Think about the biggest challenge you faced in your life. One where the odds were stacked against you, and your next move mattered. What emotions did you feel? Nervousness, doubt, fear, anxiety? Now, what if the stakes are life and death… Is the hair on the back of your neck starting to stand up? Are goosebumps creeping up your arms? No, this isn’t the game winning drive of a football game, or the final hand of poker. This is much more important. This is the decision to admit powerlessness over your addiction and to seek professional help.
This heightened sense of emotion is often experienced by men and women when they reach out and ask for help. Most of the time when people call Stonegate Center, they are nervous and overcome with anxiety – especially those who have never been to rehab. And, they should be. This is a scary time for those suffering. Who’s going to take care of the kids? What will my employer think?
However, anxiety does not discriminate. Not only does the addiction treatment process increase anxiety for the individual, who cannot seem to stop his/her destructive patterns of behavior, but it also affects family members as well. When addicts or family members realize extended residential treatment is needed, the anxiety can seem unabating. But don’t feel alone, we’re here to help.
What Does Anxiety Look Like?
Before diving into the deep intricacies of one’s addiction, sometimes we as clinicians need to assuage the overwhelming anxiety of potential clients. So, what are the symptoms of anxiety and how might they present?
- Excessive Worrying. One symptom of generalized anxiety is excessive worrying over a long period of time that cannot be controlled and starts to interfere with the normal activities of everyday life.
- Difficulty Sleeping. Another symptom of anxiety is the inability to get a proper night’s sleep. Adults with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) have trouble falling asleep, awake frequently during the night, and experience nightmares. This inability to sleep subsequently prompts chronic fatigue that one just can’t seem to shake.
- Physiological Changes. Anxiety does not only manifest itself mentally. Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) can also affect a person physically. For instance, anxiety can cause an increased heart rate, increased breathing rate, and muscle tension.
- Trouble Concentrating. Other symptoms include short-term memory issues and concentration problems. Those with anxiety typically complain of a foggy memory, uncharacteristic forgetfulness, and difficulty concentrating on simple tasks such as reading the newspaper or finishing a homework assignment.
- Panic Attacks. If the physiological responses reach an uncontrollable level, the person may experience a panic attack. In this scenario, the body’s biochemistry is altered as one’s bloodstream is flooded with biochemicals, promoting the body to perceive new situations as perceived threats – a response used as a means for self-protection. You may have heard this referred to as the fight-or-flight response, which is initiated as a response to stress.
What is Panic Disorder?
When someone feels an overwhelming sense of anxiety that brings about sudden anxiety attacks, you might have a panic disorder. So what does a panic disorder look like to the layperson?
Panic disorder is when the person not only experiences panic attacks but is extremely fearful of the panic attacks returning – so much so that their worry interferes with their everyday living. These panic attacks and a person’s fear of having them can become debilitating.
Other symptoms of anxiety and panic disorders might present as a simple phobia. An example of this is when a person has an intense and irrational fear of specific objects, such as spiders or snakes. This can appear as a paralyzing type of fear, in which Individuals will do everything possible to avoid facing the object of their fear. For example, an individual who experiences intense fear of an object such as a bridge, may go to any length to avoid driving on roads with bridges.
Anxiety and PTSD
Anxiety can also be seen in those who have had traumatic events in their lives and have not been able to process or recover from the effects of their past experiences even after a long time passes. This is known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Individuals with PTSD can experience a sense of overwhelming stress many years after the traumatic event, and this stress is heightened whenever they come face-to-face with similar situations. For instance, a person who is a victim of domestic violence and hasn’t therapeutically processed this scenario, might experience flashbacks, hypervigilance, and emotional numbing – especially during stressful situations.
