Professionals have known for years that there is a strong connection between addiction and mental health, as it is common for them to occur together (often referred to as comorbidity). For those struggling with addiction, mental health issues, or both, it can be helpful to know why this connection exists. Mental health treatment programs are an effective choice for those who are ready to begin to heal from the effects of these conditions.

Often, it is thought that individuals with a mental health diagnosis have used a substance of choice to deal with the symptoms of the mental health issue. However, others tend to believe that years of abusing a substance can cause changes within the brain and lead to a mental health diagnosis.

Most Common Co-Occurring Mental Health Disorders

While it is possible for someone with any mental health disorder to have a co-existing substance abuse problem, there are a few that tend to occur more frequently. These include:

  • Depression – Common symptoms include feelings of hopelessness, loss of interest in things once enjoyed, changes in sleep patterns and eating habits, a lack of energy, feelings of anger or guilt, and difficulty concentrating.
  • Anxiety – Common symptoms are excessive worry, irritability, restlessness, nervousness, increased heart rate, difficulty sleeping and focusing.
  • Bipolar disorder – Common symptoms include alternating manic and depressive moods, impulsivity, aggression, hyperactivity, racing thoughts, and impaired judgment.
  • Schizophrenia – This is a disorder in which there are episodes of hallucinations, delusions, disorganized speech, disorganized or catatonic behavior, and/or a lack of emotions.

Genetics and Mental Health Disorders

Genetics can play a part in mental health disorders and, often, with addictive behaviors. Individuals who are born into a family in which one or both of the biological parents or grandparents have a problem with substance abuse and addiction will find themselves at a greater risk for developing the same behavior.

Chemical Imbalances in the Brain

Your brain determines the way you feel, the way you react to certain situations, and how your overall body processes and organs function. However, if your brain fails to release the chemicals it needs to perform at its best, there will be consequences. For example, serotonin is believed to regulate your mood, varied social behaviors, and appetite, and digestion. So, what happens when your body becomes deficient in its production of serotonin? Your moods may come irregular and your brain processes may be thrown off, leaving you with the symptoms of a mental health issue.

Medications may be used to regulate these chemicals, but those who don’t seek medical attention may find themselves attempting to self-medicate with the use of a substance.

Which Comes First: Addiction or Mental Illness?

There is a clear connection between substance use issues and mental health, but the ways in which these conditions interact can vary.

  • Some individuals suffer the symptoms of a mental illness and do not reach out for help. Without the proper diagnosis and treatment of a mental health disorder, the individual may begin attempting to calm the symptoms by using alcohol or drugs.
  • While addiction does not necessarily cause a mental disorder, it may have some bearing on creating new symptoms or sparking the onset of the disorder.

It is important to note that if you have been diagnosed with a mental health issue and have been prescribed medication, using or abusing drugs and alcohol may have a highly negative effect on your body due to the prescribed medication.

Treatment for Co-Occurring Disorders at Westwind Recovery®

When it comes to comorbidity, treatment can be challenging. If you only treat either addiction or mental health issues, you are not healing or helping the whole person. Instead, you will want to attack both the addiction and the mental health. Dual diagnosis treatment programs can offer hope and healing for those struggling with co-occurring disorders. At Westwind Recovery®, our mental health and addiction treatment programs help clients begin the road to lasting recovery. Connect with a member of our team today by reaching out to us at 855.340.8832 or by contacting us online.