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What Is the Correlation Between Mental Illness and Drug Addiction?

Mental illness can be extremely challenging for those who have been diagnosed with one, and those around them.  Although illnesses such as depression or anxiety don’t cause substance abuse problems or vice versa, there is a strong link between the two. Keep reading to find out more about this connection, and how you can cope.

Poor Mental Health and Drug Addiction

Some individuals resort to using substances as a way to cope with their mental illness or develop poor mental health as a result of long-term substance abuse. Multiple national population surveys have discovered that over half of those who experience mental health disorders will also experience a substance abuse disorder or SUD, and vice-versa. When you’re dealing with both a mental disorder and SUD, this is called dual-diagnosis or a co-occurring disorder.  It’s common for people with undiagnosed mental conditions to turn to drugs or alcohol as a way to self-medicate in order to deal with the symptoms or to temporarily alter their mental state. Unfortunately, heavily using drugs and alcohol can actually worsen your mental state over time or even trigger new symptoms, making this practice counter-intuitive. 

The Most Common Dual-Diagnosis

The mental problems most commonly linked with SUD in dual-diagnoses include:
  • Depression – Depression is a disorder that causes sufferers to become disinterested in everyday life and activities, and experience feelings of sadness and hopelessness.  Common symptoms of depression include losing interest in things you once enjoyed, feeling hopeless or helpless, changes in appetite or weight, the inability to experience joy or pleasure, changes in sleep patterns, and loss of energy. 
  • Anxiety – Anxiety is a disorder where sufferers experience intense persistent worry and fear about aspects of everyday life, sometimes resulting in panic attacks. Common symptoms of anxiety include persistent feelings of worry, restlessness, or jumpiness, feeling on edge, irritability, insomnia, a racing heartbeat and shortness of breath, muscle tension, headaches, nausea, and the inability to focus. 
  • Bipolar disorder – Bipolar Disorder is a mental health condition where sufferers experience high highs followed by low lows. They may be likely to make rash decisions while in a state of euphoria, followed by a depressive period. Common symptoms of bipolar disorder include anger, rage, hyperactivity, racing thoughts and quick speech, irritability, euphoria, increased energy, reduced need for sleep, and impulsivity. 
If you are experiencing symptoms of depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder, consider consulting with a psychiatrist. Although dual diagnosis can make treatment difficult, it is possible to treat some of the symptoms of these mental health conditions through a combination of therapy, medication, and various lifestyle changes.  Genetics Mental disorders are triggered through a complicated mix of genetic, environmental, and random factors, however, studies have shown that drug and alcohol use can help to trigger them in some cases. For instance, schizophrenia has been linked to high levels of cannabis use, and the use of opioid painkillers has been linked to the development of depression. This doesn’t mean that an addict’s mental disorder was caused by SUD, but it does mean that SUD could have played a contributing role. 

How to Spot a Dual-Diagnosis

It’s not always easy to recognize that you may be struggling with poor mental health, or substance abuse. Here are some signs that you may be struggling with dual-diagnosis:
  • Do you have a family history of mental disorder or SUD?
  • Do you feel symptoms of mental disorders (anxious, depressed, unbalanced) even when you’re sober?
  • Have you previously been treated for SUD or poor mental health and had one sabotage the treatment of the other? 
  • Do you use drugs or alcohol in your everyday life to cope with painful memories or emotions, the mundaneness of life, or to help you focus?
  • Is there a strong link between substance abuse and your mental health?
Although none of these are sure signs of dual-diagnosis, if you resonate with any of them it may be time to seek professional help. Consider reaching out to a psychiatrist or medical doctor. 

How to Cope

The link between poor mental health and substance abuse makes clear the imperative need to develop healthy coping mechanisms in order to deal with life’s stresses. Some healthy ways to de-stress include:
  • Venting to a friend or therapist.
  • Finding a sport or form of exercise that you enjoy.
  • Participating in hobbies like painting, reading, drawing, writing, etc.
Although reducing stress won’t necessarily cure your mental health issues or drug addiction, it will help to give you the clarity and peace of mind to more effectively deal with the symptoms of those problems.  If you’ve received a dual-diagnosis, don’t wait to take action to get sober and improve your mental health. Mental health issues and drug addiction can be an extremely dangerous, even lethal combination. If you have either of these issues and you’re starting to feel like your life may be spiraling out of control, it is time to seek professional treatment.  At a treatment facility, you will be afforded round-the-clock care so you can safely go through withdrawal, which can be both mentally and physically strenuous. You will be given a treatment plan to help you achieve sobriety, and  therapy alongside medication (if necessary) which can be extremely useful in improving your quality of life. It is vital that you seek treatment that will not only help you to conquer your substance addiction, but that will account for your mental health as well. 

Let Ardu Recovery Center Help

If you or a loved one are struggling with mental illness and drug addiction, know you’re not alone. Contact Ardu Recovery Center today to learn more about the treatment programs we offer for these conditions and to start your journey back to wellness. We pride ourselves in our holistic and therapeutic approach to addiction treatment, and we tailor treatment to your individual needs so you’ll have a higher chance of achieving success. Come and visit our picturesque Provo, Utah, location today and see what Ardu can do for you.