By Beau Black
There’s a well-documented connection between various forms of mental illness and addiction. Co-occurring disorders are mental health struggles that commonly coincide with substance addiction; these disorders can intertwine with addictions, exacerbating both conditions. This makes treating all parts of a dual diagnosis key to a successful recovery. Some of these co-occurring disorders include:
- Anxiety disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- Bipolar disorder
- Personality disorders
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists a number of influences that can contribute to such mental health struggles, including:
- Biological factors such as genetics and brain chemistry
- Early adverse life experiences such as abuse, trauma, or witnessing violent events
- Misuse of alcohol or other substances
- Feeling lonely or isolated
- Issues related to chronic medical illnesses
Co-occurring disorders are mental health struggles that commonly coincide with substance addiction; these disorders can intertwine with addictions, exacerbating both conditions.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA) says almost 9 million people suffer from a co-occurring disorder, but just 7% of them are treated for both, according to Verywellmind.com. The second number is concerning, as it likely means millions aren’t receiving the full range of treatment they need.
The Connection Between Addiction and Co-Occurring Disorders
Both mental health disorders and addiction affect the same regions of the brain. Verywellmind.com reports that the changes that take place in the brain due to substance abuse occur in the same areas that are impacted by depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder.
Co-occurring disorders can also be difficult to diagnose as symptoms can be nearly identical to those of addiction and mask other issues. Both mental disorders and addiction have a genetic component, which can be activated by environmental factors such as traumatic experiences.
Some mental disorders such as anxiety, PTSD, or ADHD can drive you to self-medicate with substances in an attempt to dull symptoms. But ultimately, the substances we turn to for relief can end up making our conditions worse, not better. And according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), substance use can trigger changes in the brain structure and function that can make you more likely to develop a mental disorder.
- Common risk factors that increase the chances of developing both substance abuse and mental health disorders
- Substance misuse that may begin as a result of mental illness
- Substance misuse and addiction that disrupts mental health
Anxiety and Addiction
Anxiety disorders like PTSD and substance addiction can each work to foster and deepen the other. This connection is best observed in military veterans who come home from war zones; 20% or more may show symptoms of PTSD or depression. As many as half of those suffering from PTSD may struggle with a co-occurring addiction, says Verywellmind.com.
“The consequences of undiagnosed, untreated, or undertreated co-occurring disorders can lead to a higher likelihood of experiencing homelessness, jail time, medical illness, and even suicide,” reports Verywellmind.com’s Sherri Gordon.
Treating Co-Occurring Disorders and Addiction
Typically, a dual diagnosis is treated with multiple strategies. These can include traditional treatments like talk therapy with a counselor and group therapy sessions, as well as more innovative and holistic strategies like somatic experiencing (SE), eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), neurofeedback, and yoga.
According to NIDA, the best approach to treating co-occurring disorders and addiction is an integrated approach, one that adequately addresses the symptoms of both. Research has shown that this method yields better results than focusing on treatment of only one disorder at a time. It can also save on long-term treatment costs.
Co-occurring addiction and mental health disorders can work together to make each condition worse. Effective treatment requires addressing them together.
Co-occurring addiction and mental health disorders can work together to make each condition worse. Effective treatment requires addressing them together. At The Meadows Texas, we’ll work with you to create an effective treatment plan to address your addiction and the mental health struggles that are either fueling it or resulting from it. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance addiction, reach out to our caring and knowledgeable admissions team. We’ll be glad to help start you down your road to recovery.