Most Common Mental Health Conditions That Go With Addiction
When a person has decided to find support for their addictive behavior, they are often surprised to uncover an underlying mental health condition. However, substance use disorders very commonly occur with mental health conditions. A so-called co-occurring disorder, or dual diagnosis, can be a single mental health condition, or it may be more than one. Co-occurring mental health disorders can include anxiety disorders, personality disorders, bipolar disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). People with mental health conditions often exhibit a mixed picture, with multiple mental health conditions occurring simultaneously.
At a structured addiction treatment facility, people with addiction can find support for their alcohol or drug abuse and any symptoms of a harbored mental health disorder.
Read on for an examination of the relationship between mental health conditions and addiction, as well as the most common mental health conditions that go with addiction.
The Relationship Between Mental Health Disorders and Addiction
Addiction and substance use disorders often go hand-in-hand with mental health conditions. In fact, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), having a dual diagnosis is very common, with about 9.2 million people in the US currently managing a co-occurring disorder. Experts believe 50 percent of people with a substance use disorder will also have another mental health condition at some point in their lifetime.
If a person struggles with a substance use disorder, it is often difficult to tease out what condition precipitates their behaviors. Does a person drink because they are depressed, or are they depressed because they cannot stop drinking? It is often not possible to truly discern which condition drives the other. That is why detox and rehab treatment programs help people address both conditions at the same time. Substance use disorders and mental health conditions are very treatable, and many people can successfully recover from a dual diagnosis. However, treating one condition and not the other can set a person up for relapse.
Why Are Co-Occurring Mental Disorders So Common?
Researchers at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) have suggested various reasons it is so common for people with substance use disorders to struggle with mental health conditions. One reason might be that substance use disorders and mental health conditions share the same risks factors, such as genes, environmental stresses, and traumas. It also may be possible that people who have mental health conditions knowingly or unknowingly self-medicate to help manage their mental health symptoms. For example, a person with high anxiety might drink to feel like they can calm down. Another aspect of the link between substance use disorders and mental health conditions is that abusing substances may rewire a person’s brain and make them more vulnerable to developing a mental health condition. An example of this is the suggested relationship between marijuana use and the development of schizophrenia.
What Are the Symptoms of a Mental Health Condition?
The symptoms of mental health conditions can vary dramatically from one person to another. It is also important to note that only a trained clinician can properly evaluate symptoms of a mental health condition and make a diagnosis. However, symptoms that tend to be more common when it comes to mental health conditions include:
- Changes in daily habits, such as caring about physical appearance and hygiene
- Changing relationships with family or friends
- Difficulty connecting with others
- Increased risk-taking behavior
- Mood swings
- Neglect of previously enjoyed activities
- Personality changes
- Weight gain or loss
One of the most significant considerations in mental health conditions is evaluating how they affect a person’s functional abilities. For example, for one person, a certain level of anxiety may drive them to perform healthily—to reach their goals and perform well at work—while, in another person, the same level of anxiety might be crippling and spur a substance use disorder. With co-occurring disorders, symptoms of mental health conditions may also be harder to identify because they may get altered or caused by a person’s inebriated or otherwise altered state. That is why receiving simultaneous treatment for both substance use disorders and mental health conditions can be important.
What Are the Most Common Co-Occurring Disorders?
Substance use disorders are more likely to co-occur with certain mental health conditions. Here are a few of the most common mental health conditions that go with addiction and their symptoms.
People with anxiety disorders may suffer from feelings of edginess, difficulty concentrating, irritability, excessive worrying, sleep disturbances, and fear. Types of anxiety disorders include generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, and other phobias. Anxiety disorders and substance use disorders are commonly connected, often because people struggling with anxiety turn to substances to help them calm down and take the edge off.
People with mental health symptoms of low mood, low energy, feelings of sadness, lack of motivation, decreased interest in activities, feelings of guilt or worthlessness, and sleep disturbances may have major depression, or major depressive disorder (MDD). People with depression may turn to substances to numb their feelings or to try to increase their energy level, and depression may also result from a person’s struggle with addiction.
People with bipolar disorder often experience dramatic mood swings, shifting from low energy to high energy and back again, which is why this disorder was formerly called manic depression. These sudden shifts in mood and energy level can make it difficult for people to function in their everyday lives. It can be very tempting for people with bipolar disorder to turn to substances to help them mediate their symptoms.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
People with post-traumatic stress disorder have often experienced a traumatic event or stressful occurrence that continues to follow them, even though the event itself is in the past. They may feel that they re-experience the trauma repeatedly (through flashbacks, dreams, or frightening thoughts), or they may live their lives in a constant attempt to avoid reminders of the event. These individuals may turn to substances to help them avoid thinking about the event or to help them process their feelings about the event.
Borderline Personality Disorder
People with borderline personality disorder often have struggled with their symptoms and behaviors for a long time. Their view of the world, of other people, and their self-image can change swiftly and dramatically. They may experience large emotions and mood swings and suffer from feelings of abandonment and patterns of unstable relationships. During moments of intense emotions, they may be more likely to abuse substances or engage in risky behaviors.
Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
People with ADHD often identify symptoms of fidgeting, difficulty concentrating, and inability to control their impulses. They may have struggled in school and had behavioral problems as a result. Experts believe untreated childhood ADHD is related to a risk of developing future drug problems.
People with schizophrenia suffer from hallucinations and other psychotic features. Experts show that people with schizophrenia are more likely to struggle with alcohol, tobacco, and drug use when compared to the general public. Schizophrenia and nicotine abuse, in particular, have been highly correlated.
People with eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder, may suffer from intense preoccupation about their weight, low self-esteem, and risky behaviors to keep their weight tightly controlled. They may use substances to enhance weight control or help manage their negative feelings about their body image.
Identifying and Treating Co-Occurring Disorders
People struggling with an alcohol or drug use disorder and a mental health condition can benefit greatly from professionally addressing their concerns. A mental health provider can make a mental health diagnosis using a standardized manual known as the DSM-5 and then determine what type of medication and behavioral support can best help address a patient’s concerns. Often, these types of comprehensive evaluations occur within the setting of a structured rehab program, and they may represent the first time a person with an addiction history addresses their mental health concerns.
It’s important to note that young people are particularly vulnerable to developing a substance use disorder and a simultaneous mental illness. Research has found that more than 60 percent of adolescents in substance abuse treatment centers have a co-occurring condition.
Finding Support for Addiction
Addiction can turn a person’s life inside out, and it is often associated with an underlying mental health condition. Breaking free from addiction without addressing mental health concerns can be futile and put a person at risk of relapse.
At The Haven New England, our experienced clinicians help clients address every aspect of their mental well-being, from mental health concerns to substance abuse disorders. We use evidence-based treatments at our state-of-the-art treatment facility to help our clients achieve successful recoveries and futures free from substance abuse.
To learn more about our addiction treatment and mental health programs, contact us today.