Mental Health & Substance
When it comes to addiction, substance abuse, and rehab, people often focus on the physical health effects. But there is also a strong connection between addiction and the mind. In fact, a lot of people dealing with substance use disorder are also struggling with a co-occurring mental health condition. When a person has both of these at the same time, it is called a dual diagnosis.
Depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder are only some examples of mental health conditions that often co-occur with substance abuse problems. Dealing with drug addiction or alcohol addiction is hard enough. Imagine how overwhelming it must be for a person to deal with mental illnesses at the same time. LEARN MORE
of Mental Illness
Interestingly, mental illnesses and substance use disorders usually have their own unique symptoms. These effects may overlap, making it even more difficult for a person to function normally and maintain a stable home life. They may struggle with work or have a hard time keeping up with their daily responsibilities. Even their relationships with other people may suffer.
Left untreated, these two conditions can end up worsening one another. This is why they need to be tackled at the same time under a cohesive addiction treatment program.
The importance of prioritizing mental health has seen increased acknowledgment in recent years. For example in 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) launched the WHO Special Initiative for Mental Health (2019-2023): Universal Health Coverage for Mental Health to provide affordable mental health care for over 100 million more people in 12 priority countries.
Despite some progress, people with mental health conditions around the world continue to experience discrimination and stigma. This happens despite the fact that a lot of mental health problems can be treated effectively at a low cost. Because of social stigma, not many people seek out the treatment they need.
Millions of people are affected by mental illness each year. Here are a few behavioral health statistics you should know about:
21% of adults in the United States experienced mental illness in 2020. That’s around 52.9 million people or 1 in 5 adults.
5.6% of US adults or 14.2 million people suffered from serious mental illness that year. 16.5% of US youth (6 to 17 years old) experienced a mental health condition in 2016.
Many people are affected by mental illness. Similarly, many people develop a form of substance use disorder at some point in their life. It is important to know the connection between mental health and substance addiction so we can better support someone who has a dual diagnosis. Let’s take a closer look.
What is a Mental Illness?
A mental illness, or a mental health disorder, is a mental health condition that affects a person’s mood, behavior, and thinking. Depression, anxiety, bipolar disorders, schizophrenia, and eating disorders are considered mental illnesses or mental health conditions.
Having a mental health concern every now and then is normal. However, a mental illness can cause frequent stress. It can hinder a person’s ability to function on a regular basis. It can lead to problems at work or in school. Mental health problems can even damage your relationships with other people.
Those who experience mental health problems often need professional help. Their symptoms can be managed through a combination of psychotherapy and medications.
Mental health conditions can make you feel miserable. In fact, feeling sad or down is one of the symptoms of a mental health condition. You may have excessive fears and worries, or feelings of guilt. You may be unable to concentrate on your tasks or just feel generally confused for no reason. You may even notice your mood shifting between extreme highs and lows.
If you think someone you love may be suffering from a mental health problem, keep an eye out for these signs and symptoms. Your loved one may pull away from their friends and family, or lose interest in hobbies and activities they used to enjoy.
Other indicators of a mental health condition are the following: low energy, fatigue, sleeping difficulties, changes in eating habits, changes in sex drive, excessive anger or hostility, suicidal ideation, inability to cope with stress, detachment from reality, paranoia, and hallucinations.
Sometimes the symptoms can even appear as physical health problems like back pain, stomach pain, headaches, etc.
Some of these symptoms may also be indicators of a substance use disorder, so it may be hard to differentiate them. The only way to know for sure is to talk to your loved one and convince them to seek professional medical assistance. Do not neglect your mental health needs.
Mental Health Problems &
Addiction – Dual Diagnosis
So what is the relationship between substance abuse and mental illness? Which one develops first?
There are some cases in which substance abuse leads to the development of mental health problems, while there are cases in which a person with a mental illness turns to alcohol or drugs in order to cope with their condition. This isn’t always the case, however. Despite the close connection between them, one does not always cause the other.
