The most common mental health conditions in the United States are substance abuse and anxiety/phobia disorders. Often, these two types of disorders are co-occurring, also known as dual diagnosis. In fact, having a tendency toward phobias puts us at risk for substance abuse; conversely, substance abuse puts us at risk for developing phobias. This leads to a cycle of self-medication that can quickly spiral into full-blown addiction.
Certain phobias are more likely to lead to substance abuse. For example, those of us with social phobias may be over-eager to reach for a drink at a party, feeling “saved” by this social lubricant. With each successive drink, we feel more relaxed and outgoing, until we become the life of the party. We also might abuse benzodiazepines such as Xanax, Valium, or Ativan, which are often prescribed for anxiety disorders.
Other phobias, such as agoraphobia, or fear of open spaces, can also lead to substance abuse. Those of us who suffer from this disorder are extremely reclusive. The more we fear leaving our homes, the more we turn to drugs or alcohol to alleviate our stress and anxiety. Ironically, drugs and alcohol serve only to make us more reclusive, until our lives consist of “four walls and a bottle.”
On the flip side, many types of substance abuse can result in phobias. Drugs such as cocaine, meth, pot, MDMA, and alcohol all can cause brain damage over time and induce phobias, paranoia, and hallucinations.
The first step in breaking this cycle of dual disorders is to enter treatment. Detoxing under medical supervision at a treatment facility is typically recommended, in order to alleviate the symptoms of withdrawal and help prevent relapse. Medications such as antidepressants may be prescribed, under careful medical supervision, to treat our phobias. Therapy is another crucial treatment for co-occurring phobia/addiction disorders.
Your treatment center will devise a tailored plan for your recovery that may include individual and group therapy, medications, drug abuse counseling, and relapse prevention, among other treatments. Regardless of which disorder occurred first, both addiction and phobias can go into remission with continued treatment, allowing you to live a happy, productive, and drug-free life.
Hope exists in recovery. Design For Change offers a refuge for addicts seeking recovery in a long term residential program with a full continuum of care options. Grounded in the 12 step philosophy, our programs focus on creating change by taking action. Call us today for information on how we are changing lives, one step at a time: (877) 267-3646