Many people with Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) may also struggle with alcohol abuse. Estimates show 2-13% of the general population have SAD, making the health condition list among the most common disorders—only behind depression and alcoholism. It’s not a coincidence, then, that these disorders frequently occur together.
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Between SAD and alcoholism, which condition usually comes first? For a subject diagnosed with both disorders, there’s a relatively higher probability a SAD diagnosis preceded alcohol abuse.
Link Between Anxiety and Alcoholism
A considerable number of people start drinking as a means of dealing with social anxiety. But over time, subjects develop alcohol addiction, which becomes a growing problem in its own right. Alcoholism hurts personal relationships, affecting the way an individual interacts either at school or in the workplace, and may even result in the subject having issues with the law.
Apart from serving as a depressant, alcohol also plays the role of a sedative, with some people often using it to unwind. A level of relaxation sets in as a subject’s Blood Alcohol Count (BAC) rises, and a considerable number of people may opt to use this strategy to curb stress in their lives.
Even so, the use of alcohol as a means to mitigate anxiety is a tactic that often backfires. Based on the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), prolonged drinking is a probable cause of mental health issues. Substance-induced anxiety may arise in subjects’ with other anxiety disorders like GAD, and acquiring this new anxiety problem only exacerbates the impact of the initial disorder.
According to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America (ADAA), 20% of people struggling with social anxiety also deal with some form of alcohol-related dependency.
While alcohol may tentatively reduce anxiety momentarily, it can also aggravate anxiety concerns within a relatively short duration after consumption. Even moderate amounts of alcohol can have a considerable effect on anxiety capable of lasting for many hours.
Some studies show excessive consumption of alcohol can also result in the rewiring of the brain. Such concerns can further expose an individual to the development of anxiety issues. Aside from increasing an individual’s susceptibility for a traumatic event—often leading to post-traumatic stress health disorders—changes perhaps occurring in a subject’s brain may be sufficient to bring about a rise in their anxiety issues as well.
As earlier stated, alcohol abuse often gives rise to physical dependence on the substance. What’s more, the concern can bring about withdrawal symptoms once the alcohol leaves the subject’s system. Individuals may, after that, experience specific symptoms, including unusual sweating, shivering, nausea, and heart palpitation.
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Treatment Options for Co-Occurring Anxiety Disorders and Alcohol Abuse
Even though some individuals use alcohol as a strategy of dealing with anxiety, the adverse effects of this form of self-medication significantly outweigh any of the temporary affirmative relief a subject may experience.
ADAA specifies that treating a substance abuse concern does not necessarily eradicate a concurrent anxiety problem. Preferably, medics should treat both conditions in tandem. Assuming one of the two issues remains unresolved, the probability of a relapse of the other condition escalates.
If an individual exhibits symptoms of co-occurring disorders, primarily one disorder acts as a trigger for the other condition. For instance, anxiety is usually a stimulant for alcohol abuse.
As such, if you only address the alcohol concern, anxiety will remain to be a recurring problem for the individual. Furthermore, the prospects are considerably high in the subject of relapsing to alcohol abuse as a means of addressing the health problem.
It’s, therefore, vital to select a treatment plan that can cover both co-occurring disorders. Physicians have to apply caution when prescribing medications to resolve anxiety issues, especially in the use of benzodiazepines because these medications can be considered addictive.
Because the subjects may have a history of substance abuse, the likelihood of them abusing these benzodiazepine prescriptions increases. Physicians may, therefore, use medications with lower chances of abuse besides utilizing holistic treatment interventions that might also include close supervision.
Use of Therapy
For many people struggling with both alcoholism and anxiety disorders, therapy can prove to be an ideal treatment option. Physicians widely regard Cognitive Behavioral Therapy as an effective management program in addressing clinical cases of co-occurring alcoholism and anxiety problems. This treatment plan focuses on changing an individual’s thought patterns to alter the resulting behavioral patterns.
What Exactly Does All this Mean For You?
You must be aware of any comorbidity—meaning the presence of simultaneous chronic disorders. Such conditions apply to individuals dealing with both alcoholism and anxiety disorders. Treatment plans may also need to confirm the concurrence of multiple conditions and hence involve an integrated approach that broadly caters to recovery plans on all fronts.
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Do you struggle with both anxiety conditions and alcoholism? Our physicians and therapists at Mango Clinic can help you resolve the two issues you’re going through. Together we can design a treatment plan that will support you in overcoming the difficulties.