May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Started decades ago as a campaign to raise awareness of the importance of mental health and destigmatize discussion around it, it has since grown into a nationwide movement that has provided helpful resources and education to countless individuals and families. Despite the fact that more Americans know about mental health today, however, not as many people know about the connections between mental health and addiction, and how a mental disorder and substance use disorder can exacerbate one another.
The reality is that many individuals who struggle with addiction are diagnosed with mental disorders, and vice versa, and plenty more go their whole lives without having one of their disorders diagnosed. In fact, there have now been numerous surveys that have shown about half of all people who experience a mental illness will also experience a substance use disorder at some point in their lives—in our industry, we refer to this as a co-occurring disorder.
There are several factors that can cause one disorder to lead to the other.
People with Mental Disorders Seek Self-Medication
People who are struggling with the symptoms of their mental disorder often turn to drugs and alcohol for relief, which is understandable, as many people abuse drugs and alcohol as a way to cope with negative experiences and difficult emotions. Some examples of mental illnesses include depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and PTSD. For people with trauma, for example, getting drunk or high may seem like a good way to relax and keep bad memories or flashbacks at bay. However, if drug or alcohol abuse becomes frequent, the body will adapt and people will need to take more of the drug to get high. This can quickly snowball into addiction.
Mental Disorders Can Develop from Addiction
People often abuse alcohol to achieve happy and pleasant feelings and some drugs to help them relax or sleep better. However, research has shown that substance abuse and addiction can lead to the very symptoms that users are trying to treat through self-medication. Though alcohol can make you feel happy temporarily, it’s a known depressant that can cause serious crashes and bouts of depression. Drug addiction has also been known to lead to anxiety and panic disorders, insomnia, paranoia, depression, and fatigue.
It can sometimes be challenging to know if someone is suffering from a dual diagnosis, as the symptoms of substance use disorders and mental disorders can be similar and include changes like a drop in attendance and performance at work or school, sudden mood swings, and detachment from loved ones. Itt’s important for individuals who have co-occurring disorders to receive treatment for both of their disorders, as only treating one will most likely not be effective. If left untreated, disorders like depression and PTSD can cause relapses, which often lead to overdose and death.
Make Today Your Turning Point
At Turning Point, Inc., we understand the complexities of battling alcohol and drug addiction while you’re also dealing with underlying mental issues. Since 1975, we’ve made it our goal to provide individualized care to each of our patients with the knowledge that everyone is going through something different and requires personalized care. From detox to short-term residential treatment to transitional living, we’re able to accompany you through every stage of your recovery and give you the support you need. You can trust us to treat both your mental disorder and substance use disorder during your time with us.
Contact our team at Turning Point, Inc. online or by phone at (973) 380-0905 to receive treatment from one of our multiple locations. For over 45 years, we’ve provided effective and compassionate care for those with substance use and co-occurring disorders.