1. Those with undiagnosed and/or untreated mental illnesses will often turn to drugs and alcohol as a means of self-medication. Those struggling with an undiagnosed disorder will grapple with uncomfortable symptoms on a daily basis. These symptoms might include unfavorable emotions such as deep, unexplainable sadness or overwhelming anxiety, difficulties at work, or interpersonal problems like an inability to connect with others or problems with friends and family members. If symptoms begin to feel like too much to bear, the individual experiencing them will turn to drugs and drinking in attempts to manage them. While self-medication can work to alleviate symptoms on a very short-term basis, chemical substances will inevitably lead to the worsening of symptoms in the long run.
2. Abusing chemical substances will almost always make existing symptoms of a mental illness worse and more difficult to manage in the long-term. Not only will abusing chemical substances make the symptoms of untreated mental health disorders worse, but it will often trigger new symptoms entirely. For example, someone struggling with general anxiety might turn to alcohol in order to lessen feelings of panic and distress. Psychological dependency develops quickly, because this specific chemical substance did temporarily “work” in reducing stress. Ongoing alcohol abuse might trigger anxiety in a host of new situations – now, the individual in question avoids social gatherings unless alcohol is involved, ultimately leading to the development of severe social anxiety. Chemical substances also interact negatively with psychiatric medications, and can cause old symptoms to crop up in patients who have been diagnosed and are actively being treated.
3. Substance abuse increases the risk of developing mental illness, especially when certain psychoactive substances are concerned. Mental illness results from a combination of factors, including genetic predisposition, environmental factors and unresolved trauma. Abusing chemical substances can trigger mental health symptoms, and push those who are at risk over the edge entirely. There has been much evidence accumulated over the years indicating that certain substances lead to certain mental health conditions. Synthetic marijuana has been linked to psychosis, and opiate abuse has been linked to depression, for example.