How quitting illegal drugs helps anxiety in the long term: Guest post by Robert Tropp

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(image: Tumblr)

For many people, feelings of anxiety are a regular occurrence. Anxiety can be a motivator to do better in work, school, and to become better at nurturing healthy relationships. However, if the anxiety you’re experiencing lingers for longer than it should and paralyses you, more profound issues are at play. If you are using drugs and alcohol to deal with anxiety, you are likely doing more harm than good.

At best, drugs are only a short-term solution to anxiety. If you aren’t dealing with the underlying issues that give rise to your anxiety, you will be plagued with this condition over the long haul. The problems only compound if you become increasingly dependent on drugs to deal with anxiety, you can develop a co-occurring substance abuse problem which further complicates matters.

Getting professional help for your addiction to drugs and alcohol will, in most cases, involve receiving treatment for the “co-occurring” anxiety. Through the help of experienced treatment staff and proven programs, you can become healthy and happy.  

In What Ways Does Drug Treatment Save You From Anxiety?

As already stated, drug and alcohol use provide a temporary reprieve from the anxiety you experience. While you may experience short periods of relief, your anxiety returns. If you aren’t taking the time to address the root causes of anxiety in your life, your anxiety will worsen over time. Additionally, your substance use will increase over time, increasing the likelihood of developing an addiction to substances that allow you to “self-medicate.”

Through comprehensive physical and psychological evaluations and intensive drug treatment, you will get the tools and support you need to address these issues head-on. As you get better, staff will provide you the tools you need to deal with your anxiety healthily.  

What Tools Can I Learn to Deal With My Anxiety Without Drugs?

As you progress through treatment, you learn of ways to deal with your anxiety without resorting to substance abuse. Many treatment centers teach mindful meditation techniques such as focused breathing and simple yoga poses. These techniques help to ground you, calm the mind, and focus on the present moment. A significant benefit of mindful meditation is that techniques are relatively easy to learn, and you only need 15-20 minutes a day to see results.

Another tool that you learn in treatment that helps you alleviate anxiety is through simple lifestyle choices such as regular exercise and healthy eating habits. Exercise helps release dopamine which is the brain natural feel-good chemical. You become more relaxed and at ease, and regular exercise helps you look and feel your best. Likewise, a healthy diet nourishes the body and brain and provides the nutrients it needs for optimal functioning.

Additionally, you can effectively deal with anxiety without illegal drugs in the long run through the use of ongoing therapy. With the help of an experienced mental health professional, you can address any recurring anxiety in a safe and supportive environment. Through the use of effective therapies such as CBT, talking therapies or EMDR, you can actively work to address root issues that give rise to your anxiety. When those are addressed, you will get the tools you need to manage your anxiety at different times in your life.

The decision to quit drugs and alcohol is a significant life decision. While it may seem overwhelming and makes you feel anxious, the support and encouragement you receive in treatment will go a long way in helping you leave your addiction and your anxiety behind.
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About Robert Tropp

Robert Tropp is a functional nutrition practitioner whose primary focus is substance abuse and mental health disorders. Robert uses a functional medicine approach to help clients regain mental and physical well-being.  Robert is an advocate for the importance of nutrition in addiction recovery and works as the health and wellness director at Nuview Treatment Center in Marina Del Rey, California, USA.

 

The Connection Between Anxiety and Substance Abuse: Guest blog by Nu View Treatment Center

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(image: Recovery Direct)

When people abuse drugs and alcohol, it is often the sign of a deeper underlying issue. For many people struggling with addiction, the source of their addiction is due to mental illness that often has gone undiagnosed. One of the most common co-occurring disorders seen with substance abuse is anxiety. The following article will outline what defines anxiety, and the connection between anxiety and substance abuse.

What is Anxiety?

