Anxiety Disorder

What Is an Anxiety Disorder and How Is It Treated?

Anxiety disorders are relatively common in the United States and exist on a spectrum from mild to severe. According to the National Institute of Mental Health NIMH), “an estimated 31.1% of U.S. adults experience an anxiety disorder at some time in their lives.” NIMH defines anxiety disorders as any one of the following types:

  • Panic Disorder
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder (most common type)
  • Agoraphobia (fear of particular spaces or situations that cause anxiety)
  • Specific Phobias
  • Social Anxiety
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
  • Separation Anxiety Disorder

At Create Recovery Center of West Los Angeles, our clinical staff can help you find a treatment plan to address your unique needs. We believe that individualized approaches encompassing several treatment techniques are best for a successful recovery. Although treatment can vary depending upon the type of anxiety and the person, anxiety disorders share many common characteristics.

Why Is Anxiety Commonly Associated With “Avoidance Behaviors?"

Avoidance behaviors refer to a maladaptive set of coping skills that can impact a person’s overall quality of life. Human behavior can be broken down into two primary motivations:
  1. To “get” or obtain something (objects, relationships, stimulation, feelings, etc.)
  2. To escape or avoid something (situations, people, stimulation, feelings, etc.)
Feelings of anxiety regarding a person’s environment can cause them to associate a particular event or other factors with their uncomfortable or distressing thoughts and feelings. While a person may feel that the situation causes their anxiety, it’s the anxiety that causes the avoidance. A specific circumstance or environmental factor may trigger anxiety; however, the person is attempting to avoid the uneasy feelings and nervousness, not necessarily the event itself!

Not every person likes crowded spaces, loud noises, or other common triggers of anxiety. Some people have different personality types that lend a preference for varying degrees of stimulation, expectations, and interests. However, the person with an anxiety disorder feels a significant disruption or decreased quality of life when avoiding desirable or necessary experiences due to underlying anxiety.

Do I Have an Anxiety Disorder?

If you believe you or a loved one may be suffering from an anxiety disorder, our assessment may be a beneficial tool. Although the assessment can not be used as a definitive diagnosis, it can help to determine how many symptoms associated with anxiety a person may be facing.

We base our assessment questions on the criteria laid out by the fifth edition of The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). Regardless to the results of the assessment, it is important to note that an anxiety disorder must be diagnosed by a trained medical professional.

Can Addiction Be Considered an Avoidance Tactic?

Addictive behaviors can be a means of avoiding the uncomfortable feelings associated with anxiety. Here are some examples of maladaptive coping strategies by way of addictive behaviors:
  • Turning to drugs or alcohol to self-medicate overwhelming feelings of anxiety.
  • Using alcohol as a “social lubricant” to cope with social anxiety or agoraphobia.
  • Using drugs to “block out” distressing thoughts and fears following traumatic events.
  • Struggling with excessive doubts about the future and turning to sedative drugs to feel a sense of peace.
  • Turning to process addictions—like gambling, sex, or internet addiction—might distract a person from their uncontrollable feelings of fear or paranoia.
  • Obsessively using the internet to seek reassurance about distressing events or other issues.
Many of these maladaptive coping strategies are a means of distracting or “numbing” distressful feelings of anxiety. Engaging in these behaviors can further diminish a person’s quality of life or create more problems for them. As a person turns these addictive behaviors into habits, they might experience even more anxiety due to feelings of guilt or shame associated with addiction. However, for those suffering from addiction due to anxiety, there is hope!

What Are The Characteristics of an Anxiety Disorder?

While anxiety symptoms exist on a spectrum of mild, moderate, and severe, anxiety is characterized by experiencing some or most of these symptoms:

An uncontrollable feeling of worry and apprehension
Heightened feelings of irritability
Being “on-edge,” excessively nervous, or even feelings of paranoia
Difficulty concentrating (mainly due to excessive worry or dread about the future)
Problems with falling asleep or staying asleep
Exhaustion, lethargy, or feeling weak
Increased anxiety or fear responses to everyday social situations
Remaining constantly on alert and feeling in danger even in safe situations
Unusual emotional and physical isolation
Avoiding environments that remind you of the trauma

When a person experiences symptoms like these for several months, they may have an anxiety disorder. These symptoms can impair a person’s thinking, behavior, and ability to function in everyday life. Anxiety disorders tend to lead to a lot of avoidance behaviors, which can include drug, alcohol, or process addictions, such as gambling or sexual addictions.

Anxiety and Addiction: Dual-Diagnosis Treatment

Create Recovery Center can help those who are suffering from a dual-diagnosis of addiction caused by an underlying anxiety disorder. We believe that recovery from addiction is more than just going about getting “clean and sober.” To heal from addiction, a person needs to address the roots of their addiction to live their best life! We offer the following techniques and modalities to address the needs of those struggling with their anxiety disorder:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): Learn to challenge the thought processes and false beliefs driving feelings of anxiety, doubt, and worry. CBT is especially great for those suffering from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD).
  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT): Similar to CBT, DBT can help you manage your emotions as you learn to challenge extreme viewpoints or “black-and-white” thinking.
  • Individual Therapy: Often referred to as “talk-therapy,” individual therapy connects you to a counselor for one-on-one sessions to learn new coping skills for managing anxiety.
  • Group Therapy: Building a community in recovery helps individuals heal from addictions and mental health issues. You can hear the stories of others, learn from them, and realize that you are not alone in your struggles!

Our expert clinical staff can help you learn to address the underlying roots of your addiction as you learn to cope with your anxiety! Create Recovery Center is here to help you or a loved one build a treatment plan that addresses all aspects of your addiction. You can lead a fulfilling, healthy, and happy life without relying on substances!