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How Are Addictions and Mental Illnesses Related?

How are addictions and mental illness related?
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Mental illness and substance use disorders are both significant health problems in the United States. These two mental health problems can occur at the same time, and one may even lead to the other. To answer the question, “How are addictions and mental illness related?” we’ll discuss the two primary reasons these illnesses often interact. And if you’re suffering from co-occurring disorders, you may need dual-diagnosis treatment to achieve recovery. Call The Bluffs at 850.374.5331 to talk to addiction and mental health experts and get the care you need today.

How Are Addictions and Mental Health Related?

There is a significant overlap between mental illness and addiction. But how are addictions and mental illness related, exactly? Two primary pathways define how people come to deal with both of these challenges at the same time:

1. Self-Medication

The first pathway is known as the self-medication hypothesis. The core idea of self-medication is that people experiencing the symptoms of depression, anxiety, trauma, or psychological stress may turn to drug or alcohol use to relieve their mental health symptoms. But while this may bring short-term relief, it can ultimately lead to worsened symptoms and the development of a substance use disorder.

The cycle of drug use for people who self-medicate to cope with symptoms of mental illness can follow a pattern:

  1. The person experiences negative mental health symptoms
  2. They use drugs or alcohol to cope with these symptoms
  3. Substance use provides short-term relief
  4. The effects of drugs or alcohol wear off, and mental health symptoms return stronger than before
  5. They use substances again, but they have to use a greater amount to overcome their heightened mental health symptoms

Once a person enters the cycle of self-medication, they can repeat steps four and five many times. This leads to escalation and increasingly severe consequences.

2. Addiction Leading to Mental Illness

Some people begin using drugs or alcohol without experiencing pre-existing mental health symptoms. Yet after living with a substance use disorder for a period, they may find themselves battling depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress. This is the second answer to the question, “How are addictions and mental health related?” Researchers have found that this pathway is more common among people who enter addiction treatment.

When people develop a substance use disorder, it can cause tremendous physical, emotional, and spiritual damage. First, people can lose important relationships. Second, they give up on activities that were once important to them. Finally, they struggle to maintain financial stability. These consequences can lead to an incredible amount of psychological distress. In time, that stress can evolve into a mental health disorder.

Dual-Diagnosis Treatment

The best course of action people can take to achieve recovery from addictions and mental health disorders is to start a dual-diagnosis treatment program. At a dual diagnosis facility, a team of addiction experts and mental health counselors work together to treat the substance use disorder and the symptoms of mental illness simultaneously.

If mental illness is left untreated during addiction rehab, patients are at a much higher risk of relapse. It is therefore vitally important that they seek treatment at a facility that can help with both disorders simultaneously and show them that the path to recovery is worthwhile.

Find Dual Diagnosis Treatment at The Bluffs

When you’re ready to get help, reach out to the addiction and mental health experts at The Bluffs by calling 850.374.5331. Our dual-diagnosis treatment facility focuses on bringing about holistic health for all of our patients, providing them with the tools needed for a lifetime in recovery. No matter where you are in your substance use or mental health journey, you can find a way to freedom with The Bluffs.

Contact The Bluffs Now

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