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April 18, 2023

Why Addiction and Mental Health Disorders Often Occur Together

Mental health disorders and addiction often go hand in hand. Understanding mental health disorders and how to identify pre-cursers can help get ahead of related issues before they have time to develop. However, often times addiction treatment leads to the discovery of pre-existing conditions, when some damage has already been done. Identifying the root cause of your addiction and understanding how mental health plays a role can make all the difference in your lasting recovery.

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April 18, 2023

Understanding Mental Health Alongside Addiction

It’s said the best things in life come in pairs. Sadly, so do some of the awful ones. That is the case with addiction and mental health.

According to some estimates, around 37% of alcoholics and 53% of drug abusers have at least one underlying mental health condition. The co-occurrence of these two conditions is referred to as dual diagnosis or psychological comorbidity - a situation that can make the treatment of either condition more challenging. The wide prevalence of these simultaneously occurring conditions makes it necessary to correctly understand the factors behind them. Only then is effective diagnosis, care, and support possible for people suffering from these conditions.

In this blog, we will explore the relationship between addiction and mental health disorders in detail and shed light on the complex interplay between the two. We will also discuss the importance of integrated treatment approaches that address both conditions simultaneously to promote lasting recovery and improved quality of life.

Importance Of Understanding The Connection Between Addiction And Mental Health Disorders

The connection between addiction and mental health disorders is complex and multifaceted. Having an accurate understanding of this relationship is crucial for several reasons, such as:

Avoiding relapses

Individuals who struggle with both addiction and mental health disorders are at higher risk for poor treatment outcomes. Specifically, they are more susceptible to relapsing and have an increased likelihood of developing other health problems

Addressing underlying causes

Someone struggling with a mental health disorder can find it significantly harder to treat their addiction, and vice versa, as the two conditions can exacerbate each other and create a cycle of dependency that is difficult to break. Both addiction and mental health disorders must, therefore, be addressed and treated.

Combating stigma

Understanding the connection between addiction and mental health disorders can help reduce the social stigma associated with both conditions. That is necessary for promoting greater empathy and understanding for those who are struggling with these dual conditions.

Recognizing the complex relationship between addiction and mental health disorders can help develop more effective treatment approaches and better support those in need.

Understanding Addiction

In the US alone, close to 18 million people over the age of 12 suffer from a substance use disorder (SUD), while 74% are dependent on alcohol. This disturbing landscape makes it necessary to develop a critical understanding of the factors that lead someone to develop a SUD.

Common causes and risk factors for addiction

Addiction is a complex condition that can arise from a combination of genetic, environmental, social, and psychological factors. While this is not an exhaustive list, here are some of the most common causes and risk factors behind addiction:

  • Genetics: Can you be genetically predisposed to developing an addiction? Research suggests that genetic factors can account for about 50% of an individual's risk of developing an addiction.
  • Environment: Environmental factors can play a significant role in the development of addiction. Exposure to substance abuse in the family or community, trauma, and even stress can increase the risk of addiction and substance use.
  • Mental health disorders: According to a few published papers, people who struggle with mental health disorders are more likely to develop an addiction. This may be partly due to the use of drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism to alleviate symptoms of these disorders.
  • Peer pressure: Social and peer influences can also contribute to the development of addiction, particularly among young people. The pressure to fit in can be overwhelming and substantially increase the likelihood of experimentation with drugs or alcohol and eventually of addiction.

How Addiction Affects The Brain

Ever wondered why addiction is so difficult to overcome?

It's because addiction is a disease that affects the brain's reward system, making it incredibly hard for individuals to control their use of drugs or alcohol. When an individual uses drugs or alcohol, it triggers a surge of dopamine in their brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter - a chemical in the brain that causes feelings of pleasure, satisfaction, and motivation. It reinforces the consumption behavior and its resulting sense of reward. Over time, the brain adapts to these dopamine surges, reducing its natural production and creating a cycle of dependence.

But that's not all! In addition to affecting the brain's reward system, substance use can also impact other areas of the brain, including those responsible for decision-making, impulse control, and stress regulation. This can manifest in poor choices, risky behaviors, and increased stress and anxiety levels in people with substance use disorders.

As addiction progresses, all these factors can combine to change the structure and function of an individual’s brain, making it harder to quit and increasing the risk of relapse.

Understanding Mental Health Disorders

For many, mental health can be a difficult concept to grasp. Understanding mental health disorders is key to demystifying the complexities of our minds and taking charge of our mental well-being.

