Every year in October, the World Health Organization celebrates World Mental Health Day, seeking to bring awareness to and reduce stigma about mental health issues around the world. To do our part, we wanted to share with you how issues with addiction and mental health are connected, and moreover, how you can get help and begin your recovery journey.
The Connection Between Addiction and Mental Health
Addiction and mental health have a complicated and intertwined relationship. Many people who have substance use disorders also have mental disorders, making them “comorbid.” Mental disorders that may coincide with substance use disorders include generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, bipolar disorder, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), borderline personality disorder (BPD), antisocial personality disorder (ASPD), psychotic illness, and others. That is to say, many mental disorders, of various kinds, are comorbidities of substance use disorder.
That does not necessarily mean that a mental disorder caused an individual’s substance abuse, or that substance abuse caused an individual’s mental disorder. According to the (opens in a new tab) (NIDA), the shared risk factors between substance use disorders and various mental disorders puts a person at risk of developing both without one causing the other. Put more simply, experiencing emotional trauma in childhood puts a person at risk of abusing drugs, but that same trauma also puts a person at risk of developing an anxiety disorder. This one risk factor can cause both a substance use disorder and a mental disorder.
How Addiction Affects Mental Health and Vice Versa
That’s not to say that mental disorders and substance use disorders never contribute to or cause the development of the other. For instance, substance use can change the way the brain is structured. These structural changes are similar to the changes certain mental disorders also cause in the brain. For this reason, people who may not have had a mental disorder before using drugs may be at higher risk for developing one because of these changes to the brain. Schizophrenia, anxiety, mood, and impulse-control disorders can be caused in this way.
Conversely, existing mental disorders can also contribute to new substance use disorders. It’s believed that some people with mental disorders self-medicate by turning to drugs, causing a substance use disorder. Also, certain mental disorders are risk factors for developing substance use disorders. People with ADHD, for example, are at higher risk of developing a substance use disorder because of the possible impulsivity and behavioral problems that come with their ADHD.
The Importance of Addressing Both
Mental health and addiction are clearly connected, and because of that, the most effective treatment for someone with both kinds of disorders will attend to both. Think about it: if someone is self-medicating their mental disorder with drugs, taking away the drugs without addressing the person’s mental health issues will likely lead to them self-medicating with drugs again in the future. To treat addiction without acknowledging the mental health issues an individual is dealing with would be ineffective, and vice versa.
Whether a mental disorder caused your addiction, substance use caused your mental disorder, or they both stem from the same risk factor, research shows that the best way to get better is to seek out simultaneous treatment for each.
How to Get Help
Taking care of your mental health or recovering from your addiction may sound intimidating or unrealistic, but it can be done with proper help and resources. At , we know that each person struggling with addiction is different. Because of this, we take an individualized approach to each of our patients, seeking to understand you better in order to get you the treatment you need. We offer treatment for mental health disorders and addiction recovery, including (both individual and group), prescribed medication for mental disorders, and for substance use disorders.
Ready to take the next step? We’re here to help. (opens in a new tab) today or call (855)-502-2273 for more information.