Double Trouble: The Connection Between Mental Health and Substance Addiction Disorders

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If dealing with substance addiction disorders isn’t bad enough, imagine having to deal with a mental illness as well? I don’t mean to alarm you, but, most people aren’t aware of the direct link between the two.

A previous study done by the National Survey on Drug Abuse reveals that about 3.3% of adults in the US are dealing with addiction and a mental health disorder at the same time. It’s no coincidence either. This is what a dual diagnosis is.

What’s more surprising is that usually, the mental disorder is the underlying cause of an addiction. There are many forms of treatment to tackle these issues such as hypnosis or rehab centers such as, but let’s first explore in depth the connection between the two diagnosis’.

1. Warning Signs

Since several different combinations of dual diagnosis exist, the symptoms are all over the spectrum. If you notice a combination of 3 or more of these, it’s a sign that the individual could be grappling with both drug addiction and mental health disorder issues.

Be on the lookout for:

  • Extreme mood changes
  • Sudden behavioral changes
  • Challenges in concentration
  • Withdrawal from family, friends and most social settings
  • Dependency on alcohol or drugs to function

2. Substance Addiction Can Lead to Mental Illness

Mental illness can manifest in various stages of drug abuse. Strong evidence suggests that extreme intoxication and withdrawal can trigger psychiatric episodes.

This is especially plausible in individuals who have an underlying biological psychiatric susceptibility.

3. Mental Illness Can Cause Substance Addiction Disorders

This is by far the most common issue when it comes to mental health and addictions. Individuals often self-medicate with drugs or alcohol to deal with the disruptive symptoms associated with mental health disorders.

Unfortunately, this seldom addresses the underlying cause. Instead, it generates a new set of health problems that increase the severity of the initial mental problem.

Instances of this include:

  • The use of marijuana to treat depression
  • Alcohol use by individuals who suffer from social anxiety
  • Using Xanax to neutralize the onset of panic attacks

4. Drug Abuse and Mental Illness Share a Common Cause

Shared genetic vulnerabilities and environmental factors may predispose one to substance abuse and mental health disorders. For instance, inadequate regulation of the “feel good” hormone Dopamine is a common denominator.

Early exposure to drugs, as well as, untreated childhood trauma increases the risk of individuals developing mental and drug-related issues later in life.

5. Substance Abuse and Mental Illness Are Codependent

When the two disorders exist in the same individual, they also contribute towards reinforcing each other. Look at it this way. An individual with a mental diagnosis may result in self-medication to alleviate their symptoms.

With time, the prolonged use of these substances may lead to addiction. This would, in theory, contribute to sustaining the psychiatric disorder, which would, in turn, result in excessive use of the substance.

This self-perpetuating cycle would continue to no end unless they seek help in dual diagnosis treatment centers to address both issues.

Final Word

Mental illness and addiction disorders are nothing to be ashamed of. It is especially important for a dual diagnosis patient to enroll in a treatment program that specializes in both conditions.

Treatment of one condition on its own is ineffective in eradicating both. If you or a loved one is living with a dual diagnosis please get in touch with me. I’d love to hear about your journey.

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