Chicken or Egg? A Closer Look at Addiction and Mental Illness

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If a person lives with addiction and a mental health condition, both disorders typically need to be addressed for lifelong recovery to be possible.

When two mental health disorders exist together, it is hard to know which developed first or understand the impact one has on the other. Whichever it may be, often two or more psychological conditions exist simultaneously, making treatment for both potentially more difficult.

Addiction and mental illness commonly occur together. In fact, about half of the people with some sort of mental illness will have a substance use disorder at some time as well. This is also true in reverse in that those with a substance use disorder often also have a mental health condition. This phenomenon is often referred to as comorbidity.

What Is Mental Illness and What Is Addiction?

Mental illness is a condition that involves changes in thinking, emotions or behavior that cause problems in daily life, including functioning at work, school, family or social activities. Mental illness can also lead to self-harm and other dangerous behaviors. Some of the most common mental health conditions are depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, eating disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Addiction is a brain disease in which a person chronically and compulsively uses a substance even though the consequences are harmful. The brains of people with substance use disorders can change significantly as a result of substance use, leading to intense cravings for the drug. These changes can affect judgment, behavior and memory, and may also cause other negative effects. Even though those with an addiction may see the dangers of their behaviors, they may not be able to stop engaging in them.

There are a few reasons why addiction and mental illness are so often seen together:

  • People with mental illness, such as social anxiety or bipolar disorder, may use drugs or alcohol to ease the pain associated with these mental health conditions
  • People who have suffered trauma, violent crimes or other severe events may develop depression or anxiety and turn to substance use as a coping mechanism
  • Substance use can alter the brain and contribute to the development of mental illness and/or trigger symptoms of dormant mental illness
  • Some risk factors, like childhood trauma or genetic makeup, may make certain people more prone to both mental illness and substance misuse

If a person lives with addiction and a mental health condition, both disorders typically need to be addressed for lifelong recovery to be possible.

Common Co-Occurring Mental Illness and Addiction Combinations

Some of the most common co-occurring combinations of mental health disorders and addiction include:

  • Alcohol addiction and antisocial personality disorder
  • Opioid addiction and PTSD
  • Heroin addiction and depression
  • Cocaine addiction and anxiety disorders
  • Marijuana addiction and schizophrenia

Even though these are some of the more common combinations, any mental disorder can be found in conjunction with any type of substance use disorder. The key to treatment is to address both disorders together instead of separately and identify and evaluate both conditions concurrently.

Treatment for Co-occurring Disorders

Professional care in a recovery center is the best way to address co-occurring disorders. Because comorbidities are often too complicated to handle alone, a combination of treatments geared specifically to your needs can give you the best chance of long-term success.

Often, a combination of behavioral therapies and medication can lead to the best treatment outcomes. Some of the behavioral therapies often used to treat addiction and mental health disorders are:

  • Cognitive Behavioral therapy: CBT helps change harmful and detrimental behaviors into positive ones
  • Therapeutic Communities and Residential Centers: These can help foster positive interactions and socialization skills while recovering
  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy: This type of therapy can help reduce the risk of self-harm behaviors

In residential treatment, you can benefit from group and individual therapy, support groups and counseling, as well as the safety and comfort of a setting that is conducive to mental health, well-being and sobriety. Professionals teach positive coping strategies and implement a plan of action for aftercare to help you maintain sobriety and good mental health.

Seeking Help

If you are dealing with the co-occurring disorders of addiction and mental illness, seeking help is important to recovery and long-term psychological wellness. Both disorders are dangerous, but together they can be even more harmful when left unaddressed.

Remember, recovery is possible and self-medicating is not the only way to find relief from a mental illness. Seeking help for addiction and mental illness is imperative for a successful recovery. Contact Orlando Recovery Center to find the best treatment program for you and learn more about admissions. We tailor each program to the individual and our treatment centers are safe havens to find sobriety and recovery, along with mental health and wellness. Our specialists and compassionate staff will be with you through your journey.