What is Anxiety Disorder
Anxiety disorders are the most common group of mental illnesses in the US, affecting 40 million people. If you suffer from an anxiety disorder, you know that it can impact every area of your life. Anxiety can be debilitating with symptoms like panic attacks, rapid heart rate, trembling, and sweating. Medication is one effective treatment option, but if you’ve had a problem with substance use, you may be concerned about the risk of addiction. Choosing a non-addictive anxiety medication makes all the difference to reduce the risk of addiction relapse.
Some anxiety medication creates a feeling of euphoria—intense happiness and excitement. Unfortunately, this “high” can lead to cravings, leading you to need more of the drug over time to get the same effect. Some medications to reduce anxiety, like opioids, have such a history of abuse that you may want to avoid them even if you haven’t dealt with addiction. For an anti-anxiety medication to not be addictive, it shouldn’t flood your brain with dopamine—the chemical that gives you that high. Fortunately, there are effective anxiety medications with no addictive potential because they don’t create euphoria. There are also many therapy-based treatments for anxiety disorders that involve no medication whatsoever.
Types Of Anxiety Disorder
There are several different types of anxiety disorders, ranging from mild and moderate to severe.
Common Varieties Of Anxiety Disorder:
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD): This is the most common disorder and is characterized by severe and ongoing anxiety that often interferes with daily life. Those with GAD will constantly worry about several things, including interpersonal relationships, financial security, physical health, work-life, and a wide variety of other common issues. GAD can be easily treated with a combination of therapeutic and holistic treatment options, and it affects an estimated 3 million American adults on an annual basis.
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): PTSD is an anxiety disorder that develops due to a traumatic experience (or set of experiences). Some examples of traumatic events that trigger PTSD include childhood abuse and neglect, sexual assault, significant accidents, time spent in the military, natural disasters, and violent personal assaults. Those who have PTSD will experience flashbacks, avoid certain people, places, and things, and often resort to substance abuse as a means of self-medication.
The National Comorbidity Study reported that 52% of males and 28% of females who have been diagnosed with PTSD would also meet the criteria for an alcohol abuse disorder. Those who are afflicted with both disorders will need to be treated in a dual diagnosis treatment center.
- Panic Disorder: Those with panic disorder will experience frequent panic attacks at unexpected times. These attacks can be brought on by specific situations or by (seemingly) nothing at all. Brief periods of intense fear are coupled with physical symptoms like chest pains, shortness of breath and trouble breathing, heart palpitations, stomach problems, and dizziness or light-headedness (often due to hyperventilation). Panic disorder is usually treated with prescription medication.
- Social Anxiety Disorder: Also known as social phobia, this specific anxiety disorder is marked by an overwhelming and crippling amount of anxiety experienced in everyday social situations. Those suffering from social anxiety disorder also tend to feel extremely self-conscious. Some afflicted with this disorder will only experience symptoms when it comes to a particular setting or situation – for example, they may only experience severe anxiety when engaging in public speaking or when eating in front of other people. Others with a social anxiety disorder will avoid every type of social situation entirely. This type of anxiety disorder is usually treated with a combination of medicinal and therapeutic treatment.
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD): Those with OCD will experience recurrent and unwanted thoughts, often coupled with compulsive, repetitive behaviors. Some common repetitive behaviors that those with OCD engage in include hand-washing, counting, and cleaning. They believe that if they engage in these repetitive behaviors, the obsessive thoughts will go away or be effectively managed. Of course, this is not the case, and professional intervention will be necessary to successfully manage symptoms – which are harshly disruptive to day-to-day life.
- Phobias: Those with a phobia will present an irrational fear concerning a specific object, activity, or experience. Having a phobia is much different than simply being ‘afraid’ of something. Many people have particular things they are inexplicably afraid of, such as clowns, snakes, or spiders. Those with a diagnosable phobia will be sent into a panic whenever the object, activity, or experience they are afraid of occurs – even when there is a threat of it happening. Phobias are disruptive to daily life and must be treated with intensive therapy.