In general, anxiety is an important emotion to have. While it may be normal to feel fear, apprehension, and nervousness from time to time, it becomes an issue when people experience these emotions at excessive levels. When anxiety takes over a person’s thought process, it manifests itself into physical symptoms such as the following:

  •    Increased and constant restlessness
  •    Increased and uncontrollable feelings of worry
  •    Irritability
  •    concentration difficulties
  •    sleep problems

 

Anxiety can be grouped into several types of disorders. These can include generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), phobias, social anxiety disorder, and selective mutism among others. The leading causes of anxiety include work and family stresses, financial worries as well as underlying medical issues. The roots of anxiety can also be traced to past traumatic events that are unresolved.

 

How Anxiety and Substance Abuse Connect

When people suffer from anxiety, mental and physical symptoms can be very intense and can wear on the body and mind. To get some form of relief, people may turn to substances that stimulate dopamine in the brain to help numb the feelings of discomfort. Self-medicating oneself to take the edge of off anxiety only works in the short-term and can have a rebound effect that makes anxiety worse over time. Without addressing the roots of anxiety, their condition will worsen over time—along with their substance use.

The connection between anxiety and substance abuse can also trace back to the teenage and young adult years. During adolescence, the brain is still developing and forming. If people used drugs as a teenager, it could alter the development of the parts of the brain that govern reasoning and impulse control. Drug and alcohol use early in life can increase the likelihood of anxiety and substance abuse as that person gets older.

Another reason for anxiety disorders and substance abuse connection is because of one’s genetics. Some people may be more predisposed to both anxiety and drug and alcohol dependence through genetic factors shaped by one’s environment.

 

Getting Help

For those dealing with co-occurring disorders, they must seek specialised help from a dual diagnosis treatment facility specializing in mental health and addiction disorders. The first step in getting help is undergoing medical detoxification. During detox, patients will undergo medication-assisted therapy to help better tolerate the physical and psychological symptoms associated with withdrawal. Additionally, staff will perform physical and mental health evaluations to pinpoint any underlying issues that may impact recovery.

For those suffering from dual diagnosis, treatment will include mental health services in addition to addiction treatment services. Dual diagnosis facilities feature mental health professionals working alongside addiction treatment personnel in creating an individual treatment plan that fits each client’s specific needs.

In addition to therapy, 12-step counselling, life, and coping skills training and other forms of treatment, patients will receive mental health treatment with a focus on ongoing counselling and medication-based therapies that will give them the tools to handle anxiety.

 

This guest blog was written by Nu View Treatment Center

The Anxiety Rollercoaster : Going beyond my Comfort Zone. by Eleanor

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(image: Pinterest)

I don’t really know where to start with this blog except I have needed to write this one  for several weeks. As many of you know, I struggle with an anxiety disorder (alongside/ part of the bipolar) which when triggered can make life quite difficult. This includes things that anyone would find anxiety provoking, such as job interviews.

I have had to dig deep, leave the house and use every ounce of strength to attend face to face job interviews in the past few weeks. This is not an exaggeration. My body floods with adrenaline and cortisol (stress hormones) and I feel overwhelmed. All my energy becomes consumed around preparing for the interview, attending the interview or NOT attending the interview because I wake up in a panic not wanting to go out- and having to try and reschedule it. Which just adds more stress as I fear I will lose the chance to interview.

This is really hard for me. There is still such a stigma to mental health issues that disclosing it early on without someone knowing you fully, means you are still less likely to be hired. Having to reschedule an interview also floods me with fear that the employers will think I am just flaky, even if I say I am unwell.

I am very proud of my achievements in the past month. Last week, I went to an interview and did well- travelled alone, was fine throughout. I even got a second interview. However, I woke this morning at 7am in anxiety and am seeing if I can reschedule it.

Essentially, this is one big test of exposure therapy. Reaching outside my comfort zone and going out into the world to use my skills. Its scary and exhausting. But it can also be validating and exhilarating too.

Today I feel a bit of an exhausted, worried mess. However, I refuse to let my panic disorder beat me. Next week, I have some positive things happening too re work.

