Anxiety Treatment at Absolute Awakenings

Absolute Awakenings offers specialized treatment programs for patients suffering from all types of anxiety disorders.

Although unpleasant, anxiety is a normal, natural emotion that’s a necessary part of the human experience. Without it, people would not have the ability to detect danger or respond to it. However, when anxiety is persistent, excessive, or recurring, it may be cause for concern. Severe anxiousness that doesn’t have an identifiable cause is often a sign of a treatable condition. This is certainly true when anxiety disrupts a person’s life by making it difficult to focus, get things done, enjoy good sleep hygiene, or foster strong social bonds with others. Sadly, as many as 20 percent of all adults are affected by anxiety each year.

Anxiety and substance use disorders frequently go hand in hand. When people feel anxious and overwhelmed all the time, they often use drugs or alcohol as a means of relief. In addiction treatment, dealing with both substance use disorder and a person’s underlying anxiety disorder is essential for ensuring a successful recovery. When anxiety disorders are properly diagnosed and treated, there is no need to continue self-medicating in unhealthy ways.

At Absolute Awakenings, we offer a vast range of medical and therapeutic services as part of our dual diagnosis treatment. Whether our clients have been living with general anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, or obsessive compulsive disorder, we can provide effective and needs-specific treatment plans. With our help, our patients with anxiety disorders can build solid, stable foundations for successful addiction recovery.

Types of Anxiety Disorders

There are five recognized types of anxiety disorders that a person can be diagnosed with. These are:

  • General anxiety disorder (GAD)
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Social anxiety disorder
  • Panic disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

Although all five share excessive or chronic anxiety as a common denominator, each condition is distinctly different. Every anxiety disorder has its own diagnostic criteria, and each one also requires specific treatment types.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Characterized by persistent and unrealistic feelings of worry, general anxiety disorder (GAD) causes people to feel anxiety that’s out of proportion to its cause. In addition to worrying excessively about minor things, people with GAD may deal with anxiousness over nothing at all. With no discernible reason for their fear, these individuals often have no reliable way of making themselves feel better. With GAD, many people have a hard time concentrating, completing basic tasks, caring for themselves, and maintaining strong social bonds. They can also struggle with insomnia and restlessness.

Panic Disorder

Panic disorder causes sudden attacks of intense anxiety that affect a person’s mental, emotional, and physical well-being. During panic attacks, many people experience shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, abdominal distress, light-headedness, chest pains, and heart palpitations. Panic attacks can occur at any time, even while driving, operating heavy machinery, or caring for others. Much like (GAD), the extreme feelings of worry that people feel during panic attacks may not have an identifiable cause.

Social Phobia or Social Anxiety

A person with a social anxiety disorder or social phobia often deals with intense and irrational fear during everyday social interactions. People with social phobia frequently contend with excessive self-consciousness and embarrassment, and they’re often worried about offending others or being judged by them. Untreated social anxiety disorder can make it difficult to perform well at work or school, or to even maintain traditional employment. People with untreated social anxiety have a hard time forging and maintaining relationships, and they may spend long stretches of time in isolation.

Risk Factors for Anxiety

Although many people turn to drugs or alcohol when self-treating undiagnosed and unmanaged anxiety disorders, substance abuse can actually be a catalyst for these illnesses. In fact, anxiety is a known long-term side effect of many forms of substance abuse. It is also a common, post-acute withdrawal symptom for those in addiction recovery. Each of the five types of anxiety disorder has its own unique risk factors. However, general risk factors for anxiety include:

  • Having immediate family members with anxiety disorders or other mental health conditions
  • Excessive amounts of unmanaged stress
  • Low tolerance for physical or emotional distress
  • Poor coping skills
  • Insufficient social support
  • Trauma

Symptoms of Anxiety Disorders

The symptoms of anxiety disorders vary greatly across all anxiety types. Whereas people with PTSD are plagued by intrusive thoughts and flashbacks of traumatic events, people with OCD have one or more obsessions and must compulsively repeat disruptive rituals that acknowledge these obsessions. These rituals prevent them from living normal lives and are deemed necessary for keeping their anxiety at bay.