Anxiety and Addiction Go Hand-to-Hand
One thing common in addiction is for a person to attempt to deal with their anxiety by introducing substances to reduce their feelings of anxiety. Although some anxiety is normal and present in life, those who choose to use alcohol or drugs to numb themselves from anxiety, do so without the awareness that their anxiety levels will only increase in the long run. While initially there are feelings of short-term relief, the grip of addiction only exacerbates anxiety levels and feelings of despair in the long-term.
Treatment should include components that can address the anxiety levels of all family members involved, and that’s what we aim to do at Stonegate Center. It’s important to note that there is no “one size fits all” solution for overcoming drug and alcohol abuse and the subsequent anxiety. Residential treatment must meet the needs of each person on a personal level.
One’s anxiety can be related to a variety of things and presents itself in unique ways for each person. Since anxiety is linked to thoughts, emotions, and behaviors, treating the condition can be challenging – but recovery is possible!
Addressing a Family’s Anxiety
Here, at Stonegate Center, our clinical team works diligently to address the underlying issues of addiction – anxiety included. To do so, we form a highly-individualized treatment plan that incorporates our client’s mind, body, and spiritual wellness and their personal treatment goals. But, we don’t stop there.
In order to prevent relapse and increase the probability of long-term sobriety, our staff also works alongside our client’s family members to help each person manage their anxiety in healthy, beneficial ways. Our ability to work with families in our two-part, intensive Family Program makes us extremely unique.
Treatment plans are tailored to meet the needs of each person as well as addressing fears, concerns, and maladaptive behaviors within one’s family. To do so, we employ the use of evidence-based treatment modalities like Cognitive Behavior Therapy and other methods can be used to address one’s thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.
As more and more healthy coping skills are practiced, those suffering from drug and alcohol addiction can learn to address his/her underlying anxiety without the use of substances. For family members, decreasing unhealthy levels of anxiety is imperative for them to promote an environment where healing can take the place and recovering addicts can use healthy coping skills instead of drugs or alcohol to reduce that anxiety.
By working with families, we begin to help each family member (e.g. siblings, spouse, extended family) understand the importance of each person’s viewpoint and create an opportunity for them to effectively communicate their feelings. Proper and effective communication is vital to an individual’s long-term sobriety. It helps increase the level of empathy individuals have for one another and opens the line for more thorough understanding.
The ability to identify and communicate one’s anxiety level is an important part of healthy coping skills and relational skills. Otherwise, anxiety is problematic if not managed properly, and this is especially true of families who have a member in active addiction. Although the focus of addiction treatment is on the affected individual, we cannot overlook the anxiety felt by family members.
This anxiety is real. If left unmanaged, it can create a toxic environment that increases the potential for relapse, or worse.
Overcome Your Anxiety Today at Stonegate Center
Often times, family members mistakenly believe the problem lies solely with the one suffering from drug and alcohol addiction. But, that line of thinking is so inherently misguided. When looking into family systems, it is usually evident that anxiety in one family member seems to spread to other family members. The misunderstandings of the disease of addiction by family members does complicate this and the atmosphere of the family groupthink creates a fear-based environment that appears to get worse and increases anxiety.
At Stonegate Center, we believe in the importance of finding the source of the problem, rather than solely addressing the symptoms. For a more all-encompassing approach, we incorporate family members into our therapeutic program. This helps us better identify the sources of anxiety or fear.
As for our family members, we strongly encourage you to attend our Family Program. Our two-part program is designed to address the anxiety present within the whole family system in intensive group therapy sessions.
In sum, anxiety seems to be everywhere today and within the culture around us. The staff at Stonegate Center recognizes this and are here to help. If you are in active addiction or have a family member suffering in silence, please call our Admissions Specialists at (817) 993-9733 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Together we can overcome your anxiety, tackle your addiction, and get you living a healthier, fuller life.
James holds a Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy from The King’s University and is dedicated to working with individuals who are suffering from addiction and working with their families on how to best support them in their new recovery lifestyle. James believes that the presence of a healthy family system can offer the best possible family environment to help a person in his/her recovery from addiction.