Anxiety can seem like enough to handle on its own. What do you do when you have co-occurring conditions, such as substance abuse problems or a mental health issue as well? Just thinking about it is overwhelming, yet there are things that you can do to stay on top of your diagnosis and get the help you need.
Develop Strong Support Systems
Having strong support systems in place is important for managing both your anxiety and co-occurring conditions. These range from simple relationships to in-depth therapeutic support.
Establishing a family member or friend whom you can talk to when feeling stressed.
- Participating in positive social activities that provide the opportunity to create friendships.
- Attending a support group with others who are struggling with similar issues.
- Engaging a trained therapist who can not only address your anxiety but also understands the complex relationship between anxiety and co-occurring conditions.
- Knowing where to reach out in times of crisis, such as a hotline.
One benefit of having a strong support system in place is knowing that you are not alone in this situation. There are people who “have your back” and are willing to help you.
Take Care of Yourself
Another thing to consider when you have anxiety and co-occurring conditions is remembering to take care of yourself. Anxiety causes you to hyper-focus on the problem so much that your other needs get left behind. If you have additional issues you’re working on, this only reinforces the importance of taking care of yourself. For example:
- Keep an eye on your nutrition and eat meals that are well-balanced with healthy foods.
- Exercise regularly, as it contributes to having a positive mood. Also, there is a strong connection between obesity (and all the associated problems) and mental illness.
- Practice mindfulness techniques such as meditation or breathing exercises.
- Have fun! Participating in fun activities also contributes to having a positive mood. It’s also a reminder that more things that make up who you are than anxiety or co-occurring conditions.
- Laugh a little! Laughter also helps improve your mood and is an excellent way to cope when things seem too hard or overwhelming.
Understand Your Conditions
When you have both anxiety and co-occurring conditions, knowledge is power. Seek to understand your anxiety and specific conditions. This is where working with a therapist can be particularly helpful. A therapist can assist you in understanding not just the clinical aspects of these conditions, but how they affect you and your behavior. Knowing why you experience these issues is important for understanding how to cope with them.
Practice Compassion with Yourself
Have you had times when you judged yourself, or felt angry that you had all of these problems? We all are too hard on ourselves from time-to-time. Certainly, having to live with anxiety and other issues is incredibly stressful and may sometimes lead to making poor decisions.
However, you don’t have to be defined by those choices, your anxiety, or by your co-occurring conditions. Think about all the positive things in your life. If you aren’t able to name any, talk to a friend or someone close who knows you. Give yourself a break!
Anxiety is hard enough to deal with on its own. Managing a co-occurring condition just seems to add to the load you are already carrying. It's true, there will be difficult times, but if you have support systems in place, try to stay healthy, and seek to understand you will be able to manage the burden. A therapist can help you through these issues by providing insight and help for you to understand and cope with your conditions.