For anyone else going through this- you aren’t alone. I take medication on time, I have had years of therapy and I still have panic attacks at times and struggle with the debilitating anxiety. I am searching for a new form of therapy (maybe EMDR- rapid eye movement) as I am concerned that my disorder mimics some PTSD symptoms, although that will need to be determined by a psychiatrist . I went through a lot in 2014 when in hospital and just before in a manic state and when I came home after and got back to work.  I wonder if this is what is behind the panic.

This is an honest assessment of whats going on. Despite the anxiety attacks, I have been able to see some friends. I am also still writing my book – deadline fast approaching.

Thank you to all my online twitter ‘cheerleader’ friends who sent me so many messages of love and support, of cute animals and inspiring quotes. You helped give me the strength to go to my interview and be ok. And to my friends and family in ‘real life’ too.  

If you are also struggling, keep fighting. I am always here for you to talk too.

Love,

Eleanor x

 

5 Years, Anxiety and Keeping Well (by Eleanor)

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(image https://mandibelle16.wordpress.com/2016/08/10/poem-free-verse-hope-scarred-amwriting-poetry/:)

Thanks to all who voted for this article on Facebook and who have supported me these past 5 years and beyond. I love you all.

I cannot believe that this year (in March) is 5 years since I was hospitalised as a 25 year old for my bipolar disorder. For those of you who know my story, I became unwell with an episode of severe mania within a number of days, which featured psychosis-losing touch with reality and agitation. Its likely that my old medicines stopped working and I started believing delusions that werent real.

When I was hospitalised, I eventually went to the QE2 hospital in Welwyn, Hertfordshire (which has now been knocked down and now based in Radlett!). The support I had from the psychiatrist, nursing team, OTs, ward manager and all the staff was incredible and they   really believed that I would get well again. I cannot have been easy to deal with, due to the mania and the fact I was pacing around all the time, singing and in my own little world. Their kindness and help really helped me recover properly- as did the visits and love from family and friends.

I spent 4 months as an inpatient at Welwyn and then a further 4 months in outpatient treatment at a Day Hospital unit in Watford. The day hospital was very beneficial to me and helped me to start on my new medication and process all that had happened. I had help from a very special care coordinator and support worker once I had been discharged from day hospital. My care coordinator helped me so much and was so kind and caring.

Recovery is never linear and its something I have to work at every single day. There will always be life stresses that can trigger my anxiety and depression (and potentially a lesser manic episode, although the mania hasn’t happened yet thank g-d). I still struggle with my anxiety disorder and panic attacks in the mornings sometimes. I believe this is as a result of all the trauma that is involved with being sectioned, being an inpatient and having to rebuild my life after. I had social anxiety anyway, as part of the depressive part of the bipolar, but I still believe that even though I have had talking therapy, that my brain is still processing the trauma. Mental health wards are not fun places to live, as you can imagine and despite the staff trying to make it as calm as possible.

I will get triggered with my panic by certain things- like social events or job interviews and I may not always know fully why- it could be subconscious, or I realise it after. I am still rebuilding my self esteem and the love for myself. Anyone who goes through a severe episode of mental illness will tell you that its hard to separate the illness from yourself. Bipolar from Eleanor.

I have incredible friends, my fiance and family who can separate it. Yet, there are times where we all don’t feel good enough. Where  we want to hide even though we are capable of more than we know.

So in these 5 years I have been learning to love me, to think and act on hope, recovery and the future. I have learnt to build self care tools and relaxation into my days if I feel overwhelmed or to stop me from getting too stressed. I have been blessed to have found my life partner and developed my career- although my illness has put my career on hold many times and I have had to reinvent myself. However, I am starting slowly to find the light in the dark.

This is where the phrase ‘Be Ur Own Light’ comes from- to find the inner strength to carry on.

There have been many times when I have wanted to give up. Where I have been hurting and have felt inadequate. When I felt no one would want to date me  or that I wasn’t good enough for a career. Because how could I tell people what had happened to me without them thinking I was a ‘fruitloop’? That was my logic.

Thats why I started to write. I write to heal. I write to explain, educate and battle stigma. I write to make sense of my own mind. I write as a job but also to make a difference in the world and I hope I will do that through my book and blogs/ articles.

