Substance abuse or dependence (also known as addiction) is a behavioral condition in which a person struggles with drug and alcohol use and its consequences. These consequences may be medical, financial, or interpersonal, and can affect other areas of a person’s life. In addition to suffering negative consequences, drug and alcohol abusers often experience a feeling of being out of control (such as feeling like they cannot stop drinking or taking drugs, or feeling “powerless” in the face of the substance). They also often drink or use drugs in order to change their emotions: some may want to feel happier, or be more comfortable in social situations, and others may want to numb unpleasant emotions (such as anxiety or depression). Research suggests that people who use drugs or alcohol to change their emotions are more likely to become addicted or experience the negative consequence of their behavior.
Because of the tendency to use alcohol and drugs to numb unpleasant emotions, many people who live with anxiety disorders also struggle with addiction. This is certainly not the case with everyone, and just because you drink it does not mean that you are an alcoholic, but this is something we ask people about when they come in for treatment.
The Anxiety Treatment Center of Austin does not treat substance abuse, but if you are receiving treatment for your anxiety and are also abusing drugs or alcohol, we may recommend that you seek help for this as well. Co-occurring conditions such as these are usually better treated at the same time. If this is the case, we can provide you with referral for an appropriate level of care (such as an individual addictions counselor, or support groups). Lists of resources for substance abuse and treatment information are presented below.