Addiction and alcoholism and mental health issues have a close relationship with one another. Many people who suffer from mental health conditions (such as depression, post traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, or anxiety) turn to alcohol or drugs to self-medicate.
Alternatively, the chemical changes in the brain caused by drugs and alcohol can cause mental health problems to develop. If a person suffers from both a mental health condition and addiction, then he or she needs to undergo dual diagnosis treatment, which treats all underlying and co-occurring conditions concurrently.
Self-Medicating Mental Health Issues
When people find themselves faced with strong negative emotions or feelings, or have experienced trauma, they often turn to mood altering substances as a way to numb these emotions. Many people who suffer from a mental health disorder, including anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and post traumatic stress disorder, likewise abuse substances to self-medicate. However, the relief is merely temporary.
When the effects of the drug or alcohol subside, the thoughts, feelings or emotions come back, often even stronger. This leads to the person turning once again to drugs or alcohol, and a cycle is born. The abuse of alcohol or drugs increases the risk of a person developing an addiction. Additionally, because the person does not confront the actual underlying issue, it only worsens.
Drugs and Alcohol Worsen Mental Health Issues
Not only does self-medicating contribute to the development of addiction, the addiction can worsen the already existent mental health condition. Even if a person is in treatment for a mental health condition, his or her alcohol or drug abuse or addiction can cause the treatment to not be as effective. The drugs or alcohol can interfere with any medication prescribed by their doctors, including antidepressants or anti-anxiety medication.
Additionally, the person will often not be able to engage with the real underling issues causing the mental health condition, and the drug and alcohol abuse, due to relying on repressing their feelings and emotions through mood altering substances. They can also trigger new symptoms, or just make the existing symptoms worse.
Drugs and Alcohol Cause Mental Health Conditions
Mental health conditions are complex psychological diseases whose development depends upon a combination of genetic, biological, social and environmental factors. Scientists are still researching into the exact reasons behind the causes of mental health conditions. However, they have found that chemical imbalances in the brain, especially the neurotransmitters involved in mood, can cause a mental health condition to develop.
Drugs and alcohol affect these same neurotransmitters, namely dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine. When these neurotransmitters become imbalanced, then it can cause a mental health condition to develop. Some drugs can also trigger psychosis in those already predisposed to the condition.
Breaking the Cycle
Mental health issues and addiction are often a cycle to which it can be difficult to know the instigator. If both issues are not treated concurrently, then a person will have a very high risk of relapsing. If a person self-medicates due to a mental health condition, and that condition is not addressed in treatment, then he or she will have a difficult time remaining sober. They will not have the coping mechanisms to deal with the emotions and feelings they have been repressing.
Therefore, in order to fully treat both alcoholism or addiction and mental health problems, a person needs to go through dual diagnosis treatment. This is concurrent treatment for both addiction and mental health conditions. There are several dual diagnosis treatment centers that focus on holistic treatment for all underlying and co-occurring conditions to reduce the risk of relapse and provide a more well-rounded and balanced recovery.