In the past 5 years, aside from work and my mental health advocacy, I have been travelling again which always brings me joy. I have been to Rome (Italy) , Prague (Czech Republic), Madeira (with Charlotte), Israel (with Rob), Portugal and Romania. I have stayed at my Dads and explored the Cotswolds and gone on holiday to the beach at Broadstairs with Anna and family. I have seen theatre shows, amazing movies and read some fantastic books. I have found a life partner. I have secured a book deal, volunteered for Jami to launch their mental health shabbat, worked with the Judith Trust and my blog is growing. Being published in Glamour, Metro, Happiful, the Telegraph and the Jewish News were major highlights and finding an incredibly supportive community on Twitter too.

Life is not all hard and sad. Yes, there are times when I have found it a nightmare with my anxiety disorder. I am 100% still a work in progress- recovery isnt easy.

I have had to work on my self esteem in therapy. I have had 6 months of psychodynamic therapy. I read self help books. I should exercise and go out more (working on this).

But:

I am not severely depressed or manic. I can hold down part time work, often from home. These 5 years have taught me that I may always have some degree of anxiety- particularly about past events which effect how I react currently. I need to learn how to heal from this and I hope in time I will.

If you had told me 5 years ago I would be writing a book of my life story and been published in national newspapers I would have laughed at you. I am getting married in July and I can’t wait (and also would have probably laughed at you too).

Anxiety is horrible by the way. Your heart races, you get flooded with adrenaline, you fixate on the fear and want it to go away. You feel sweaty and clammy and you may shake. You need to rush to the toilet. It stops you from sleeping. It stops you from living your best life. So I don’t want to trivialise it here. Its a struggle at times and its disruptive to life.

The pain of anxiety, depression and bipolar is matched by my hope and my belief that I will still achieve despite it. Yes there will be difficulties and bumps along the way, but today I am choosing to look towards the sun. 

          

Why you can overcome mental health challenges and anxiety to succeed in life: Guest post by James Kenneth

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(image: OMG Quotes)

Hi, I’m James. I’m 25. I’m a regular person just like you.

I suffer from clinical anxiety. I’ve had anxiety for as long as I can remember.

I’ll take you on a journey through my life experience and perhaps this, in turn, will help you on your life path.

As a child, I was rather timid – not the most sociable. I spent a lot of my time reading (which I still do). And, I was rather anxious too.

Every week, several times a week, I would wet my underwear at school because I was scared to tell the teacher that I needed the toilet. Every week without fail, several times a week, I would wet the bed at night because I was afraid to go to the toilet by myself in the night-time. All this wetting myself only stopped when I reached the age of 11, and boy was that a relief. Not just for me, but for my Mum as well – the laundry pile reduced massively.

By the time I went to secondary school, it was clear that something really wasn’t right. I wasn’t making friends, and I just felt downright awful.

My Mum, to whom I am eternally grateful, decided to put me in talking therapy. And it helped. I actually ended up being in therapy, on and off, for ten years. I’ll talk more about my experience with therapy a bit later.

At aged 14, I had a major positive breakthrough. I was on a school trip with 30 other teens. We were outside the country, in a totally different environment, away from home.

At first, I was how I’d always been – shy, worried, quiet. But then something big happened. I opened my mouth. Not only that, but people liked what I had to say. People found me fun and humorous, and  liked me. That gave me a major confidence boost. It was one of the biggest turning points in my life.

It’s all because I was determined to change, to grow. I, of my own volition, opened my mouth, took a leap, and overcame a big emotional obstacle.It wasn’t easy but it was needed.

When I was 19, I moved to a different country. Was I ready to? I was still an emotional wreck to be honest. Much more mentally healthy than I had been at age 11, but an emotional wreck nonetheless. But, thank G-d, really big positive transformation began from this point on.

The main reason – because I am, and always have been, 100% determined to totally manage and overcome my anxiety and I know I will. I was ready to make big changes.

