Anxiety Disorder and Addiction: Signs, Symptoms and Rehab Treatment

Anxiety Disorder is a debilitating condition that can impact on every area of the sufferer’s life. Most of us will experience anxiety at some point and this is perfectly natural. Those with Anxiety Disorder experience it at crippling levels and on more or less a continual basis.

For those with an addiction problem, Anxiety Disorder is a common co-occurring illness. By continually altering the way that they feel through the means of substances or compulsive activities, they are causing chemical imbalances and alterations to the brains chemistry. This can lead to a worsening of any preexisting condition. The only time they feel respite from the disorder is when they reach oblivion through their particular addiction. Anxiety can perpetuate addiction and addiction can perpetuate anxiety. We therefore feel that it is vital to treat both conditions simultaneously in order to prevent a recurrence of either.

What Are the Symptoms of Anxiety Disorder?

For an individual that suffers with an anxiety disorder the symptoms can interfere with them completing the simplest of everyday tasks, such as going shopping, attending appointments or even looking after themselves. It can impact to such an extent that they rarely leave the comfort zone of their own home, becoming increasingly isolated from family, friends and life in general.

Anxiety Disorder is a progressive illness if left untreated. If you or a loved one are experiencing symptoms of Anxiety Disorder on a regular basis for 6 months or more, it could be that you require professional treatment to help you get well and recover.

Below are some of the common signs and symptoms of an Anxiety Disorder:

  • A constant feeling of dread
  • Rapid shallow breathing
  • Feeling numb
  • Disassociation
  • Pins and needles
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness or light-headedness
  • Hot flushes
  • Sweating
  • Poor concentration and attention span
  • Restlessness
  • Weight loss
  • Nervousness
  • Rapid heart beat
  • High blood pressure
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Panic attacks
  • Racing thoughts
  • Fearing the worst
  • Feeling on edge

Anxiety Disorder can also be linked to another disorder such as Depression or PTSD; in this instance treatment will be required for all conditions presenting.

Types of Anxiety Disorder

Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

Generalised Anxiety Disorder is the name given to the condition whereby individuals suffer from chronic feelings of anxiety without any particular cause or trigger. Individuals suffering with GAD constantly worry about various issues; when one issue is resolved, they will transfer their worry to the next. It is common for them to be plagued by obsessive and racing thought patterns that feel overwhelming. Their quality of their life is affected as they struggle to be present in the here and now and complete simple everyday tasks. Those with GAD worry excessively about things that others would not. They are constantly on edge and struggle to relax and sleep.

Panic Disorder

Panic Disorder is an extremely distressing condition that causes the sufferer to experience regular panic attacks. Panic attacks can be triggered by an event or for no apparent reason. Panic attacks are very intense and usually build to a peak over a period of time. During a panic attack the individual may fear they are going to die, something seriously bad is going to happen, or that they have something seriously wrong with them. They are likely to experience physical symptoms such as rapid heartbeat and breathing or holding their breath, shaking, nausea, upset stomach, dizziness and sweating. These physical symptoms are accompanied by intense feelings of fear, terror and nervousness. Panic attacks are so frightening that the individual may find themselves avoiding situations or events that they feel would trigger an attack. This can lead to them becoming extremely isolated and depressed. Those with Panic Disorder can experience the illness in varying degrees of severity; some may only experience a panic attack a couple of times a month, for others it can be a daily occurrence.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is a recognised mental health illness; it causes the individual to suffer from compulsive thought patterns and activities. Those with OCD may become obsessed with a particular thought that compels them to carry out a certain activity. The obsessive thoughts can cause feelings of fear and anxiety of which the individual has no control over. OCD sufferers often carry out specific activities that they feel compelled to do; they believe that by doing so it will relieve the unpleasant feelings and obsessive thoughts. For example, a person with OCD may obsessively think that they are carrying germs on their hands; this causes them to compulsively wash. They believe that by washing, the obsessive thought will be lifted, sometimes it is but usually on a very temporary basis. To not carry out the activity causes them to suffer extreme discomfort and distress. Another example is an individual who obsessively thinks something bad is about to happen and that only by carrying out a specific activity this will be prevented, such as checking a lock or switch a certain number of times. OCD is characterised by obsessive thought patterns and ritualistic behaviours.


