Struggling with mental health issues can be challenging, especially when your symptoms are the result of a mental health disorder and a substance use disorder. The connection between mental health and addiction can be difficult to pinpoint when the symptoms overlap, but getting professional help can help you identify the relationship between them so you can better manage them in the long run.
Co-occurring disorders refer to the connection between mental health and addiction in one individual. In these situation, mental illness and addiction reinforce each other, making the symptoms of the other even worse.
The most common mental disorders that occur alongside substance use are:
- Bipolar disorder
- Borderline personality disorder
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- Eating disorder
Recognizing the signs of co-occurrence can be challenging because many of the symptoms overlap. However, these are a few of the general warning signs that you could be experiencing co-occurring disorders:
- Using alcohol or drugs to cope with unwanted memories and thoughts, pain, the intensity of moods, or to accomplish daily tasks.
- Noticing a distinct connection between your mental health and substance use. For instance, experiencing depression, anxiety, or other increased symptoms of a mental health problem when you drink alcohol or use drugs.
- Experiencing symptoms of anxiety, depression, or other mental health conditions that require increasing amounts of drugs and alcohol to address.
- Chronic issues with mental health and/or addiction.
But this connection is not just between mental health and addiction. The National Institute on Drug Abuse has also found a link between co-occurring substance use disorders and physical health conditions. These physical conditions can also impact the severity of the mental health conditions listed above.
Signs and Symptoms of Co-Occurring Disorders
The signs and symptoms of co-occurring mental health and addiction issues will differ depending on the symptoms of the disorders. However, these are a few of the general symptoms that can come from the connection between mental health and addiction:
- Feeling helpless or hopeless
- Loss of interest in daily activities
- Problems concentrating
- Lack of energy
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Appetite and weight changes
- Anger and irritability
- Engaging in reckless behavior
- Experiencing physical pain
What Is the Connection Between Mental Health and Addiction?
As previously stated, determining the connection between mental health and addiction can be challenging. Mental health disorders are caused by a combination of genetic, environmental, and additional factors, all of which makes it difficult to determine substance use as a cause rather than another contributing factor. However, individuals who are more vulnerable to developing a mental health disorder have an increased risk of abusing drugs and alcohol. These substances in turn worsen the emotional and physical symptoms that initially caused the substance use disorder to develop.
What Starts The Connection Between Mental Health and Addiction?
The connection between mental health and addiction isn’t always easy to understand. For example, maybe you started drinking to lessen the anxiety you felt before going out with friends. Now, you’re unable to start your day without a drink in the morning. This in turn has led to new anxiety symptoms. At some point, it can be difficult to figure out if the anxiety you feel is the result of the drinking, or if it would still be there if you stopped drinking.
In general, mental health and substance use disorders are linked but may not necessarily cause one another. However, in this example, the pre-existing anxiety symptoms led to the substance use disorder. But the correlation isn’t always that easy to detect. The consensus is that rather than one causing the other, they influence the onset of one another.
The Difference Between Behaviors and Symptoms
In addition to experiencing mental and physical symptoms from a mental and substance use disorder, these disorders also manifest in behaviors that can be a result of self-preservation. This will present in a variety of ways that depend on the disorders and an individual’s life experiences. For example, individuals with anxiety disorders may isolate themselves to prevent anxiety flare ups without realizing where the desire to isolate stems from. In this case, the behavior of isolation acts as a shield to prevent vulnerability in interpersonal relationships.
The connection between mental health and addiction functions in a similar way. A person who is depressed may use stimulants like cocaine or ecstasy to mitigate their symptoms. And like in the above example, this may work as a temporary fix, but it does not solve the root issue and may lead to more problems than it solves.
Genetics and Family History
The connection between mental health and addiction is also linked to genetic predisposition. Disorders such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia often present in families. The same is commonly true for addiction. The correlation between mental health disorders and addiction could be genetic and/or stem from unaddressed trauma that is passed down through generations. This can be exhibited through symptoms of mental illness and growing up in a dysfunctional family system.
Identifying genetic factors can be the most challenging aspect of understanding the connection between mental health and addiction. However, treatments such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help individuals recognize how some of their symptoms and behavior stem from their disorders through learning and unlearning behavior patterns with a therapist.
Connecting the Pieces Through Treatment
Making a connection between your substance use disorder and other mental health challenges can take time and often requires a professional diagnosis to find proper treatment. Individuals can find the connection between mental health and addiction despite the variety of signs and symptoms associated with their disorders. This can be done with the help of professional assessments and therapy, all of which are provided at Port St. Lucie Hospital.
Professional Mental Health and Addiction Support
At the start of your recovery journey, you may need to undergo medical detox. This helps alcohol and drug users start treatment with a sober start. After successfully detoxing from drugs and alcohol, you will move on to the next phase at the treatment facility by attending different types of therapy.
The dual diagnosis program at Port St. Lucie Hospital was designed to specifically treat people with co-occurring mental health and addiction issues. The first step of these treatment programs is the assessment phase. This is where the medical staff documents the patient’s history with addiction and any diagnosis or suspected diagnosis. This helps the staff determine the best course of treatment for your needs.
Our dual diagnosis program helps individuals of all backgrounds heal from their mental health struggles. Discovering the connection between mental health and addiction is one part of that journey. In addition, patients learn new ways to cope with their symptoms so they no longer have to rely on drugs and alcohol. Recovery is a lifelong journey, but with the help and support of professionals and loved ones, it’s possible.
Address the Connection Between Mental Health and Addiction
You don’t have to uncover the connection between mental health and addiction in your life alone. Seeking the help of medical professionals at Port St. Lucie Hospital can help you learn to manage your symptoms in a way that allows you to live a happier, healthier life. If you have any questions about getting treatment at Port St. Lucie Hospital, contact the admissions experts at 772-408-5871 or fill out a confidential contact form to get the answers. Get the help you deserve from people you can trust.