Dual Diagnosis: Treatment for Anxiety and Addiction in Rehab

by | Jan 9, 2023

Addiction can be a challenging and isolating struggle, but it is important to remember that you are not alone. If you are seeking addiction treatment in Louisville, Kentucky, there is hope.

Substance abuse doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Environment, background, and mental health all contribute to someone’s desire to dull the pain or distract themselves. Anxiety is common in addiction cases and impacts the path people take toward self-medication and the effectiveness of treatment. 

Anxiety disorders in general are on the rise in today’s society, general anxiety is a normal part of human existence. However, anxiety can make even the safest situations feel uncomfortable and even downright terrifying. 

If you’re trying to get over an addiction while also knowing that the substance you’re avoiding is the cure to constant panic, it is hard not to relapse. While rehabilitation from addiction might seem straightforward, an anxiety disorder can complicate it if not treated in tandem with it.

People who suffer from anxiety will do almost anything—and sometimes even things that are not constructive at all—to feel better. That’s why it’s so common for people who struggle with both substance abuse and anxiety to go under the care of a rehab center that offers dual diagnosis treatment for both conditions at once.

What is Dual Diagnosis?

A dual diagnosis is when a person with addiction also struggles with an anxiety disorder. These two issues are very different from one another, and treating both of them in rehab is the only way to start improving. 

For both anxiety and addiction, the first step is finding the root of the problem. Once you know the source of your anxiety, you can address it and find relief with something other than self-medication. Many people with anxiety disorders suffer from other issues as well, including depression, trauma, and sleep disorders. Treatment for these other issues will also improve with treatment for anxiety.

Anxiety often causes people to fall into addictive cycles, so treating their anxiety will be the first step to rehabilitating their addiction. 

Types of Anxiety

Over 19% of adults in the US suffer from an anxiety disorder, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. They’re common, but also not always visible. Anxiety can lead to and exacerbate substance abuse and make it harder to go through rehab without the right understanding. 

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

GAD causes constant worry and dread despite not having any clear source. Imagine the anxiety that comes from a big presentation tomorrow manifesting on its own in your everyday life. Due to the lack of a clear source, it’s common for someone to consistently self-medicate to function in their daily life. Often, this leads to an addiction, rather than merely exacerbating it.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, or OCD, often can exacerbate an addiction. Those with OCD fall into specific patterns and routines and feel compelled towards them or end up panicked. A person with OCD will likely have trouble breaking out of their routines, especially if those routines are related to addiction.

Panic Disorder

Rather than a general level of anxiety, a panic disorder causes bouts of intense fear that manifest physically. A panic attack is a physical reaction to fear. It can cause heart palpitations and chest pain, dizziness and shortness of breath, and abdominal issues. Many people will calm their panic attacks with substances, which can lead to abuse. 

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

PTSD is an anxiety disorder stemming from a past traumatic experience. The root cause is no longer actively happening but feels like it does in the form of panic attacks, flashbacks, and a general attitude toward certain reminders of the experience. It’s common for people to drown out the past with self-medication. When dealing with an anxiety disorder that makes the past even harder to ignore, addiction manifests differently.

Social Anxiety Disorder

Social anxiety is like stage fright in everyday life. Someone with Social Anxiety Disorder will feel constantly self-conscious and anxious when around other people. In social situations, anxiety will make someone feel judged and unprepared. 

Many curb that anxiety by drinking alcohol or smoking something, since it’s a social activity that can mask the anxiety. However, that can enable one’s addictive tendencies as well and make quitting more difficult.

How are Addiction and Anxiety Related? 

Self-medication is a common way that people deal with their anxiety. Either they don’t have access to mental health care, or they’re unaware that their constant worry is something that can and should be treated. 

Even prescribed medication isn’t safe from this issue. Benzodiazepines are commonly used to treat anxiety, and people often get addicted to them, increasing the risk of substance abuse alongside the anxiety disorder. 

While substance abuse provides relief, it’s temporary. In fact, addiction can cause more anxiety over time. That means that someone who self-medicates can feel more anxious in the long run than they were beforehand. When the individual is not under the influence, they feel worse and return to the substance for catharsis. 

For a therapist to treat your anxiety, they need to be able to diagnose the root cause of it. They can’t just treat your anxiety until they’ve treated the addiction. This means that the two issues need to be related—and you need to be able to prove that they are. 

The most common way to do this is to take a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course. MBSR is a 12-week course that teaches meditative techniques that have been proven to reduce stress, improve concentration, and promote overall calm.

How Does Dual Diagnosis Treatment Work?

Dual-diagnosis rehabilitation focuses on many different areas of care. The important thing about it is that it covers many areas.


This is where a therapist uses a variety of techniques to get to the core of your anxiety. With this information in hand, the therapist can begin treatment for the underlying issues that are causing your anxiety.


Therapy for substance abuse and addiction is a crucial part of getting better. Both anxiety and substance use disorders can be rooted in genetics and have biological underpinnings that can only be treated by addressing the core issues at the source.


Medicines used to treat anxiety disorders fall into two major categories: SSRIs and benzodiazepines. Both types of medication are designed to reduce anxiety and are used in rehab to treat both types of anxiety.


When you have an anxiety disorder, you may feel like you’re constantly on edge. Often, a better diet will help keep someone’s worry levels to a minimum. Then, they can focus on the root issues and rehabilitation.

Physical Therapy

Anxiety can be caused by stress or chronic pain. With proper treatment, both issues can be addressed.

Social Support

This can include family therapy, peer support programs, and even online communities. It’s the only way to stay focused on the long journey to recovery.

Case Management

Case management is crucial in maintaining sobriety once you’ve achieved sobriety. It’s important to have a team of professionals that can help you navigate the challenges that lie ahead.

Dual Diagnosis Services

If you’re struggling with a dual diagnosis of anxiety and addiction and want to get rehabilitation, there are many services available. 

Impact Outpatient Program is a one-of-a-kind outpatient drug & alcohol treatment center that offers a path to lasting, sustainable recovery.

In addition, there are also telemed services that offer ways for a patient to seek recovery in a way that works for them.

Benefits of Dual Diagnosis Treatment for Anxiety and Addiction

Better Quality of Life

Anxiety can be incredibly disabling. It can lead to depression and even suicidal thoughts. After getting treatment for both conditions, you will be able to live a more balanced life where you can focus on your loved ones and interests rather than worrying about your pain.

Increased Self-Acceptance

To get better, you need to believe that you are the cause of your anxiety. This is something that many people with anxiety disorders struggle with. Dual diagnosis treatment for anxiety, on the other hand, teaches you to accept your anxiety and find the strength to overcome it.

Reduced Substance Usage

With improvements in your mental health, you are more likely to be able to give up substances on your terms. This can include a lower risk of relapse after you have successfully gotten clean.

Better Quality of Life

When you are not obsessing about the pain of addiction, you are more likely to be able to live your life. This means that you will be able to focus on getting a job, building a life with your loved ones, and more.  

Higher Rates of Employment

With better mental health, you are more likely to be able to get a job and earn an income. This can benefit you in ways that are both financial and in the area of health care.

Get help with Anxiety

If you are struggling with substance abuse, you may also be experiencing anxiety. Dual diagnosis treatment for these two issues can be helpful as you work to overcome both issues. 

In general, the first step to recovery is seeking information and care. If you’ve gotten to the bottom of this page, you’re already closer than you’ve ever been. If you or a family member might be experiencing an addiction issue rooted in an anxiety disorder, you can seek admission into a care program now.

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