There are other classifications of anxiety disorder, such as separation anxiety disorder and illness anxiety disorder (fear of being away from a loved one and fear of getting sick or falling ill, respectively). Those experiencing symptoms of anxiety disorders of any kind must reach out for professional treatment. Treating anxiety is extremely important because those who are left untreated will often turn to drugs and alcohol to alleviate symptoms. Because of this, comorbidity rates are extremely high. Dual diagnosis treatment centers such as We Level Up offer comprehensive, integrated care to those struggling with substance abuse and anxiety.
Non-Narcotic Treatments for Anxiety
Once an individual has been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, they can explore potential treatment options. Treatment for anxiety falls into two main categories — medicinal treatment options and psychotherapy/holistic treatment options. In addition, those struggling with a substance abuse disorder in conjunction with anxiety will want to look into non-narcotic treatment options. The following list includes some viable options for non-narcotic and non-addictive medicinal and holistic treatment options when it comes to quickly and effectively treating anxiety symptoms.
Non-Addictive Anxiety Medications
There are many different types of anxiety and a wide variety of mental health treatments for each. When you see a doctor, they will consider which type of anxiety you have, along with any other medical or mental health conditions you may suffer from, before prescribing medication. Below is a summary of the types of non-addictive anxiety medications that carry little to no risk for abuse.
- SSRIs: Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors are a class of drugs originally developed to treat depression but were found to be just as effective—if not more so—at reducing anxiety. They work by increasing the amount of serotonin in your brain, which has a mood-boosting effect. They’re particularly effective in treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). SSRIs include:
- Citalopram (Celexa)
- Paroxetine (Paxil)
- Sertraline (Zoloft)
- Fluoxetine (Prozac)
- Escitalopram (Lexapro)
The drawback to the non-addictive anxiety medications, SSRIs, is that they take four to six weeks to build up your system before you feel the full effects. They can also cause uncomfortable withdrawal effects if you suddenly stop taking them, including vertigo, nausea or vomiting, chills, shock sensations or “brain zaps,” and visual disturbances. Possible side effects of SSRIs are:
- Dry mouth
- Sexual problems
- SNRIs: Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors are better for disorders like generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder. They’re similar to SSRIs because they boost serotonin but unique because they also regulate norepinephrine—a neurotransmitter related to alertness and concentration. Regulating both of these has a strong, positive effect on mood. Examples are:
- Venlafaxine (Effexor)
- Duloxetine (Cymbalta)
SNRI side effects are similar to SSRIs, plus potentially fatigue, loss of appetite, and constipation. SNRIs also cause withdrawal effects when you abruptly stop taking them, similar to those of SSRIs.
- Vistaril (Hydroxyzine): Hydroxyzine is a fast-acting drug that is very effective in treating anxiety temporarily. It sometimes has the side effect of sedation, but this wears off the longer you take it. Hydroxyzine works by blocking the histamine receptor. This means that the drug helps balance neurotransmitters in your brain that regulate your moods, such as histamines (like Benadryl or other antihistamines) and serotonin.
- Buspar (Buspirone): This non-addictive anxiety medication is similar to an SSRI in that it increases chemical messengers involving serotonin. Buspar only targets one subtype of the serotonin receptor, so it affects just one specific area of your brain. When SSRIs target more receptors, there are more side effects. Because Buspar targets one, you get fewer side effects. It does also take the same amount of time as an SSRI to feel the effects. Side effects you might experience include:
- Sore Throat
- Sleep Problems
- Beta-Blockers: These non-addictive anxiety medications temporarily relieve anxiety symptoms, such as shaking and rapid heart rate. They do so by blocking the effects of adrenaline or epinephrine. Epinephrine is a hormone that creates anxiety in your fight-or-flight response. A beta-blocker doesn’t do anything to change the chemical balance of your brain, so it can’t rely upon long-term. They’re usually prescribed short-term while you find more lasting ways to combat your anxiety. Beta-blockers include:
- Acebutolol (Sectral)
- Atenolol (Tenormin)
- Gabapentin (Neurontin): Gabapentin is generally prescribed for nerve pain and seizures, but there is some study into the efficacy of gabapentin for anxiety. While considered an “off-label” use, treatment of anxiety conditions with gabapentin has seen promising results from initial studies and case reports.