Unfortunately, the use of drugs and alcohol can increase the underlying risk for mental health conditions. It’s not easy to say if these substances ever directly cause mental disorders because at the end of the day it is still based on a combination of genetic and environmental factors. But if you are already at high risk of developing a mental health issue, abusing drugs or alcohol may push you over the edge.
On the flip side, those with mental health problems are more likely to self-medicate with alcohol and drugs to try and ease their symptoms. This happens most often with those who have undiagnosed mental disorders. Because they are not aware of their mental health condition, they try to cope with difficult emotions and situations with the help of substances.
While they may provide temporary relief, abusing illicit and prescription substances only worsens the problem in the long run.
Recognizing a dual diagnosis can be tricky. There are plenty of symptoms that are shared between substance abuse and certain mental illnesses. The signs and symptoms may even vary from one person to another depending on what mental health condition they have or what substance they have been taking. There are also biological factors that come into play such as their age, gender, body weight, etc. You may need a professional medical opinion to properly recognize a dual diagnosis.
What Are Some of
the Most Common Mental
Here we are going to discuss some of the most common conditions that can affect a person’s mental health. These mental health problems are considered “common” because they affect more people than other mental health conditions. Take note that it is possible for a person to have more than one mental health problem at the same time.
Depression is characterized by a general lack of interest in things that were once enjoyable. Depression isn’t just sadness. In fact, it is just one symptom of it. The depressed individual feels “low”. It also makes them feel irritable, tired, or unable to concentrate. They may have lots of negative thoughts as well as feelings of worthlessness and guilt.
Generalized anxiety disorders are also common. People with anxiety disorders have a number of different worries that are often excessive or out of proportion to the actual situation at hand. They have trouble controlling their worries and it may interfere with their daily lives. Anxiety may also cause other symptoms like irritability, restlessness, fatigue, and insomnia.
Panic disorder is somewhat similar, but instead it is characterized by unexpected and recurring panic attacks. People with a panic disorder also worry about having another panic attack. During a panic attack, they may have an increased heart rate even if there are no obvious causes for their discomfort.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder or OCD is characterized by repeated thoughts, images, and impulses that are hard to get rid of. People with OCD have a strong feeling to act on these obsessive thoughts and compulsions. Examples of common behavior among people with OCD include being afraid of germs, checking things repeatedly, repeating words and behaviors in a pattern, excessive cleaning, and worrying that something is not safe.
PTSD or post-traumatic stress disorder often develops in someone who has been through a traumatic event. A person with PTSD may have flashbacks or nightmares about the event long after it has occurred. They may also experience physical and psychological symptoms whenever they encounter things that remind them of what happened. Common physical reactions include sweating and shaking.
Bipolar disorder is another common mental health problem that is characterized by unusual shifts in mood, energy, concentration, and activity levels. You may notice extreme mood swings in a person with bipolar disorder. The person may shift between periods of mania or hypomania, and depression, sadness, or hopelessness.
These mental health conditions may range from mild to severe depending on the person’s specific situation. In order to improve mental health for people with these conditions, you need to seek medical help and allow them to go through proper treatment. This is especially important if they also have drug abuse problems.
Mental Disorders and
Drug rehab doesn’t just address your physical health concerns; it also helps give you better mental health by addressing co-occurring mental health disorders through dual diagnosis treatment.
The best way to deal with a dual diagnosis is with an integrated approach. You can’t tackle one of these problems without addressing the other. This is why addiction programs treat these conditions simultaneously. Which condition came first doesn’t matter. What matters is that you get on a long-term recovery program that tackles your physical and mental health needs.
You or your loved one may go through a series of treatment options including medical detox, individual therapy, group counseling, peer support, family therapy, etc. During rehab, you won’t just get sober, you will also learn how to maintain your sobriety through healthy coping mechanisms. Therapists and counselors will also help you get to the bottom of addictive behavior so you know how to address your triggers.
