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Five Common Types of Mental Illness that Can Occur with Substance Abuse

Mental illness worldwide continues to be a problem, and it’s getting worse. Chemical imbalances characterize several types of mental illnesses; however, some affect people physically and emotionally. They can also co-occur with substance abuse and severely disrupt someone’s life. Learn about the five most common types of mental illness, with some co-occurring with each other or other mental illnesses.



Depression continues to be the most common mental disorder with an overwhelming bias towards women. According to The World Health Organization (WHO), it impacts an estimated 260 million people worldwide and one of the leading causes of disability. The symptoms of depression vary in levels of severity, such as a loss of interest and pleasure, feelings of guilt or low self-worth, reduced concentration, tiredness, disturbed sleep or appetite, and sadness. Depending on the severity and type of depression, it can be debilitating to some people.


Various treatment modalities are available to treat depression, but it is a medical disease that usually needs medication to help correct the chemical imbalances in the brain. Depression can be the result of abuse or other trauma that then alters the way certain parts of the brain function. This is where antidepressants come in. Also, cognitive-behavioral therapy is an effective form of treatment for moderate to severe depression. However, medication should not be used for children as the first line of treatment. In it’s most severe form, it can lead to suicide. Also, substance use and abuse can make depression worse since alcohol is a natural depressant.


Bipolar Disorder

Approximately 45 million people globally have bipolar disorder, which usually consists of both manic and depressive episodes. Normal moods separate these. When in the manic phase, the person can feel unstoppable and invincible. The symptoms can include over-activity, inflated self-esteem, rapid speech, and need for less sleep. Note that people who do not experience depressive episodes can still be classified as having bipolar.


For the acute phase and prevention of relapse, there are effective treatments. Medications are used to stabilize people’s moods and psychosocial support, an integral part of treatment.


Schizophrenia and Other Psychoses

A severe mental disorder, schizophrenia affects 20 million people worldwide. This psychosis, among others, is characterized by alterations in thinking, perception, emotions, language, and sense of self and behavior. Some of these psychotic experiences include hallucinations (hearing, seeing, feeling things that aren’t there) and delusions (fixed false beliefs or suspicions when there is no evidence for them but are firmly held). The disorder can make it challenging for people to work or study normally. Because of the stigma and discrimination attached to schizophrenia, access to health and social services are reduced. 



Globally, about 50 million people have dementia, which is a progressive disease of cognitive function. (inability to process thought beyond the normal for aging) It affects:


  • Memory
  • Thinking 
  • Orientation
  • Calculation 
  • Learning capacity 
  • Language 
  • Comprehension 
  • Judgment


Dementia is usually accompanied by or sometimes preceded by declining social behavior, emotional control, and motivation. It’s also caused by brain diseases or injuries such as Alzheimer’s disease or a stroke. Although there’s no treatment for dementia, treatments are in various stages of clinical trials. 


Development Disorders

The most common development disorder is autism, which falls under the umbrella term of intellectual disability and pervasive developmental disorders. They usually present in early childhood but tend to continue into adulthood, which causes delays in central nervous system maturation. There’s usually not periods of remission or relapse, but a steady course. Cognitive function and adaptive behavior are generally lacking, which diminishes the ability to adapt to daily life demands.


Some symptoms of these disorders, including autism, are impaired social behavior, communication and language, and a focused range of interests and activities that are done repetitively and unique to the individual. Therapy is available to help cope with the disorder and set up a structure of daily routines. 


Have a Disabling Mental Illness with Substance Abuse?

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but if you find yourself or a loved one struggling with any of these mental illnesses that have led to substance abuse and need care and support, contact us. Our team is trained and experienced in helping people with addictions that affect their life. We have various therapies that can help people take control of their challenges and get the best treatment for them. If you need help, please get in touch with us today.