There has always been a very strong link between mental health and addiction. Up until recently, when an individual presented symptoms of a mental health condition and of a substance abuse disorder, the two were treated separately in specialized facilities. Mental health issues were addressed in a psychiatric hospital setting, whereas addiction was addressed in an inpatient treatment/rehabilitation setting. Now, it is understood that the two are closely linked, and that in order for an individual to maintain recovery from one disorder, both disorders must be treated simultaneously. This integrated and comprehensive form of treatment is called dual diagnosis, and it is always necessary when both conditions are present – because they are almost always interlinked. In some cases, prolonged substance abuse will lead to mental health disorders like depression or anxiety depending on what specific substance is being abused. More often than not, untreated symptoms of mental health issues will drive men and women to self-medication. This means that rather than seek professional help and take medication prescribed by a licensed psychiatrist, they will attempt to alleviate symptoms themselves by ingesting drugs and/or alcohol.

The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) closely examined the connection between mental health and addiction, conducting numerous in-depth studies and eventually reporting that there was a “definite connection” between the two. NBER found that all mental health patients – individuals who are currently diagnosed with a mental health disorder – are responsible for consuming 38 percent of the alcohol that was reported consumed annually, and 44 percent of the cocaine that is reportedly used annually. The same study reported that individuals who had been diagnosed with a mental health disorder at some point during their lives were responsible for 69 percent of the annual alcohol consumption and 84 percent of the annual cocaine use. According to studies published by the American Medical Association (AMA), roughly 50 percent of individuals who struggle with severe mental health disorders (like bipolar disorder or schizophrenia) simultaneously struggle with substance abuse or addiction. Of course, dealing with substance abuse is never easy, and finally admitting that you need professional help in overcoming your dependency is a battle in and of itself. Add mental health concerns to the equation and things get even more difficult. Fortunately, Guardian Recovery Network offers dual diagnosis treatment to those who need it. Our team of experienced and dedicated professionals work closely alongside each individual client, providing comprehensive treatment for addiction and psychiatric services for mental health concerns. If you believe you may be struggling with an undiagnosed and untreated mental health disorder or if you have a personal history of mental health problems, give us a call today. We will gladly help you determine whether or not you would benefit from our dual diagnosis program, and get you started on the path to long-term recovery as quickly as possible.

Does Mental Illness Cause Addiction?

It can be difficult to determine which condition preceded the other. Does mental illness cause addiction, or does addiction cause mental illness? While it is true that some substances can lead to mental health conditions over time (and while the link between the two is exceptionally clear in many cases), one usually does not directly cause the other. Take the following facts into consideration when attempting to identify the link between the two conditions:

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.

Is Dual Diagnosis Treatment Right For You?

Without professional assistance, diagnosing a mental health disorder can be extremely difficult when drugs and/or alcohol are actively being used. Determining which symptoms are directly linked to which disorder is sometimes impossible until sobriety has been achieved short-term. However, there are some general signs and symptoms to be on the lookout for if you believe you might be suffering from a dual diagnosis disorder.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Have you undergone any traumatic experiences? If so, does your personal trauma remain unresolved?
  • Do you have a personal history of abuse – specifically during childhood?
  • Do you find that you turn to alcohol and drugs when uncomfortable feelings crop up?
  • Do you use chemical substances to help you get through other aspects of day-to-day life, such as completing menial tasks, controlling your mood or getting through uncomfortable or frightening situations?
  • Have you noticed any significant changes to your mental state that occur when you use chemical substances? For example, have you noticed that you prefer to be alone/isolate when you drink? Do you tend to get angry or belligerent when you use cocaine? Do you feel depressed and hopeless when you use prescription painkillers?
  • Has one of your close relatives struggled with a substance abuse disorder?
  • Do any mental health issues run in your family?
  • Do you feel “worse” when you do not have access to chemical substances? For example, do you feel anxious whenever you run out of alcohol, or depressed when you are completely sober?
  • Have you previously been treated for a mental illness, for addiction, or for both?
  • If you were only treated for one condition, do you believe that treatment would have been more successful if both conditions were treated at once?

If you answered “yes” to one or several of the above-listed questions, dual diagnosis is likely an ideal option for you. At Guardian Recovery Network we offer brief, over-the-phone assessments to help you determine which treatment option is best suited to meet your unique, individualized needs. All you have to do is give us a call, and we will do everything we can to get you started on your own personal journey of comprehensive recovery today.

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