With G-d’s grace, I searched for and acquired some fabulous mentors to help me. They aided me to deepen my self-awareness and hence overcome more emotional obstacles. It is known that awareness is often the first step towards change.

At age 21, I decided it would be a good idea to see a doctor. I was prescibed with Venlafaxine. It took 6 weeks to kick in and then wow – life changed dramatically. I was still James Kenneth, but I was calmer, more content, and level-headed. I’m not saying the medicine totally removed the anxiety, but it helped – big time.

While on the Venlafaxine, since I had a calmer mind, I was able to work even more on overcoming my emotional obstacles. And I did. I was on that medicine for a total of three years and it worked me wonders. And then I came off it when I no longer needed it.

Let’s talk more about my therapy. As the many years of therapy went by, I spoke out what was on my mind and I became increasingly self-aware. With the new self-awareness I had and the support, I was able to gradually change my way of thinking to a healthier one.

It’s funny, the reason I actually stopped therapy after 10 years of it, was because I now understood myself and what I had to work on, far better than the therapist did. It definitely gave me more insight.

Another thing that’s help me in more recent years is reading self-help books. Some of these books have really helped me on my journey of growth. I very much recommend. “The Road Less Travelled” by Dr. Scott Peck, “The Wisdom of the Enneagram” co-written by Richard Don Riso and Russ Hudson, and “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle.  I recommend having a browse online and finding out more. I think they’re great!

To end, I’d like to tell you how things are now, in my current life situation. Not only am I no longer an emotional wreck – I’m a happy, self-aware individual who lives a great life. I’ve been happily married now for a year and a half. I’m not saying I no longer have any anxiety. I do. But I’m not the same person I was at age 11.

Heck, I’m not the same person I was even one year ago.

Every year I’m making leaps and bounds in managing my mental illness because I am determined to overcome it and live my best life. I believe that you can get better to, just reach out for help from others- be it medical teams, mentors, doctors or counsellors . With this help, we can recover and it is ESSENTIAL to reach for help and practise self care, kindness and compassion.

James Kenneth is a writer who has had  clinical anxiety and writes on self help. 

‘Breaking Mad’: The Anxiety Journey (again)

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I have called this blog post ‘Breaking Mad’ after the title of a new book on anxiety I am reading – called ‘Breaking Mad: How to Conquer Anxiety’ . Its by a former anxiety sufferer and psychiatrist/ psychologist and I am hoping can give me some advice as to how to handle my morning panic when it tends to overwhelm.

I have really struggled this week and past month with panic and feeling overwhelmed. As this has been going on for years on and off, my panic disorder is not new- but I have to change the way I relate to it and the way I react to it. My instinct is to hide and down tools to stop the panic overtaking, but actually it has more of an effect that way and makes me wake up each morning consecutively anxious!

Distraction techniques, exposure therapy and meditation are key ways to get through that I have found of use. However, I need to find a mechanism that can really help. I have had various talking therapies in the past including CBT, which were not as helpful as I thought they would be. I am open to more therapy though.

Blogging of course is therapeutic and I hope one day to be blogging and telling you I am mastering living with my panic attacks and conquering them again. I know I can do it- it will be the longest journey- but long journeys start with one small, simple step.

That step is getting more support and also finding ways through the panic without taking shortcuts so I temporarily feel better.  This book could help, or it is just some advice that won’t work for me. Yet its worth a try!

I have to take some of the pressure off myself too and give myself time to really recover and thrive again. This weekend I will try to practise a lot of relaxation and positive thinking, particularly in the mornings.

Anxiety Gremlins: Panic, Exhaustion and everything in between

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This post is probably the most honest one I have written (and as you all know I am pretty open about my mental health struggles).

I am completely and utterly exhausted, tired and fed up. I have been experiencing daily morning panic for 5 days, where leaving the house to go to work feels incredibly overwhelming.

This has happened to me before and I have got through it with exposure therapy and excellent support networks and medical team. I am incredibly lucky also that I work with supportive colleagues/ teams in my job, who go above and beyond to make sure I can be OK.