Common causes and risk factors for mental health disorders

Mental health disorders can be caused by a variety of factors, such as:

  • Genetics: Some mental health disorders are genetically passed down through generations, making some individuals predisposed to developing them.
  • Trauma: Traumatic events such as abuse, neglect, or violence can increase the likelihood of developing mental health disorders such as PTSD, anxiety, or depression.
  • Substance abuse: Substance abuse can also increase the risk of developing mental health disorders, as drugs and alcohol affects brain chemistry and can trigger or worsen symptoms of mental illness.
  • Environmental factors: Social and economic factors such as poverty, social isolation, and stressful environments can also increase the risk of mental health disorders.

Types Of Mental Health Disorders

There are many different types of mental health disorders, each with unique symptoms, causes, and treatment approaches. The most common types of mental health disorders include:

  • Anxiety disorders: These disorders are characterized by persistent feelings of fear, worry, or unease and can include conditions such as generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and social anxiety disorder.
  • Mood disorders: These disorders are characterized by rapid changes in mood, leading to conditions like depression and bipolar disorder.
  • Personality disorders: These disorders involve long-lasting changes or distortions in patterns of thought and behavior, including conditions such as borderline personality disorder or narcissistic personality disorder.
  • Schizophrenia: This disorder involves a sense of mental fragmentation or delusion. It can come with a range of symptoms including hallucinations, disordered thinking, and abnormal behavior.
  • Eating disorders: These disorders involve an unhealthy preoccupation with food and weight and can include conditions such as anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa.

The Relationship Between Addiction and Mental Health Disorders

Addiction and mental health disorders are closely related, and research shows that roughly 29% of individuals diagnosed as mentally ill abuse alcohol or other substances and have a co-occurring mental health disorder. Roughly 50 percent of individuals have at least one serious mental illness.

The Impact Of Addiction On Mental Health Disorders

Individuals with SUDs may develop long-term mental health symptoms resulting from their substance abuse, such as anxiety or psychosis.

Substance use and addiction can also trigger or worsen symptoms of mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety, making them worse or harder to treat. For instance, drug or alcohol use can interfere with the effectiveness of certain medications prescribed for mental health disorders, making it harder to manage symptoms.

The Impact Of Mental Health Disorders On Addiction

Mental health disorders can also significantly impact addiction, making it harder for an individual to recover. For example, someone with depression or anxiety may use drugs or alcohol to self-medicate and cope with their symptoms. However, this can ultimately worsen their symptoms. Mental health disorders can also contribute to relapse during addiction recovery, causing some to turn to drugs or alcohol to cope with difficult emotions or triggers.

The relationship between addiction and mental health disorders can become a vicious cycle, with each condition feeding into and exacerbating the other. Developing effective treatment approaches that address both conditions equally is, therefore, essential.

Importance Of Integrated Treatment

Integrated treatment programs that address both addiction and mental health can help break the cycle of co-occurring disorders and provide struggling individuals with the support they need for lasting recovery.

Traditional treatment approaches typically focus on one condition at a time, often leading to incomplete diagnoses, inadequate treatment, failure to address root causes, and a higher risk of relapse.

Integrated treatment approaches address the behaviors, mindsets, and underlying mental conditions that led to addiction. Such a holistic approach to treatment allows patients to reduce the risk of relapse during their recovery and treat the root causes of their addiction.

Evidence-Based Approaches For Treating Co-Occurring Disorders

Several evidence-based approaches are effective in treating co-occurring disorders. They include:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT is a therapeutic approach that focuses on changing negative thought patterns and behaviors. It can be effective in treating both addiction and mental health disorders.
  • Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT): MAT involves using a medication such as methadone or buprenorphine to help manage addiction cravings and withdrawal symptoms. MAT can be combined with therapy and counseling to treat co-occurring disorders effectively.
  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT): DBT is a therapeutic approach that focuses on improving emotional regulation and interpersonal skills. It can effectively treat addiction and certain mental health conditions like borderline personality disorder.

Why You Need A Partner To Defeat The Mental Health-Addiction Vicious Cycle

Addiction and mental health disorders can be completely separate conditions and yet closely intertwined. Addressing both conditions simultaneously is crucial to promoting lasting recovery and improved treatment outcomes.

Co-occurring disorders present unique challenges and barriers to treatment, but evidence-based approaches such as integrated treatment programs can address both conditions effectively.

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction and mental health disorders, seeking professional help is often the most important step. Hollywood Hills Recovery is a leading addiction treatment center that offers personalized and evidence-based treatment programs for co-occurring disorders. Our team of experts is dedicated to helping individuals achieve lasting recovery and improved mental health outcomes in the long run.

Don't hesitate to reach out for help. Contact Hollywood Hills Recovery today to learn more about our programs and take the first step towards a healthier and happier life.

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