While both GAD and panic disorder are characterized by unjustified feelings of anxiousness, people with GAD feel anxious nearly all of the time, and people with panic disorder are flooded with short-lasting but intense feelings of anxiety suddenly. Social phobia or social anxiety is often only experienced in social settings or when people are expected to socially engage with others. Several symptoms of GAD that are common among nearly all anxiety disorders include:

  • Insomnia and other sleep difficulties
  • Frequent stress headaches
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Racing and unwanted thoughts

How Is Anxiety Diagnosed?

Diagnosis for anxiety disorders often starts with a full medical and psychological assessment. Blood tests and urinalysis are often performed to rule out thyroid problems and other medical issues that might be responsible for a person’s symptoms. When no medical causes for extreme or chronic anxiety are identified, psychological evaluations are used to measure and assess a person’s symptoms to identify the determined anxiety type, its possible underlying cause, and the best manner of treatment. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) often requires that several core symptoms of a disorder be present for diagnosis and that these symptoms exist for a specified amount of time. Accurate diagnosis is essential for ensuring effective treatment.

How Is Anxiety Typically Treated?

Anxiety is typically treated with a combination of medications (as needed), cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, other forms of psychotherapy, stress management counseling, and targeted lifestyle changes. Taking a multi-pronged approach to anxiety treatment gives patients more ways to manage their mental health and more tools for mitigating the challenges of having co-occurring disorders in addiction recovery.

Psychotherapy

Also known as talk therapy, psychotherapy represents a diverse range of therapy types that are geared towards:

  • Changing negative thought patterns
  • Teaching healthy coping strategies
  • Helping people confront repressed or challenging emotions
  • Building self-esteem and self-confidence
  • Changing self-harming or otherwise unhealthy behaviors

Psychotherapy can be performed in a group setting or on a one-on-one basis.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can reduce the symptoms of many anxiety and depression disorders. CBT can include exposure therapy, the use of thought records and journaling for self-discovery and stress management, stress reduction and relaxation techniques, and more.

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy

Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) is a form of cognitive behavioral therapy that functions in many of the same ways and uses many of the same techniques. However, DBT additionally seeks to honor and validate the feelings and experiences that contribute to specific behaviors, emotions, and reactions. DBT teaches self-soothing techniques, distraction techniques, and strategies for improving stressful situations.

Medications

Many people with anxiety disorders are given fast-acting benzodiazepine (benzo) drugs that provide near-instant feelings of calmness and euphoria. Benzodiazepine prescriptions are often issued in emergency rooms or in medical settings with the recommendation for seeking further mental health treatment and long-term treatment strategies. However, benzos do not offer a sustainable way to treat anxiety disorders over the long term. They are habit-forming, highly addictive, and likely to cause long-term and even potentially permanent side effects when abused. 

In dual diagnosis treatment, benzodiazepine drugs are not commonly prescribed. Instead, patients are given medications that are not addicting and can safely be used in an ongoing fashion. These include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) that normalize the balance of serotonin in the brain. They also include serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs). Medications commonly issued for the long-term treatment of anxiety include:

  • Vistaril
  • Catapres
  • Inderal
  • Neurontin
  • Lexapro
  • Zoloft

Treatment for Anxiety at Absolute Awakenings

At Absolute Awakenings, we treat anxiety disorders and other co-occurring disorders by taking an individualized and multi-pronged approach. In addition to medical treatment, our patients have access to multiple psychotherapy types, stress management workshops, goal-setting activities, and life-planning support. We aim to give our clients all of the skills and tools that they need for successfully managing their mental health and avoiding relapse in addiction recovery.

Call Today to Get Started

If you’re ready to find a safe, sustainable way to treat your anxiety and are tired of using drugs or alcohol for limited, short-term relief, we’re here to help. Call us now to find out more about our programs or to start the admissions process.

Clinically Reviewed By: Candace Kotkin De Carvalho

Passionate about providing individualized treatment for clients of all backgrounds, Candace brings nearly a decade of hands-on experience to her role as the Clinical Director, having recently led the Alternative Recovery and Wellness program at Advanced Health & Education in Eatontown. A Certified Clinical Trauma Professional, a Licensed Clinical Alcohol and Drug Counselor, a Licensed Social Worker, a Certified Clinical Supervisor, and a Registered Yoga Teacher, Candace brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to the organization.

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