intake. So naturally the individual increases the dosage of the drug slowly until it reaches to a dangerous level where the individual consumes drugs just to feel normal again. Although it is clear that alcohol’s acute effects can include attenuation of stress and anxiety responding, there is little evidence that this effect alone accounts for the progression to alcohol and drug dependence among those with anxiety disorders.

Individuals suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder consume alcohol or drugs to regulate their anxiety and calm themselves, but the use of such substances only aggravates the PTSD symptoms. Use of access alcohol or drugs can also cause recurrent panic attacks ultimately resulting in panic disorder which can be an easy source of relapse for individuals with addiction problems.

The treatment of the dual diagnosis of anxiety disorder with addiction involves side by side treatment of both the disorders at the same time with medication and psychotherapy.

By Samreen Masud
Clinical Psychologist

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