Recognizing the Relationship between Mental Health and Substance Abuse

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There is a growing awareness of the connection between mental health illnesses and substance abuse. A person suffering both is known to be experiencing a co-occurring disorder, or dual diagnosis.

Addiction and mental health illness are dangerous alone. Together, they can be lethal. It is crucial that someone experiencing both be treated for both-not just an addiction or a mental illness-in order to experience successful recovery.

Does Mental Illness Cause Substance Abuse?

There is debate among mental health and substance abuse experts over which comes first, mental illness or substance abuse. It’s not a clear cut answer. But there are connections.

  • People who suffer from mental health disorders often self-medicate with drugs and alcohol.
  • According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, about 50 percent of people suffering from severe mental illness also struggle with substance abuse.

What Causes Co-occurring Disorders?

Smiling young man in warm clothing looks to his side in forest on a winter dayVarious factors are believed to play a role, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse:

  • Using drugs or alcohol to self-medicate for depression, anxiety, or another mental health disorder
  • Suffering a traumatic event, like a divorce, death of a loved one, or physical and sexual abuse
  • Heredity/family history
  • Neurological causes, such as low levels of neurotransmitters
  • Using drugs or alcohol as a teenager while the brain is still developing

What Mental Health Disorders Usually Occur with Substance Abuse?

The most common mental illnesses that co-occur with substance abuse are depression, anxiety disorders, bi-polar disorder, PTSD, ADD, and eating disorders.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reports that almost eight million adults suffered from dual diagnoses in 2014.

Why Is a Dual Diagnosis Often Overlooked?

Substance abuse and mental health disorders often have similar or even identical symptoms, complicating diagnosis and treatment. It can be hard to pinpoint what’s going on. Patients may be suffering from other health problems, too, further muddying the waters. Being screened by a professional who is experienced in dealing with co-occurring disorders will help patients receive the proper diagnosis and, in turn, get the personalized treatment they need to recover.

Why Should I Be Concerned About a Dual Diagnosis?

Businessman holding paper with printed question markAbusing drugs and alcohol can worsen a mental health problem by increasing symptoms or bringing on new ones. Drugs and alcohol can interact with anti-depressants or other medications, causing potentially dangerous side effects.

Only treating one problem-substance abuse or mental illness-is not effective because it does not address all the underlying symptoms. If you suffer from depression and you overcome a drug addiction, you’re still left with a mental disorder eating at your health. This leaves you more likely to turn back to drugs in efforts to self-medicate the depression. It can be a never-ending cycle if these issues are not addressed simultaneously.

How Are Co-occurring Disorders Diagnosed and Treated?

Many treatment facilities offer integrative care programs that diagnose and address addiction and mental health disorders, treating them with a holistic approach. This is ideal because on-site professionals can address multiple needs, coordinate medications, and create a customized recovery program.

If you or a loved one are suffering from alcohol or drug addiction, contact Rehab After Work today. Our caring team of professionals can help you determine if you have a mental health issue and create an integrative treatment plan to get you on the right path to health and healing.