Although treatment takes time, all you have to remember is that there is always hope. You can recover from your mental illness and addiction. Recovery just takes time, courage, and commitment.
Even a relapse shouldn’t stop you. Relapses are just a part of the recovery process. It is such a common thing that it is viewed as just another obstacle in your long-term recovery. Setbacks happen. It doesn’t mean you’re a failure. It simply means you have more work to do.
It’s all about finding the right treatment program for you. If you have a co-occurring mental health condition, you may want to look for treatment centers that specialize in dual diagnosis treatment. Other than that, you have plenty of other things to consider like choosing between an inpatient and outpatient setup, or planning for aftercare. It’s all about finding what is right for you.
Self-Help Steps You Can Take
if You Have a Dual Diagnosis
In addition to seeking professional medical treatment, there are many ways you can help yourself while addressing your substance abuse and mental health problems. Remember that getting sober is only the beginning of a life-long journey. You will have to learn to take care of yourself if you want to turn your situation around.
Receiving treatment from a dual diagnosis facility is ideal, but in the meantime, make sure you use these self-help tips to ensure your sustained recovery.
First, you have to learn how to manage your stress and emotions without taking drugs or drinking alcohol. During rehab you will learn plenty of healthy coping mechanisms. You will also learn how to channel your energy into more productive things. Actively practice this to avoid relapsing.
Stress is a normal part of life, so it’s all about finding ways to deal with it without falling apart. You can try various stress management techniques to avoid relapse while keeping your symptoms at bay. Unpleasant feelings cannot be avoided sometimes, so you have to know how to handle them.
It is important to familiarize yourself with the things that stress you out and push you towards substance abuse. These are your triggers. You may learn more about this during therapy. Having triggers is normal, but you also need to have an action plan ready for when you encounter them out in the real world. Whether you are coping with a mental health problem or a substance abuse problem, you have to know what situations and people bring you closer to your unhealthy patterns.
What will you do, where will you go, or who will you talk to when you encounter these triggers? It pays to have a plan for these situations.
Next, you should start building new connections with other people. This may mean cutting off people who are harmful for your mental health. Toxic people who tolerate or enable your substance abuse should be avoided. It may be a good idea to start building new and healthier relationships elsewhere.
Spend more time with friends and family members. Try new hobbies and activities. Form positive emotional bonds with those around you and try to maintain those relationships.
Take care of your body by watching what you eat and exercising on a regular basis. Exercise is a great way to reduce stress naturally. It will also improve your mood and outlook in life. You can also try new relaxation techniques like deep breathing exercises, mindfulness meditation, yoga, etc.
It is easier to deal with life’s challenges with a healthy body. Luckily, through medical detox, your body will become less dependent on harmful substances. Start making healthier choices in terms of your diet and physical activity. Finally, make sure you get enough restful sleep at night.
Follow your doctor’s orders regarding your medications and treatment. Always consult them before making any changes to your medication or treatment routine.
Finally, when it comes to self-help, you may want to look into a new purpose. This may sound too deep and complicated, but addiction often leaves people feeling lost and unsure of the future. If you had a passion or mission that you left behind because it got derailed by substance abuse, you may want to start pursuing it again. Maybe you have priorities or life goals you want to achieve—now is the time to do it.
You have to set a long-term goal for yourself, whether it’s something brand new or something you have already been doing. This is how you stay drug and alcohol-free for the long term. You need to try and build a new, meaningful life for yourself where there is no place for substance abuse.
Even if you can’t find a new purpose immediately, you can just start with new hobbies, activities, sports, interests, etc. Look for something you find fulfilling. Find new meaning in life. The more you engage in activities you find fulfilling, the less you will feel the need to abuse these illicit substances.
Recovering from a co-occurring disorder does not happen overnight. It is an ongoing process—and you are going to need some expert help. Look for a rehab near you today to learn more about dual diagnosis treatment options and get started on the road to lasting recovery.
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