Mental Illnesses Leading To Addiction Explained

Explore the intertwining paths of substance abuse and mental health.

By Rosewood Recovery Team
July 10, 2024

Types of Mental Illnesses

In understanding the relationship between mental illnesses and addiction, it is important to explore the various types of mental illnesses that can lead to addiction. Two common types are anxiety disorders and personality disorders.

Anxiety Disorders and Substance Abuse

Anxiety disorders are characterized by persistent and often unfounded fears that can interfere with work, close relationships, and social activities. Individuals with anxiety disorders are twice as likely to suffer from substance abuse compared to the general population, as stated by the American Addiction Centers. Some common types of anxiety disorders that can lead to addiction include Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, and anxiety stemming from traumatic events like military combat or abuse, as mentioned by Pinelands Recovery Center.

People suffering from anxiety may turn to drugs or alcohol as a way to self-medicate and cope with their symptoms. While substances may provide temporary relief from negative thoughts and emotions, this can ultimately exacerbate anxiety in the long run and lead to substance abuse issues, as highlighted by Pinelands Recovery Center. It's important to note that anxiety medications, although beneficial in treating anxiety symptoms, can be highly addictive. This can lead individuals to take more than the recommended dosage, seek multiple prescriptions from different doctors, and even turn to the black market for pills or other drugs.

Personality Disorders and Addiction

Personality disorders are a group of mental health conditions characterized by enduring patterns of behavior, cognition, and inner experiences that deviate significantly from societal expectations. Although each personality disorder has unique features, individuals with personality disorders are at an increased risk for developing addiction.

The relationship between personality disorders and addiction can be complex. People with personality disorders may turn to substances as a way to cope with emotional dysregulation, impulsivity, or feelings of emptiness. Substance use may temporarily alleviate their symptoms or provide a sense of control. However, substance abuse can worsen the symptoms of personality disorders and contribute to a cycle of addiction.

It's important to seek professional help for both the underlying personality disorder and substance abuse issues. Integrated treatment approaches that address both conditions simultaneously, such as behavioral therapies, can be effective in promoting long-term recovery. If you or someone you know is struggling with a personality disorder and addiction, reach out to a healthcare provider or a treatment facility specializing in co-occurring disorders for assistance.

Understanding the connection between mental illnesses, such as anxiety disorders and personality disorders, and addiction is crucial in providing appropriate support and treatment for individuals who are dealing with both conditions. By addressing these underlying mental health issues in conjunction with addiction, individuals can work towards achieving lasting recovery and overall well-being.

Mental Illness and Substance Use

Mental illness and substance use often go hand in hand, with individuals dealing with mental health conditions being more susceptible to developing addictions. This section explores the relationship between mental illnesses and substance abuse, focusing on depression and substance abuse as well as schizophrenia and addiction.

Depression and Substance Abuse

Depression, one of the most common mental illnesses, can significantly increase the risk of substance abuse. According to Addiction Center, an estimated one-third of people with major depression also have an alcohol problem. The coexistence of depression and substance abuse can exacerbate the negative effects of both conditions, leading to a vicious cycle that can be challenging to break.

People suffering from depression have approximately a 10% lifetime suicide risk. When combined with substance abuse, the suicide risk rises to about 25%. It is crucial to recognize the warning signs and seek help for both conditions to ensure the well-being and safety of individuals struggling with depression and substance abuse.

Different forms of depression can contribute to the development of substance abuse disorders. Major Depression, affecting roughly 7% of the nation's population at any given time, is characterized by persistent feelings of sadness, loss of interest, changes in appetite, sleep disturbances, and difficulty concentrating [1]. Dysthymia, a milder form of depression, involves a continuous "gloomy mood" lasting more than 1 to 2 years. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), on the other hand, is associated with variations in light and generally occurs during the wintertime [1].

Schizophrenia and Addiction

Schizophrenia, a chronic and severe mental disorder, can also contribute to the development of addiction. Individuals with schizophrenia often struggle with distorted thoughts, hallucinations, and difficulty distinguishing reality from fantasy. Substance abuse may be used as a way to cope with the symptoms or to self-medicate, leading to a higher risk of addiction.

The prevalence of substance abuse among individuals with schizophrenia is significantly higher compared to the general population. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), individuals with schizophrenia are nearly four times more likely to develop a substance use disorder than those without the condition.

It is important to note that substance abuse can worsen the symptoms of schizophrenia and interfere with treatment outcomes. The co-occurrence of these conditions requires a comprehensive approach that addresses both mental health and substance abuse issues. Integrated treatment programs that combine medication, therapy, and support services can be beneficial for individuals with schizophrenia and addiction.

Understanding the connection between mental illnesses and substance abuse is crucial in developing effective treatment strategies. By addressing both the mental health condition and the substance abuse disorder simultaneously, individuals can have a better chance of achieving lasting recovery. If you or someone you know is struggling with mental illness and substance abuse, it is essential to seek professional help from substance abuse treatment centers that specialize in treating co-occurring disorders.

