One of the many reasons that people turn to drugs and alcohol is to deal with mental health issues like anxiety. Sometimes people are ashamed or embarrassed to admit that they need psychological help and would rather self-medicate than visit a doctor. Others might not believe in psychology period, or they don’t have insurance that would pay for the appropriate medication. Whatever the reason, they end up turning to far more harmful substances in their attempts to overcome their problems. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 20 percent of Americans with an anxiety or mood disorder also have a substance use disorder, and about 20 percent of those with a substance use disorder also have an anxiety or mood disorder. How can people deal with anxiety without turning to drugs or alcohol?
First, what exactly is anxiety? It’s not just the everyday feeling of stress we get sometimes when things are rough at work. There are chemical changes happening in the brain, and people with anxiety also experience physical symptoms. These can include:
- Shortness of breath
- Tightness in the chest
- Accelerated heart rate
- Dizziness or nausea
- Muscle tension
- Sleeping difficulties
- Feeling like something bad will happen
- Problems concentrating
- Focusing on the same thought over and over
People turn to drugs because they make them feel better in the short term by releasing dopamine and other “reward” chemicals in the brain. Unfortunately, substance abuse only makes anxiety and other mental disorders worse in the long run. They prevent people from seeking actual help and can exacerbate the underlying issue.
Instead of turning to drugs or alcohol, try some of the following methods to deal with anxiety:
Meditation and mindfulness. Even if you can’t get to a place where you can completely clear your mind, often just focusing on your breathing can help to calm you down. The idea is to keep your focus on what’s happening right now, rather than worrying about the past or future. By staying in the present, you can concentrate on what’s really important.
Cognitive behavioral therapy. Psychologists can help you identify the thought processes and behaviors that lead to anxiety so that you can eventually alter them. By becoming aware that you tend to fall back on the same negative thinking, you can learn to think about challenging situations more clearly and develop more effective ways of dealing with them.
Lifestyle changes. Healthy eating and exercise can relieve the symptoms of anxiety. Good nutrition is important for good mental health, and exercise can relieve built up stress. Avoiding caffeine can also help, because it’s a stimulant that can make you feel even more anxious and jittery.
Finally, look for support. There’s no reason to be embarrassed about needing help – there are millions of people out there with the same problems. If you can’t bring yourself to visit a doctor or therapist, at least find a friend or family member you can confide in.
If you or a loved one need help with quitting drugs or alcohol, consider Asana Recovery. We offer medical detox, along with both residential and outpatient programs, and you’ll be supervised by a highly trained staff of medical professionals, counselors, and therapists. Call us any time at (949) 438-4504 to get started.