Albert Zingariello, LCSW, Clinical Director at All In Solutions Counseling Center.
3 Steps to Managing Anxiety
Dealing with anxiety is a huge component of what I teach my clients while they receive treatment for substance use disorders. Many clients use drugs and alcohol as a way to self-medicate their pre-existing anxiety, and others begin to experience anxiety as a result of the massive lifestyle changes that accompany getting sober.
Either way, when those feelings of anxiety come up, they can be a trigger for relapse. As a result, I believe it is really important to do everything possible to put my clients in a position to overcome that when it occurs.
First, I should mention that there are a lot of good non-narcotic medications that psychiatrists and physicians can prescribe clients when appropriate. When these medications aren’t available or aren’t appropriate, I teach my clients to address anxiety through three steps.
1. The first step is identification
A client needs to take some time to recognize how their anxiety manifests, how it affects them, and what kinds of things tend to bring it up.
2. The second step is about learning new skills
How to persevere through anxiety, healthy coping skills, and understanding the right and wrong ways to handle the emotion are all skills that need to be learned.
3. The third step is just practice
At first, they will practice applying these new skills while they are in treatment and can process it with a therapist, but eventually, they have to take these skills outside and practice them in real life. Ideally, they talk about the outcomes in continued therapy and modify the techniques to work for them.
Remember Why You Want to Recover
Undergoing substance abuse treatment can be a great source of anxiety for many people. It can cause existing anxiety to worsen as new medications are taken and seemingly daunting therapy sessions begin.
Whilst substance abuse treatment is widely beneficial, it varies in content for each patient, which means it isn’t always possible to predict what kinds of treatment will be successful. For some, addiction treatment can consist of inpatient care at a local residential facility. For others, outpatient care with the opportunity to remain at home during treatment.
It is how we learn to deal with anxiety surrounding substance abuse treatment that is important. Setting yourself reminders and thinking through your intentions for seeking treatment can help to eliminate these feelings. Try and ask yourself the following…
- Why did you choose to recover?
- What are your goals for recovery?
- Are you excited by the prospect recovery brings?
- Do you have a support network in place to help you?
Reminding yourself of why you chose to recover can be very helpful during times of anxiety in substance abuse treatment, as is maintaining a network of support from family or close friends. These are the people you will turn to during challenging times.
It is also important to remind yourself that challenging times during treatment will inevitably occur, but this doesn’t mean you are a failure. If a relapse occurs, it is often a sign that your needs are not being met, so treatment must be adjusted rather than a sign that you cannot recover.
If you are experiencing prolonged anxiety during substance abuse treatment, please contact your treatment provider, who will be able to offer you additional support.
Therapy and Medications Can Help
Individual or group treatment can be used to treat substance-induced anxiety disorder. Group therapy with other persons who have substance abuse issues can be very beneficial. Medicines for depression or anxiety may help you stop abusing substances in some circumstances.
Patients who are suffering from untreated mental illnesses may turn to substance abuse to relieve or self-medicate their symptoms. Alcohol and drugs alter the chemistry of the brain, which can lead to anxiety symptoms in people who have substance abuse problems.
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