Mental health and addiction have a complex relationship, but it is clear that the two issues are intimately linked.  People who struggle with mental health issues are more likely to develop a substance use disorder at some point in their life, just as those with addictions are more likely to struggle with their mental health.  Both conditions tend to worsen the other, often keeping individuals trapped in a seemingly endless cycle of substance abuse and deteriorating mental health. Seeking treatment from professionals trained in providing a dual diagnosis and working with people who have co-occurring disorders is the best way to escape this cycle.  Additionally, it can be helpful to understand some of the most common co-occurring disorders so that you may identify symptoms in yourself or someone you love.

Depression

Individuals may be given a diagnosis of clinical depression if they often experience intense periods of sadness or hopelessness, and struggle to find pleasure in activities that usually bring them joy.  People with depression commonly turn to drugs or alcohol to cope with their symptoms. Because these substances trigger the reward system and provide a temporary feeling of numbness or euphoria, they can sometimes seem like a quick fix for a very painful problem.  Unfortunately, drugs and alcohol only throw the chemical mechanisms in the brain further off balance, leading to more extreme symptoms in the future. Depression alone can have dire mental effects that may lead to high-risk behaviors and thoughts of suicide. Physical effects of depression often include lethargy, insomnia, and a weakened immune system.  When drugs and alcohol are added to an existing struggle with depression, mental and physical effects, become more severe. Additionally, for those who never experienced depression before becoming addicted to drugs or alcohol, the physical effects of these substances, along with the challenges that come with living with addiction, often lead to depressive symptoms.  

Anxiety

Everyone experiences anxiety from time to time, but frequent, severe periods of high anxiety and panic can be extremely disruptive and make it difficult to function in everyday life.  People with anxiety, especially those with social anxiety, commonly use drugs or alcohol to calm their nerves in situations that may trigger an attack. While these substances may work in the moment, they inevitably lead to worse anxiety later.  Additionally, many people who drink heavily or use drugs often experience extreme anxiety the day after substance abuse due to a depletion of vital chemicals in the brain. People with anxiety also commonly deal with sleep issues such as insomnia or frequent waking through the night and may turn to substances like alcohol to induce drowsiness.  However, this habit is ineffective as it leads to poor quality sleep that does not properly restore your mind and body, which inevitably leads you to be more lethargic the next day.  

Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder, once known as manic depression, causes extreme mood swings that result in periods of intense euphoria and energy followed by exhaustion and depression.  Studies have found that as much as 60 percent of those diagnosed with bipolar disorder have a history of substance abuse. Because these mood swings can be so dramatic and unsettling, many people with bipolar disorder use drugs or alcohol to try to regulate their moods.  However, these substances only worsen symptoms over time, as does the development of a substance use disorder. Additionally, people who abuse drugs can develop bipolar disorder as a result of permanently damaging their brain chemistry. With the proper treatment, symptoms of bipolar disorder can be managed alongside treatment for addiction.

PTSD

Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is a condition that can occur in individuals that directly experience or witness a traumatic event.  Trauma can include exposure to prolonged events such as childhood abuse or after repeatedly witnessing violence and death, such as in the case of some military members and first responders.  A person may also become traumatized as a result of an isolated incident such as a natural disaster or assault. People with PTSD may exhibit many of the symptoms mentioned above of anxiety or depression but may also suffer from flashbacks and an aversion to specific triggers that remind them of their traumatic experience.  Many people with PTSD turn to drugs or alcohol to numb their painful emotions or manage symptoms in an attempt to live a normal life. Unfortunately, just as with all mental health conditions, substance abuse only worsens symptoms and may lead to the additional stress of addiction.

Many people who struggle with mental health issues feel that drugs or alcohol are their only way to experience relief from their symptoms  The truth is that true peace can only be obtained by addressing mental health and addiction simultaneously. Quality treatment can lead to a life free of mental health woes and the many destructive effects of addiction. If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction and mental health issues, now is the time to reach out for help. At Burning Tree, you will find knowledgeable and compassionate professionals that structure treatment to fit individual needs, including the identification of co-occurring disorders. Through accountability and commitment to the 12 Steps, each client will develop the tools to create a sober lifestyle and find lasting recovery. We specialize in the treatment of chronic relapsers and believe with the right support, you can experience real and permanent healing. For more information, call us now at 866-287-2877.