It is well documented that alcoholism and addiction are progressive diseases. However, the rate at which the disease takes over a person’s life often has to do with anxiety. Fear is experienced by everyone and is a normal, and healthy, feeling. However, fear can become a dominating feeling in someone’s life. Unfortunately, being in treatment can be scary. Therefore, our professional staff must recognize the difference between normal fear and the fear that represents increased anxiety or a general anxiety disorder. Common anxiety disorder symptoms are restlessness, irritability, difficulty sleeping, anger, and panic attacks. At Northbound, treatment for a dual diagnosis of anxiety and alcoholism/addiction is comprehensive, combining the correct medication with exercise, nutrition, and therapy.
No Side Effects
Perhaps the surest path to toning down the fear gauge is Step work. Step work combined with cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is very useful in anxiety disorder treatment. As a client attends daily meetings, and works the steps with their sponsor, CBT can be undertaken for those who need a little extra help. At Northbound, therapy targets specific anxieties and is customized for each client. The benefit of the 12 steps and CBT is that there are no side effects.
Medication for anxiety usually consists of low doses of a carefully chosen medication to compensate for chemical malfunctions in the brain. Medication under the direction of a psychiatrist can make Step work and therapy more effective because if someone is too anxious to talk, he or she won’t benefit from psychotherapy or counseling. All counseling is structured at NTS to support the all-important Step work. Clients learn to have rational responses to difficult situations and to change their thought patterns to address their cognitive distortions. Overall, this combination of treating the mood disorder and addiction to alcohol helps clients re-establish goals in their lives. Many sufferers of anxiety find that abstinence and sobriety alone help with their anxiety.
Triggers and Cravings
Regardless of the cause of the anxiety, a client’s thoughts about the disorder can become symptomatic themselves and interrupt recovery. A therapist explained: “One of my clients would get very fearful whenever he was around a large group of people. He explained the feeling as one of imminent danger, as if some stranger had a bomb in a backpack. He knew his fear was unreasonable, but it nonetheless triggered his craving for benzos. Now, he calls his sponsor when he has these feelings and he happily reports that recognizing how and why he is feeling a certain way kills the cravings.”
Negative thinking is a hallmark of anxious individuals and can interfere with their recovery. At Northbound Treatment Services we teach clients to recognize cognitive distortions and unhelpful thinking and replace it with a rational response. Overall, it is often necessary to help our clients look at the way they interact with the world and go about their daily activities. This is achieved through therapy, step work and a structured daily schedule.
It is important that clients do not have too much free time. As such, staying busy is very important. At Northbound Treatment Services, we stay busy with our clinical schedule, but also with exercise and activities. This improves self-esteem and social skills as well as eliminates the down time which can be dangerous for people in early recovery.
Family and Friends
At Northbound Treatment Services, families and friends play an active role in the treatment process. Through our Family Program and continuing education, families and friends of clients learn about the disease of addiction and common co-occurring disorders so they can be supportive and understanding. Education about the dual diagnosis of anxiety and addiction helps people find new ways to support and maintain a relationship with the addict or alcoholic suffering from an anxiety disorder.