When someone develops an addiction, it is rarely due to the addictiveness of the substance alone. While physical dependency plays a role in drug addiction, there are a wide range of other factors that make a significant contribution to whether or not someone will struggle with abuse. Genetic factors, cultural environment, and social influences all contribute to addiction but one of the strongest connections is mental illness.
It is very common for people with addictions to also suffer from various mental health problems including depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. The combination of mental health issues and addiction can create a very complex problem that requires special treatment to resolve. Because mental health issues and addiction are often connected, there are a number of rehab facilities that cater to both problems.
Increased Risk for Addiction
One of the reasons that mental health issues have a strong relationship to addiction is that they can actually increase the risk of someone abusing drugs. Someone who has an illness such as depression or bipolar disorder who is not receiving adequate treatment might seek out their own ways of self-medicating. People with symptoms of depression often begin drinking as a way to mask their feelings of sadness and give them temporary relief. They might also seek stimulants such as cocaine to give them a feeling of energy and confidence.
Those with anxiety might look for depressants or sedatives that calm their feelings of stress and tension. People with mental disorders can also be less inhibited and more likely to show risk-taking behavior such as engaging in illegal drug abuse or drinking to excess. This represents another factor that can quickly lead to substance abuse and eventually a serious addiction.
Abuse Can Cause Symptoms of Disorders
Although pre-existing disorders are often the cause of the relationship between addiction and mental health issues, the connection can also work the other way around. People who develop addictions often begin to exhibit symptoms of depression, anxiety and even schizophrenia. The level of depression or anxiety that addicts experience is often indistinguishable from an actual mental illness. This is another reason why the instances of people with both addiction and mental health problems are so high.
About fifty percent of people with an addiction have a psychiatric disorder and for those with a disorder about twenty percent suffer from an addiction. Drug abuse can cause symptoms of mental health problems because sudden withdrawal can lead to emotional breakdowns and even hallucinations similar to that of schizophrenia. Alcohol and drug abuse can lead to changes in the brain that can cause mental or personality disorders.
Drug abuse can cause chemical deficiencies such as a reduction in the amount of serotonin in the body which can lead to disorders like depression. Some people can have a genetic vulnerability to developing a psychiatric disorder and an addiction simultaneously.
Treatment for Addiction and Mental Disorders
The relationship between addiction and mental illness is so strong and common among many individuals that there are specialized facilities that treat both issues. To treat both problems, a person must first abstain from drug abuse and go through a period of detoxification. Eliminating the substance from their body can help to distinguish which of their symptoms are due to abuse and which are caused by mental illness.
The addiction and the disorder must both be treated at the same time otherwise the risk of relapsing is very strong for individuals with each problem. People with both addiction and a mental disorder often require extended treatment to resolve both issues and ensure that they make a complete recovery.