Can Addiction Be Related to Mental Illness?
Can addiction be related to mental illness? Absolutely! Some mental health issues and substance use disorders may be related to chemical imbalances in the brain, and for others there may be a genetic predisposition to addiction and to mental illnesses.
The Addiction and Mental Illness Connection
When a person is experiencing undiagnosed and untreated psychiatric conditions, they may attempt to self-medicate, using drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism, to control their physical or psychological conditions.
The problem is that alcohol or drugs can make symptoms worse, and prevent development of healthy coping methods, satisfying relationships, and the ability to feel comfortable with themselves. This then triggers the use of more substances, which, over time, can lead to a physical dependency. Substance abuse can also lead to mental illness, and some substances will interfere with prescription medications.
When a person is suffering from a mental illness, and a substance addiction as co-occurring disorders, they receive a dual diagnosis, so they can treat both issues at the same time. A dual diagnosis requires an integrated treatment approach, because without treating the underlying root of both issues, a person with an addiction can easily relapse.
Common Co-Occurring Disorders
People with a chemical dependency are most often diagnosed with:
- Depression: When people have depression, they may turn to drugs to feel artificial joy and pleasure, and then experience worsening depression can occur when euphoria wears off, resulting in more drug consumption to avoid bad feelings, creating a vicious cycle.
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder: Drinking and prescription drugs can remove anxiety in social situations, but dependency on the substances increases over time, gradually creating a physical dependency, while making the anxiety worse.
- Bipolar Disorder: The imbalance of brain chemicals with bipolar disorder causes extreme high and low moods, which people try to manage using drugs. These substances can create more of an imbalance and irregular brain activity, worsening symptoms.
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: Symptoms of PTSD can include flashbacks, hyper-vigilance, and intrusive thoughts. People will use alcohol or medications to sleep better or avoid debilitating feelings, which can quickly lead to addiction.
- Borderline Personality Disease: BPD can cause unpredictable behavior and mood swings, scattered thoughts, and unsteady connections with others. People with BPD will sometimes turn to drugs for temporary relief, but the drugs can aggravate the symptoms.
- Suicidal Tendencies: When a person feels suicidal, they may turn to substances like stimulants to feel good. Feelings of hopelessness and unworthiness come with drug abuse, which can then create a greater risk of self-harm.
Signs and Symptoms of Addiction
Common substances people become addicted to include alcohol, cocaine or crack cocaine, opioids, sedatives or downers, nicotine, benzodiazepines, and amphetamines like Adderall or crystal meth.
Everybody has different experiences and behaviors when it comes to addiction, and you never know what somebody is going through. If you or a loved one is displaying a cluster of these signs, or experiences more than a few of these symptoms, an addiction may be playing a part.
These are some common external signs:
- Lying, stealing, or secretiveness
- Financial unpredictability
- New or unusual changes in social groups
- Having drug paraphernalia and stashes of drugs around
Some common symptoms include:
- Increased tolerance to the substance, needing more to get the same effect
- Withdrawal symptoms when not taking the substance, and difficulty cutting back or stopping
- Social activities revolving around the addiction and the substance, preoccupation with planning, using, and recovering from using the drug
- Persistent coughing and sniffling, and seeming sick sometimes and okay at other times
- Extreme mood changes, changes in sleep habits, and changes in energy
- Missing, or performing poorly at work, school, or other responsibilities because of substance use
- Weight loss or weight gain
It is important to keep in mind that there could be other reasons if somebody is showing a few of these signs and symptoms, like a relationship issue, or a different physical or mental health problem. If you believe a loved one is experiencing addiction, it is important to approach the subject with kindness and understanding.
Signs and Symptoms of Mental Illness
Some symptoms of mental illness include:
- Irritability and anger problems, or euphoria
- Forgetfulness, or poor performance at work, school, or other responsibilities
- Decline in the quality of relationships, and decline in satisfaction with life
- Depression and feeling down, or anxiety, dread and fear
- Sleeping problems like insomnia or sleeping too much
- Shaky hands, sweaty palms, vomiting or nausea, shortness of breath, chest pain, dizziness
- Social isolation, withdrawal from society
- Irregular heartbeat
- Excessive activity, low hunger
- Irrational thoughts or hallucinations, sudden shift in attitude or personality
- Hypervigilance and paranoia
- Suicidal tendencies
Those with a family history, especially first-degree family members, of depression, anxiety, and mental illnesses, are more likely to suffer from mental disorders like bipolar disorder, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Family relationships are also linked to mental illness, as learned responses to fear, stress, or loss are internalized and processed. A history of trauma, overexposure to stress, and other mental illness increases the risk of developing anxiety. Substance abuse can also cause neurological damage that may trigger or intensify mental illnesses.
Treating Addiction and Mental Illness with Dual Diagnosis Treatment
It is extremely important to use dual diagnosis treatment for those with chemical dependency, because if left untreated they could lead to bad relationships, job loss, poor health or brain damage, disability, and a higher risk of suicide.
The main benefit to a dual diagnosis is that the root of addiction, and the root of the mental illness are both addressed, through integrated therapy, clinical care, and medication. These issues are often very intertwined, or can even be the same issue, so treating it as such will end the cycle, and lead to a more effective, long-term solution.
The first step is a detox from any addictive substances. The next steps include therapy like CBT along with extra support, like life skills training, behavior modification, counseling, and family/group therapy to build a strong, communicative support system.
Medication may be prescribed as part of a dual diagnosis treatment, to tackle mental illness and drug addiction, under safe, clinical care. A medical professional will prescribe safe, appropriate medications and doses to make a positive impact on your recovery.
A healthy and sober community will help those with dual diagnosis to show they are not alone, and a healthy diet, and a routine that includes exercise and a good sleep schedule are also important. This can improve the health of your body, and retrain the brain to produce endorphins, while you gain a consistent, reliable lifestyle.
At Resurgence, there is professional support, individual and group therapy sessions, and aftercare support like outpatient treatments, programs like SMART or 12-step programs, and sober homes to help with the process of returning to life and responsibilities after rehab.
A dual diagnosis treatment is not easy, but at Resurgence, we will make it as comfortable and healing as possible, in an individualized, integrated treatment plan. Contact us, (855) 458-0050, for more information, we are here to help. It will be worth the hard work.