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The symptoms of anxiety and untreated alcoholism or addiction can often look very similar. Further, sometimes anxiety can prompt or underlie drug use, and drug use can create anxiety where there was none before.

Dual Diagnosis

This question of “which came first” can create confusion, especially when considering whether to get treatment (either therapeutic or medicinal) for your anxiety. Many people suffer from dual diagnosis, which is where an individual has one or more substance abuse disorders and one or more psychiatric disorders at the same time- including anxiety. Both need to be treated, but oftentimes the anxiety is just a side-effect of the way we live when we are in active addiction. The only way to figure out what you really need in terms of treatment is to talk to a medical professional.

Talk to Your Doctor

Ultimately, a doctor is the only one who should be helping you to make this decision. Many people get sober, work the steps, and find out that their anxiety was just a manifestation of their disease, and the symptoms go away with consistent action in recovery. However, others have a legitimate imbalance in their neurotransmitter levels, and need medical help to balance those out in order to be able to function normally (and to even be able to work a program). It is critical that you be honest with your doctor, and preferably have a doctor that is familiar with addiction. Tell them about your history of drinking or drug use, and explain that you are trying to get sober. Many doctors are quick to hand out medications, but if you explain your circumstances, the right doctor will take the time to figure out what is best for you, and what is actually needed. They may recommend therapy, alternative solutions, non-habit forming medications, or something else entirely, but be open and willing to follow their suggestions. Many people in recovery have opinions on taking medication in sobriety, but ultimately that decision should be left up to medical professionals. Work with your doctor to come up with a solution that you are both comfortable with, and that will best support your new sober approach to life.