Anxiety is an addiction, according to Dennis Ortman, PhD, author and psychologist. Traditional treatment often fails to provide the holistic, spiritual healing needed to overcome the underlying issues that drive the anxiety, and Ortman recommends using the 12 Steps.
"There's more of an addictive quality to anxiety than we recognize," he tells Addiction Professional. "We can become addicted to mood states and to ways of thinking."
He presented his model at the Institute for Clinical Excellence in Atlanta this week.
"The 12 Steps contain the ingredients of any good therapy," Ortman says.
Among the key tenets of the Steps are the transformative journeys from ignorance to self-knowledge and from a self-centered life to an other-centered life. Such principles apply to anxiety's addictive nature as well.
For example, with Step 1, patients would admit they are powerless against anxiety. In other words, patients would recognize how the obsession with their own closed off world of anxious thought is self-centered and childlike, according to Ortman. Patients exhibit a helplessness where anxiety takes over their life just as a substance might take over the life of someone with addiction.
Working the Step helps them to move closer to a value-directed life.
"People who are anxious want to get rid of pain, but it's a battle they can't win," Ortman says. "The mindfulness approach is an invitation to come to an acceptance of where you're at. Accept that pain, lean into it and learn from your experience. Pain has value."
And just like addiction, anxiety has a relapsing nature. Therefore, Ortman says, the treatment with the 12 Steps does not aim to make the world accommodate the anxious patient but rather to have the anxious patient learn how to live in the world.