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What is Anxiety?

Coping with anxiety in Sobriety

Anxiety is a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about something with an uncertain outcome. Who here has ever experienced some form of anxiety? I bet most everyone reading this has. I certainly have. Anxiety is both a mental and a physical disorder that affects billions of people worldwide.

Anxiety, Addiction, and Recovery

Addiction and anxiety occur together all the time. In fact, studies show that most addicts suffer from some form of anxiety. This anxiety could take the form of:

-Social Anxiety
-Phobias
-Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
-Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
-Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

For years, addicts mask these anxieties by using and engaging in other unhealthy behaviors. This temporarily removes the discomfort that accompanies anxiety. Addicts are often asked if their anxiety existed before their addiction, or if their addiction caused their anxiety. This is like asking which came first, the chicken or the egg? In the end, does it really matter? As long as both anxiety and addiction are being treated, who cares which came first?

Amanda, five years sober from heroin, admits her constant struggle with anxiety. “When I experience anxiety, it’s an overwhelming physical symptom. I begin to experience a rapid heartbeat, excessive sweating, and headaches. It’s often unbearable.” When asked how she handles her anxiety, she states, “I do breathing exercises I was taught. I breathe in for five seconds, hold my breath for five seconds, and breathe out for five seconds. I repeat this about ten times, or ’till my breathing slows down and my heartbeat settles back to a normal pace.”

Anxiety and Recovery: Should Medication be Prescribed?

This question is often posed. Amanda claims that when she experiences an anxiety attack, she has the tools she needs without medication. She believes her anxiety stems from a spiritual disconnect, which can be corrected by working a twelve-step program. However, everyone’s unique. Other addicts may be unable to function without proper medical treatment.

“I’m like another person when I’m not on my medication,” states Dana, an addict with 18 months sober. “I’ve suffered from anxiety my entire life. When I take my medication, as prescribed from my doctor, only then is it manageable. It’s not something that God or any other activity can correct. I need outside help.”

Outside help is always an option for the addict who suffers anxiety. The first step is to identify if we are self-inflicting these feelings, or if they’re coming from another source, something outside of our control. It’s important the sufferer understand what anxiety they suffer from and how it affects them.

Anxiety is never fun. It’s uncomfortable and unsettling to those who experience it. It’s important to understand that there IS a solution to this discomfort, once you’re able to identify the causes and conditions it stems from.

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