Much like the all-too-often cited “chicken and the egg” concept, there has been much question over which comes first – mental illness, or addiction? The reality is that each person’s circumstance is unique and it’s a combination of genetics, environmental factors and more that truly determine which comes first – or alongside one another – for each person. However, mental disorders, such as depression or bipolar disorder, are previously there, this can certainly influence a person’s susceptibility to and experience with addiction. According to the National institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) chronic drug use can lead people to develop mental disorders, but if mental disorders are already present, drug abuse can perpetuate and worsen current symptoms associated with mental illness.
One of the most influential ways that mental disorders can affect addiction is through self-medication. When a person is struggling with symptoms of a mental illness, they may believe that alcohol or illicit drugs can reduce the discomfort of these symptoms. This could happen with a variety of instances and here are two examples:
- A person with anxiety may feel that binge drinking helps them relax in social settings
- An individual with bipolar disorder (BPD) may use drugs while experiencing mania or depression, to make them feel better
What many people underestimate, however, is the fact that substance abuse can alter chemicals in the brain – which could lead to worsened mental illness symptoms over time or an entirely new mental disorder could appear altogether. While the substances seem to “take the edge off” for a brief period of time, they cause much more harm in the long run because eventually it leads a person to dual diagnosis.
Dual diagnoses are much more difficult to treat because their symptoms may overlap or may exacerbate one another. The National institute of Mental Health (NIMH) notes that in 2014, about 7.9 million people had both a substance use disorder (SUD) and a mental illness. How can we prevent this from happening?
It typically all starts when we believe that we can help ourselves instead of seeking out treatment. If you are a friend or family member of a loved one who has been showing signs of addiction or mental illness, talk to them today about seeking the help they need.
Cumberland Heights is a nonprofit alcohol and drug-addiction treatment center located on the banks of the Cumberland river in Nashville, Tennessee. On a sprawling 177-acre campus, we are made up of 2 12-Step immersion campuses, 12 outpatient recovery centers and 4 sober living homes. We believe that each person has a unique story to tell – and that’s why we always put the patient first.
Call us today at 1-800-646-9998 to take the next step towards your happiness and health.