Mental illness and addiction are often treated as separate issues. While they are different disorders, studies show that there is a clear connection between mental illness and substance abuse. Because the National Alliance on Mental Illness reports that “one in five American adults experiences some form of mental illness in any given year,” it’s important to better understand what factors may affect your mental health. So here’s everything you should know about the connection between mental illness and substance abuse.
Mental Illness and Addiction Are Co-Occurring Disorders
In a National Survey on Drug Use and Health, they found that 7.9 million people in the United States experienced a substance use disorder and mental illness at the same time. With a clear connection between these disorders, researchers find that either disorder can come first. Someone can start with a mental disorder and turn to addictive substances, or in some cases, someone may develop symptoms of mental illness after drug use.
People May Turn to Drugs to Self-Medicate
People may use drugs to temporarily relieve painful feelings and anxiety. Many depressed people smoke marijuana to boost their mood. An alcoholic may drink alcohol to reduce social anxiety. Some people take cocaine when they need more energy get through their day.
Unfortunately, alcohol and drugs do not cure underlying mental health issues. Alcohol and drugs will always create new problems and worsen the original mental health symptoms. Cocaine, opiates, and methamphetamine can cause seizures and psychotic behavior—negatively affecting the physical and mental health of the user. This tendency toward self medication is one reason why it’s important to raise awareness for mental health issues. By lessening the stigma against addiction and mental illness, people may be more likely to seek appropriate treatment.
Dual Diagnosis Requires Comprehensive Treatment
Because you’re treating two disorders, it’s important to look for treatment centers that will address both addiction recovery and mental illness. For example, if you have a dual diagnosis of major depressive disorder and alcohol addiction, you will want to look for an alcohol rehab facility that offers psychiatric counselling and support. According to the Midwest Institute for Addiction, “improved status after treatment is more likely when clients have access to a range of mental health and medical services.” With a comprehensive treatment plan, those with co-occurring disorders have a much better chance of recovering from addiction and improving their health.
While there are several treatment options for substance abuse issues, prevention will always be the best option. If your mental health issues become overwhelming, look for ways to practice self-care and don’t hesitate to seek outside help. Work toward building a network of support and rely on others in your moments of struggle. And if you’re struggling with addiction, know that what you’re facing affects millions of people—and recovery is definitely possible.