by Sarah from DrugRehab.com February 2017
Substance use disorders and mental illnesses can exist simultaneously called co-occurring disorders. Of the 23 million Americans struggling with addiction, nearly 14 million suffer from some form of mental illness. Typically one disorder heightens the effects of the other and having both a mental illness and a substance use disorder can complicate the road to recovery.
Those with a mental illness may dismiss their use of drugs or alcohol as a way to handle their mental state, and someone with a substance use disorder may be unaware that their mental health is at risk.
Substances and Mental Health
Drugs and alcohol can affect a person’s mental health. Alcohol is a depressant, and while some self-medicate with alcohol to alleviate symptoms of their illness, it can actually cause a person with depression or anxiety to feel more depressed or anxious. For example, a person suffering from PTSD may drink frequently in hopes of treating their anxiety. Over time, this can lead to an individual becoming physically addicted to a substance because they believe they need it for their mental well-being.
A person with a substance use disorder may experience symptoms of mental illness. For example, when someone abuses drugs or alcohol for an extended period of time, it can impact their relationships, finances, or health and cause them to feel guilty about how drugs and alcohol are impacting their life, which may lead to feelings of depression.
Symptoms of Co-Occurring Disorders
There are signs that indicate a person may be suffering from a co-occurring disorder.
Recognizing these symptoms could mean treatment is needed for you or a loved one.
Help is Available
Recognizing early signs of a co-occurring disorder and receiving treatment can help a person recover.
Through integrated treatment, medical professionals can treat both the addiction and mental illness while creating better outcomes for patients with co-occurring disorders.