A phobia is an irrational fear of something that poses absolutely no danger. Phobias cause feelings of fear and anxiety and even if there is no logic to the fear, the person affected has no control over their emotions. Even just a picture of the object may bring up feelings of panic and fear. Common examples of phobias are heights, spiders, snakes and choking. Like all illnesses the symptoms can vary in frequency and severity. Those suffering from a severe phobia may try to organise their life around avoiding the object of their fears. Sufferers can develop a phobia towards almost anything from a social phobia to vomit, to cotton wool. Individuals with a social phobia or fear of open spaces are likely to severely limit their life as they struggle to leave the house. This can have a devastating effect, as they become a recluse in their own home.

Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD)

As previously touched on, SAD can be a very self-limiting condition. The sufferer fears interacting with others and have an intense fear of what others may think of them. This is more than just shyness; they come to avoid situations or events where they are required to be sociable and present themselves or speak with other people.

Those suffering experience feelings of panic, discomfort and fear in social situations. They usually have very low self-confidence and obsess over what they have said or done and how others may perceive it.

Understanding Anxiety

The body has a natural response to anything that it perceived as life threatening, it is referred to as the “fight or flight” response. In a genuine life threatening situation this response can be life saving. Medically it is referred to as “hyper-arousal” or “acute stress response”. An example of where this response would be rational is when an individual is being attacked by another or by an animal.

Fight or flight is not just a psychological state, as it also manifests physically by flooding the individual’s body with naturally occurring chemicals and hormones. The individual becomes hyper vigilant and alert as their body prepares for physical exertion in the form of either a flight or a fight.

For someone that suffers with an Anxiety Disorder, the fight or flight response is triggered by thought processes, which they are unable to control. Physically there is no danger present, but the sufferer perceives that there is, or that there is going to be. Their heart rate will elevate and their breathing fastens in anticipation. They may also tremble, sweat, feel nauseous and dizzy. Self-calming will feel an impossible task as they struggle to apply logic to the way that they are feeling.

Anxiety Disorder can interfere with daily life; the sufferer may feel that they are continually on a roller coaster of emotions and that each day is a battle of survival. They are also at risk of self-medicating in order to try and reduce their symptoms. Self-medicating through alcohol and drugs only feeds the condition; they may find temporary relief for a short period but inevitably the symptoms return and can worsen.

Those that have an anxiety disorder may struggle to lead a normal and fulfilling life – their sleep, appetite, and social life can be seriously affected. When the condition is so severe that it is impacting on a daily basis, it is strongly recommended that professional help be sought.

Causes of Anxiety Disorder

There is no one singular cause of Anxiety Disorder and it is important to remember that it is an illness and that the sufferer is not at fault for having it. There are a number of reasons as to why an individual might be more predisposed to developing a form of this condition, including:

  • A family history of Anxiety Disorder
  • A traumatic experience
  • Everyday habits and lifestyle (working long hours, stress at home or work and not resting enough)
  • Poor diet (too much sugar or caffeine)
  • Overall physical and mental health
  • Side effects of medication being taken.
  • Abuse of alcohol and drugs

Treating Anxiety Successfully as a Co-occurring Disorder

At Primrose Lodge, we treat co-occurring anxiety disorder and its common manifestations using a combination of medication and Psychotherapy. We look at the root causes of the client’s illness and treat them accordingly using a number of proven and effective techniques. For those with an alcohol or drug dependency, once a medical detox has been completed, the symptoms of anxiety will diminish considerably or vanish altogether. Our clinical and medical team are very experienced and skilled in treating a variety of co-occurring illnesses, including anxiety disorder. We feel that it is imperative that all presenting conditions are treated simultaneously for the best chance of a full and permanent recovery. Medication is only used in the most severe cases, or on a short-term basis; our aim is to equip the individual with coping techniques and strategies so that they do not have to rely on medications or substances to alter the way that they feel.

Therapeutically, co-occurring anxiety disorder can be treated using a variety of holistic therapies. This would include CBT, DBT, Mindfulness, Psychotherapy, Counselling, and a fitness programme. When treating addictive disorders, it is important to treat the individual as a whole, and not just one singular aspect.

For more information on the treatments we offer, as well as advice on whether you could benefit from a programme of care from us, contact us today.

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Call Now 0203 553 9263

Call Now 0203 553 9263

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    Perry Hill
    Surrey, GU3 3RF
  • Tel. 0203 553 9263
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