Non-Narcotic / Non-Addictive Holistic Treatment Options
Here are common holistic treatments used to safely and effectively combat symptoms of anxiety:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT helps individuals re-write the stories they tell themselves about their lives. A mind is a powerful tool — thoughts can spiral us into worse anxiety, fear, and anger. Or, conversely, help elevate us to a more serene state. Controlling the stories and perspectives we repeat in our minds can greatly help alleviate our anxiety.
- Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT): DBT is a form of CBT that focuses on four key tools: mindfulness focuses on improving an individual’s ability to accept and be present in the current moment; distress tolerance, which is geared toward increasing a person’s tolerance of negative emotion, rather than trying to escape from it; emotion regulation, which covers strategies to manage and change intense emotions that are causing problems in a person’s life; and lastly, interpersonal effectiveness which involves learning techniques to communicate with others assertively, maintains self-respect, and strengthens relationships.
- Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR): EMDR is a form of trauma therapy that utilizes some outside stimulus — often either flashing lights or vibrating objects, to stimulate each side of the brain alternately. The two different hemispheres of our brains process different information — the rational facts, the other feelings, and emotions. By alternately stimulating each side of the brain, a person sometimes can reprocess traumatic memories to create healing and new emotional-factual associations. Our brains and bodies can become less emotionally reactive in scenarios that trigger our anxiety by dealing with past trauma.
- Talk Therapy: Frequently, our anxiety can build because we are stuffing our feelings about things occurring in our lives. These stored emotions build up in the body and spirit, creating an increasing sense of anxiety. By attending regular sessions with a therapist, we can offload some of our emotions, so they don’t build up and become overwhelming.
Finding a therapist that you connect with and that specifically focuses on these forms of psychotherapy can be highly beneficial in helping you to work through your anxiety. In addition, learning emotional tools in therapy can be far more sustainable and long-lasting than taking habit-forming anxiety medication.
List Of The Best Non-Narcotic & Non-Addictive Treatments for Anxiety
- Gabapentin (Neurontin)
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
- Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)
- Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
- Inpatient Treatment
- Mindfulness & Meditation
At-Home Options For Anxiety
If you suffer from anxiety, medication isn’t the only option for relief. These techniques, backed by evidence, are proven to work just as well, if not better, than medication for some people. They can be taught in therapy, or you can learn them on your own. Once you know how to do them, you’ll be able to reduce anxiety if you ever need to stop or change medications. Here are some things you can try to calm yourself down when you’re anxious:
- Go through a guided meditation
- Journal about your anxiety, describing it as best you can. Do this each time you face your fears, and keep track of what changes over time
- Listen to your favorite music
- Take note of one thing you can see, smell, taste, touch, and hear. This is a grounding technique, which can effectively stop you from focusing on your anxiety and help you connect with your surroundings
- Try “square breathing.” Breathe in for five seconds, then hold it for five. Breathe out for five seconds, then pause for five. Repeat until you feel your heart rate slow and your shaking stop.
Mental Health Treatment Center
Anxiety is a frustrating and sometimes scary condition to experience. Fortunately, there’s plenty of help available! The best course of treatment for you may involve non-addictive anxiety medication, therapy, or both. You might also need to know about non-addictive anti-anxiety medication. before finding what works best for you. Don’t be afraid to talk to your doctor about your addiction concerns. They will work with you to create a treatment plan that’s effective and provides you much-needed peace of mind.
Programs at We Level Up for mental health disorders include:
- Dual Diagnosis Treatment
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy
- Dialectical Behavior Therapy
- Yoga Therapy
Learn more about reducing anxiety with treatment options by contacting We Level Up. Make this your opportunity to reclaim your life. Call today to speak with one of our treatment specialists. Our specialists know what you are going through and will answer any of your questions.
Your call is private and confidential, and there is never any obligation.
 NIDA – https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/opioids/opioid-overdose-crisis
 NIH – https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/anxiety-disorders/index.shtml