Addiction is a significant problem worldwide, but especially in the United States, where almost 20% of adults experience some form of mental illness each year. When you include the 16% of children aged 6-17 who suffer from mental health problems, it becomes even more evident that mental illness plagues our society. That is why a mental health treatment center can offer help to users who are self-medicating with substance abuse.
When you suffer from mental health problems, you seek out forms of relief for yourself – known as coping mechanisms – to make life easier. While some people find an active hobby like running or exercise to relieve stress or improve depression, but more people turn to an easier alternative – drugs and alcohol.
Many drugs and almost all alcohol creates a calming or numbing effect in users, slowing brain function, and helping to address hyperactivity. They also activate the reward centers in the brain to release dopamine for temporary “boosts” of happiness, energy, or euphoria for pain relief. Unfortunately, they’re only temporary fixes and can even make mental illness worse.
Co-Occurring Disorders with Addiction
Many diseases contribute to the formation of addiction, and even some that occur as a result of addiction. Below are just some of these co-occurring disorders.
Depression is characterized by a depressed mood, a lack of interest in activities, and an overall feeling of worthlessness or helplessness in everyday life. It can be caused by imbalances of neurotransmitters in your brain as well as abnormal brain signals. Depression itself occurs alongside many mental illnesses, making it extremely dangerous.
Depression is one of the most popular reasons for drinking and taking drugs because of the dopamine “reward” that these drugs activate in your brain. A lack of dopamine can cause sadness, which means that the boost you’ll receive gives you temporary happiness and euphoria. The use of substances provides relief from depression symptoms until it wears off.
Over time, depression can even get worse with addiction. The brain becomes used to the availability of dopamine from your drug use, causing potentially dangerous imbalances that lead to withdrawal.
Anxiety is another one of the significant co-occurring disorders with both mental illness and addiction. It occurs when your brain reacts to a “trigger” that causes the “fight or flight” response to activate, releasing adrenaline to prepare you for whatever triggered the reaction. However, with anxiety disorders, your brain is more likely to experience an imbalance in neurotransmitters that facilitate stress management. This can lead to an “overreaction” that gives you an anxiety attack for no reason.
Alcohol and Benzos are depressants that slow the brain signals that lead to a stress response, helping to curb the effects of anxiety. However, long-term use and abuse lead to artificial chemical levels in your brain. This affects your natural production and leads to imbalances that trigger anxiety.
Mental illnesses often affect these chemical levels, as well. Self-medicating with drugs further throws off your natural balance of neurotransmitters by affecting production levels, causing more severe side effects and magnifying other illnesses.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
PTSD is a mental illness that develops in response to trauma that you’ve experienced. Soldiers and survivors of deadly accidents are more likely to suffer from PTSD due to the stress of the situations experienced, leading to excessive anxiety, manic episodes, and more.
Self-medicating can provide relief to the stress and depression that come when PTSD is triggered. However, the chemical imbalances their abuse causes can lead to a reduced threshold for triggers and, therefore, more attacks. Professional help is required to manage it effectively over the long term with safer treatments.
Bipolar disorder is associated with mood swings between manic episodes of happiness and sadness. When you’re on the upswing and happy, you may not feel the depression or anxiety that drugs help you cope with. However, when the manic-depressive episodes occur, binge drinking and frequent drug use often are used to deal until your brain chemicals return to a normal level.
The swinging nature of bipolar disorder makes it especially dangerous to drink or do drugs because of the suicidal feelings that it can cause, which may contribute to an overdose. Professional treatment can help regulate your brain chemical levels to limit swings, but addiction bandages bipolar disorder.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
ADHD is a disorder that makes it hard to focus, sit still, or make decisions due to hyperactivity in your brain. Naturally, those who have ADHD are attracted to the depressing benefits of drugs and alcohol because they slow the activity in the brain to a more easily manageable level. However, as ADHD is a mental illness that is always on, you cannot treat it with temporary solutions like drugs – it requires long-term medical treatment.
The Benefits of a Dual-Diagnosis Mental Health Treatment Center
While anybody can suffer from addiction, it is incredibly common for those who suffer from mental health problems to turn to drugs and alcohol to cope. While expert help from a mental health treatment center can address your addiction, if you don’t treat the mental illness that fuels the addiction, relapse is more likely during recovery.
Dual-diagnosis is a treatment strategy that focuses on identifying causes for the drug use that led to addiction so you can avoid self-medicating. Long term treatment plans can help stabilize the chemical levels and activity in your brain. This results in fewer triggers of mental illness and a lesser need for temporary coping mechanisms.
At Soul Surgery Rehabilitation, our holistic approach to addiction treatment means that you’ll get help with the cause, not just the effect of your addiction. Dual-diagnosis works with individuals to create a long term treatment plan. You are putting them in the best position to succeed during recovery without the need to relapse due to existing mental health problems.
If you’re looking to get the help you need to maintain a healthy lifestyle, call today!