I am vulnerable to certain life stressors which can trigger my panic attacks and in particular morning anxiety. Due to the adrenaline and cortisol that is triggered during the panic, I feel like I have run a marathon but equally don’t want to sleep too much during the day so I am at home resting, recovering and recuperating. This may mean watching Love Island religiously, but I digress….

I feel like I am constantly on an emotional tread mill. The anxiety gremlins keep rearing their heads. This week has been particularly challenging due to the fact I have had panic attacks every morning. For me, my attacks are more emotional- I don’t tend to get palpitations or hyperventilate, I freeze like in fight or flight and then avoid. The avoidance temporarily stops symptoms but….

Avoidance is the worst thing you can do when you have an anxiety disorder. The worst. And yet we do it to feel ‘safe’ when really the feared event or trigger is not fearful at all.

I know that with support, I can get through this and feel much better. I have been recommended to the charity No Panic by a friend and yesterday I did the Yoga Nidra relxation meditation which calms the mind and body . I will keep trying to conquer the fears triggering my panic disorder- I have tried so much in the past but will have to keep going. I have been on the NHS waiting list for therapy for over a year. So I am having to do a lot of self help methods in the mean time.

Thank you everyone who has offered advice and support. Off to rest but will be back soon.

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The Anxiety Wheel: Lifes Voyage

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It has been a while- about a month since I have written about everything going on. This is because between the moments where I feel full of health and happy, I have been experiencing morning panic attacks at times again and I just didn’t have the energy to process it and write about it.

I have had morning anxiety for a long time, where I wake feeling overwhelmed and fearful about the day and I have had lots of therapy to try and help combat it. The only thing that seems to work for me a the moment is resilience and picking myself back up- but its not easy. After the adrenaline stops, I often feel embarrassed that I couldnt do a desired activity and I don’t want to let others down also. Its a catch 22.

I am doing a bit better this week but last week was tough. When I have breakthroughs, moments where I can socialise or go to work- then its excellent because it gives me confidence to continue.

Here is a diary entry I wrote in Starbucks the other day to make sense of the ups and downs of what I term the ‘Anxiety Wheel’:

In the past week and a half, I have been experiencing an increase in my levels of anxiety. It reminds me of a metaphor- that of running around a hamster wheel. Let me explain.

Sometimes it feels like I’m treading, treading, treading, trying to keep the wheel of life turning. Trying with all my might to function at a ‘normal’ pace. There are days when I can enjoy the running and everything feels enjoyable and exciting. There are days when I can take my feet off the hamster wheel and rest.

Yet, sometimes in my rest times, I can be overwhelmed by the anxious thoughts of lifes spinning wheel. It all feels too much and then I freeze, I hide, I go into fight or flight. I metaphorically hide and sleep in my safe cage, before I pick up the courage to turn lifes wheel again.

Today I am taking back control of my life and spinning the wheel slowly and cautiously before I get back into the full groove again. Picking myself up after panic attacks is not at all easy,. However, with support, resilience and inner strength, I can do this. I will feel safe and comfortable.’

The Anxiety Wave: On waking up with anxiety

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In previous posts about my mental health journey, I have mentioned having an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders are triggered in the brain and can be very hard to keep under control. Thankfully, most of the time, I can function at optimum health. Yet, sometimes stressors come along and throw me a little off course.

The main anxiety issue I have is usually morning anxiety. This is when you wake up and almost freeze from fear- you feel like you can’t do anything or enjoy the day, panic floods the body. Sometimes, after a few hours this form of terror dissipates. You can distract yourself and it goes – but sometimes it takes a little longer for it to go and it causes exhaustion. This is due to the hormones adrenaline and cortisol which are triggered pre or during a panic attack.

I am still learning to ride the anxiety wave- it can make you feel very tired and far less productive. For me, it often happens after I have had time away from work or a disruption to my routine, the anxious thoughts and feelings will flood back, making life that little bit harder again.

It is not easy nor straightforward dealing with this. I have to be kind to myself and know it will pass. Breathe, and distract my mind. Try and use meditation techniques to keep it under control.