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Mental Health and Addiction: How Are They Related?


When an individual has been diagnosed with a mental health disorder and a substance use disorder or addiction, this is considered by medical professionals to be a dual diagnosis or co-diagnosis.

A dual diagnosis means both the diagnoses are co-occurring.

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 45 percent of people with an addiction will also have a mental health disorder.

This does not mean that everyone with a mental health disorder uses drugs as a coping mechanism.

However, it does happen often.

It is a real problem in America.

Sometimes to cope with the symptoms of mental health disorders, individuals will begin to self-medicate with various drugs.

This may alleviate their symptoms momentarily, but it is only a short-term solution and can even make things much worse.

Many drugs may exacerbate the symptoms of mental health disorders.

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Common Links in Mental Health and Addiction

Addiction is not an easy feat to overcome especially when you are diagnosed with mental health disorders.

The symptoms of both these ailments can seem overwhelming and tiresome.

Both untreated mental health disorders and addiction may affect your ability to perform well at work, school, and home life.

A dual diagnosis may also impair your relationships with others, leading to a life of isolation.

Many mental health disorders and various drugs usually work together or against each other, resulting in complicating problems in mental and physical health.

This dual diagnosis will often get worse if left unaddressed and untreated.

You may feel like drugs are an escape from your mental health disorders and may provide respite from the angst you feel.

However, developing a dual diagnosis of a mental health disorder and addiction will only make it more difficult to cope and find solace.

Drugs alter your brain chemistry in a way that makes it unpleasant to stop using them.

This is known as withdrawals.

Withdrawal symptoms are always present with addiction.

Anhedonia, the inability to feel pleasure, is often a result of addiction.

The brain will only produce serotonin and dopamine when drugs are consumed.

This is how you know substance abuse has turned into an addiction.

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Who is at Risk for Dual Diagnosis of Mental Health Disorders and Addiction?

There is a multitude of risk factors that contribute to a dual diagnosis of mental health disorders and addiction. One does not necessitate the other and vice versa. However, it occurs more often than it should.
It has been observed by researchers that an individual with mental health disorders who begins using drugs will also develop more mental health disorders. There is not a single factor that can provide an empirical reason as to why some people will develop mental health disorders and/or addiction.
However, there are several components that people with this specific dual diagnosis have in common. These components are known as risk factors. Not everyone with a risk factor will develop a mental health disorder or addiction, but the correlation suggests a contributing context regarding mental health disorders and addiction development.
Risk factors only determine the likelihood of developing mental health disorders and addiction. These risk factors affect everyone differently, and as a result, everyone will have different responses and outcomes. The various risk factors in the development of mental health disorders and addictions can be present in all individuals. There is no specific formula or set of rules that determines a dual diagnosis of mental health disorders and addiction.

The Role of Genetics in Mental Health Disorders and Addiction

Vulnerabilities in genetics often pose a risk as to who develops mental health disorders and addiction. Approximately 40-60 percent of addiction can be linked to genetic components. If one parent has a mental health disorder, their offspring is likely to also develop mental health disorders, manifesting either as a child or in adulthood.
The risk factor that genetics pose in the development of mental health disorders and addiction is observed by the vulnerability that is comprised of complex interactions between multiple genes. Genetics can also play a major role when environmental influences are introduced. An example of this would be an individual addicted to marijuana in his or her youth developing psychosis and/or other mental health disorders.
However, in this example, it is a specific gene variant that was manipulated by external stimuli, resulting in the development of mental health disorders. The brain is vulnerable to outside influences, especially drug use. It impairs the brain’s natural abilities and can detrimentally affect mental health to the point that it requires professional treatment. Sometimes a gene product determines an individual’s response to a drug and how long it remains in the body. This can explain why some people find drugs more pleasurable than others.

The Role of Environmental Factors in Mental Health Disorders and Addiction

The environment in which an individual lives within, grows up in, and has experiences with various external stimuli also plays a major role in the development of mental health disorders and addiction. The human mind is highly susceptible to influence by pervasive subliminal and active messages and behaviors of others around them.
Movies, media, video games, and other forms of entertainment and recreation can have a major influence on an individual, especially youth. In youth, many have friends that they spend time with and may even look up to. Many times, peer pressure to use drugs presents itself in social groups. This has been addressed by the nation, and it has resulted in the implementation of various social and educational preventative programs.
If one or both parents use drugs, likely, their offspring will use drugs. Parental drug use will affect the child’s psychological and emotional growth. Positive influences and productive activities should be the main environmental factors to help reduce the likelihood of mental health disorders and addiction. Other factors can include trauma and a psychologically damaging childhood. Trauma always manifests itself somehow. Some of those who have had traumatic experiences may cope with the angst by using drugs and developing an addiction. However, often, their traumatic experiences are amplified because of drug use.

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