What comes first: Substance abuse or the mental health problem?

People with mental illness often self-medicate with drugs or alcohol to ease their symptoms. It might temporarily relieve the intensity of the illness, but it ultimately makes the situation worse. Substance abuse can mask the symptoms of mental illness, making it difficult to diagnose and treat.

Besides providing temporary relief from mental health issues, self-medicating with addictive substances can also lead to addiction, which poses its own set of problems. If you suspect that you or someone you know is suffering from a mental illness, you should seek professional help.

Only a trained mental health professional can provide an accurate diagnosis and design an effective treatment plan. Self-medication with drugs or alcohol is not a viable option. Here is an overview of the cause-and-effect link between mental illness and addiction.

What is Mental Illness?

The first sign of a mental illness is usually a change in thinking, feeling, or behavior. So, if someone has schizophrenia, for instance, they might experience delusions or hear voices that other people do not hear (hallucinations). Meanwhile, other mental illnesses, such as bipolar disorder, can be characterized by mood changes, such as depression and mania.

Mental illnesses can affect behavior, such as agitation or aggression associated with certain types of dementia. Secondly, mental illnesses are often episodic, which means that they come and go over time. Someone with depression might feel fine for months or years before experiencing a depressive episode.

The Link Between Mental Health and Addiction

According to numerous addiction experts, most substance abusers also have mental health problems. They self-medicate to cope with trauma, ADHD, bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, and extreme stress. Substance abuse can sometimes be caused by undiagnosed mental health issues. For instance, people suffering from PTSD may turn to drugs or alcohol to numb their anxiety and fear.

ADHD can make it difficult for people to focus and stay on task, causing them to seek drugs or alcohol to escape their problems. Bipolar disorder can cause extreme highs and lows, making people more prone to addiction. People suffering from depression and anxiety may self-medicate to find relief from their symptoms. Chronic stress, too, can lead to substance abuse, as people try to cope with the stress by abusing drugs and alcohol.

Researchers hope to better treat both mental health and addiction by understanding the relationship between the two. Studies have shown that self-medicating often leads to addiction, and people who suffer from mental health disorders are more likely to use substances to cope with their symptoms. Additionally, people with mental health disorders may have difficulty recovering from addiction. The underlying condition makes it hard to deal with the stressors of sobriety, which increases the risk of relapse.

Practical Benefits of Treating Co-Occurring Disorders

By identifying the link between mental health and addiction, experts can develop more effective treatments for both conditions. Since it’s often difficult to say which came first, mental health or addiction, they don’t fret about the cause but refer to someone who has both as having a co-occurring disorder. It’s more practical to consider both conditions as happening simultaneously.

This is a viable approach because both mental health and addiction can alter brain chemistry. According to research, treating both conditions at the same time is more effective than treating them separately. One reason for this is that people with co-occurring disorders often self-medicate with substances.

For example, someone suffering from depression may turn to alcohol to cope with their feelings of sadness. But alcohol is a depressant, so it worsens depression symptoms. The treatment of both conditions at the same time may help break this cycle. Moreover, treating co-occurring disorders can be more cost-effective than treating them separately.

People with co-occurring disorders often need more intensive treatment than those with only one condition. If someone has both depression and alcoholism, for instance, they might shuttle between therapy sessions and attending drug or alcohol support group meetings.

However, if these two conditions are treated separately, people often receive two distinct types of treatment. This can be time-consuming, expensive, and ineffective. In comparison, treating co-occurring disorders together can improve both mental health and addiction since they are inextricably linked together. You can reach us at 844-639-8371 if you are looking for a rehab center. Our counselors can help you choose from several addiction recovery programs.

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