Childhood Trauma and Addiction

Childhood trauma can have profound effects on individuals, increasing the risk of developing substance use disorders (SUDs) and addiction later in life. Understanding the connection between trauma and addiction is crucial in addressing the underlying factors contributing to addictive behaviors. In this section, we will delve into the relationship between childhood trauma and addiction, focusing on trauma histories and adverse childhood experiences.

Trauma Histories and Vulnerability to Addiction

Early traumatic experiences can significantly impact an individual's susceptibility to substance abuse and addiction. Trauma, such as physical, sexual, and emotional abuse, can lead individuals to attempt self-medication or seek relief from the distressing symptoms associated with a dysregulated biological stress response [2].

Research has shown that childhood trauma, particularly experiences of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse, can have an additive effect with a history of substance dependence, such as cocaine dependence, in predicting current symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It is important to note that this effect is independent of exposure to adult trauma.

Adverse Childhood Experiences and Substance Use

The impact of childhood trauma on substance use extends beyond specific traumatic events. Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), which include various forms of abuse, neglect, loss of a parent, witnessing intimate partner violence, and living with a family member with a mental illness, contribute to an increased risk of addiction in adulthood [3].

Studies have revealed a strong association between adverse childhood experiences and subsequent substance use, particularly cocaine and marijuana use. Different types of childhood abuse have varying effects on substance use, with sexual abuse significantly linked to cocaine and marijuana use, and physical abuse associated with all substances examined. As the number of ACEs increases, the risk of alcohol and other drug use in adulthood also increases. Adults who endorse four or more ACEs are three times more likely to experience alcohol problems in adulthood, while those who endorse three or more ACEs are more than three times more likely to engage in problem gambling [3].

Understanding the connection between childhood trauma and addiction is essential for individuals struggling with addiction and those involved in their care. Recognizing the impact of trauma can guide the development of effective treatment strategies that address the underlying trauma and support long-term recovery.

Co-Occurring Disorders

When it comes to substance abuse and addiction, it's important to recognize that individuals may also be dealing with other mental health disorders. This co-occurrence of substance use and mental disorders, known as comorbidity, is a common phenomenon. In this section, we will explore the comorbidity of substance use and mental disorders, as well as the behavioral therapies available for individuals with co-occurring disorders.

Comorbidity of Substance Use and Mental Disorders

Research suggests that individuals with substance use disorder (SUD) may also have other mental health disorders such as anxiety disorders, depression, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), bipolar disorder, personality disorders, and schizophrenia. It's important to note that the relationship between substance use and mental disorders is complex and multifaceted. While it is possible for one disorder to cause or lead to the other, there are three possibilities explaining why SUDs and other mental disorders may occur together:

  • Common risk factors: Substance use and mental disorders may share common risk factors such as genetic vulnerabilities, environmental factors, or underlying neurobiological mechanisms.
  • One disorder leading to another: Substance use may lead to the development of a mental disorder, or vice versa, due to the effects of substances on the brain and mental health.
  • Bidirectional relationship: Substance use and mental disorders may mutually influence and reinforce each other, leading to a cycle of co-occurring disorders.

It is recommended to treat individuals with a SUD and another mental health disorder simultaneously rather than separately. This integrated approach ensures that both disorders are addressed effectively and reduces the risk of relapse. Comprehensive assessment tools should be used to accurately diagnose and provide appropriate treatment for individuals with co-occurring disorders. For more information on substance abuse treatment and rehab centers, check out our article on the best drug rehab centers.

Behavioral Therapies for Co-Occurring Disorders

Behavioral therapies have shown promise in treating individuals with co-occurring substance use and mental disorders. These therapies aim to address both the substance use and the underlying mental health issues. Some common behavioral therapies used in the treatment of co-occurring disorders include:

  • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): This therapy helps individuals identify and change negative thought patterns and behaviors that contribute to substance use and mental disorders. It focuses on developing coping strategies and improving overall well-being.
  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT): DBT combines elements of CBT with mindfulness techniques. It helps individuals regulate emotions, manage stress, and improve interpersonal relationships.
  • Motivational Interviewing (MI): MI is a client-centered approach that helps individuals resolve their ambivalence about changing their behavior. It focuses on enhancing motivation and commitment to treatment.
  • Contingency Management (CM): CM uses positive reinforcement to encourage individuals to abstain from substance use and engage in healthy behaviors.

In addition to behavioral therapies, medications may also be used to treat co-occurring disorders. Effective medications are available for opioid, alcohol, and nicotine addiction, as well as for managing the symptoms of many other mental disorders. In some cases, medications may be useful in treating multiple disorders simultaneously. It's important to consult with a healthcare professional to determine the most appropriate treatment approach for co-occurring disorders.

By understanding the comorbidity of substance use and mental disorders, and exploring the available behavioral therapies, individuals with co-occurring disorders can receive the comprehensive treatment they need to overcome their challenges and achieve lasting recovery.

Related Articles

Recovery Begins Here

Click below to get in touch and schedule a consult call with our team to begin your journey towards happiness and freedom.

Rosewood Recovery does not discrimate against any person because of the race, color, religious creed, ancestry, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, handicap or disability or the use of a guide or support animal because of the blindness, deafness or physical handicap.