When a person has a co-occurring disorder, they experience both a substance abuse problem and a mental health condition simultaneously.
In many instances, an individual will suffer from a psychiatric disorder and try to self-medicate this disorder through the abuse of substances. Unfortunately, if left untreated, mental health issues often persist after attempts at sobriety, making real recovery challenging to achieve.
The Most Common Mental Health Disorders
The most common mental health disorders that occur in conjunction with addiction include the following:
According to statistics, anxiety disorders are considered to be the most common mental health disorders in the United States, affecting 40 million adults. Anxiety disorders are quite treatable, but only about 37 percent of those suffering receive treatment.
Anxiety is more than a transient concern or fear. People who experience anxiety disorders often try to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol, but the disorder only gets more severe over time if left untreated. Anxiety often interferes with an individual’s responsibilities throughout their daily life, such as family, work, school, and relationships.
Common anxiety disorders include the following:
- Social anxiety disorder
- Specific phobia
- Panic disorder
- Generalized anxiety disorder
- Anxiety from another condition
- Substance-induced anxiety
- Separation anxiety disorder
Depression is also a pervasive disorder. Indeed, more than 16 million U.S. adults encountered at least one major depressive episode that lasted two weeks or longer in 2016 alone.
Depression is characterized by a low mood or loss of interest or pleasure. Other problems may include low energy, a negative self-image, and repetitive thoughts of suicide. Depression can result in severe symptoms that affect a person’s cognition and ability to engage in everyday activities such as working, socializing, eating, and sleeping.
Many people with depression may attempt to alleviate the symptoms of sadness or hopelessness through self-medication, only to experience a worsening of the symptoms over time.
Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder that produces a shift in mood and energy levels and a reduced capacity to perform daily activities. When someone has bipolar disorder, they experience periods of mania, feeling elevated and energized, and then cycle over to feelings of profound depression and hopelessness.
During depressive episodes, some people use drugs to improve their mood and feel more energized. It is estimated that more than half of people with bipolar disorder also have a history of substance abuse disorders.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) occurs when a person has experienced a frightening or dangerous event such as an accident, natural disaster, physical or sexual assault, or war. Someone who has PTSD can be diagnosed with either chronic (long-term) or acute (short-term) PTSD.
It is common for people with PTSD to self-medicate with alcohol to counteract the effects of stress hormones released when they re-experience a trauma. Individuals with PTSD often experience recurrent and disturbing dreams and memories, which they may try to suppress using alcohol.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is among the most prevalent mental health disorders in the U.S., affecting about 1 in 40 adults. If left untreated or misdiagnosed, this condition can be challenging to live with.
OCD produces severe anxiety in those experiencing it. Compulsive, intrusive, and obsessive thoughts encourage repetitive behaviors to relieve worry and fear. The symptoms that those living with OCD suffer from vary between individuals and from one extreme to the other.
It is common for people who experience OCD to feel shame about their condition. As a result, many people with this disorder isolate themselves from others in an attempt to conceal the symptoms, and they may also self-medicate with substances. The Journal of Anxiety published in 2010 that 25% of individuals seeking treatment for OCD met the criteria for a substance abuse disorder.
Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a medical condition in which there are differences in brain development and activity that affect attention, the ability to remain still, and self-control.
According to an examination of data collected by the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), the prevalence rates of diagnosed ADHD among children aged 4-17 have risen steadily in the last 20 years, increasing from 6.1% between 1997-1998 to 10.2% from 2015-2016.
It’s true that if ADHD is combined with a substance use disorder, it can be more challenging to diagnose and address, but both conditions can be managed with appropriate treatment.
People experiencing ADHD may be more likely than others to resort to drug or alcohol use to ease their symptoms. This behavior has the potential to develop into an addiction, and before they know it, they’re now suffering from two disorders that negatively compound one another.
Schizophrenia is probably the most stigmatized mental health disorder in the U.S. Much of the general public associates this severe, chronic, and disabling illness with violence, drug abuse, and homelessness. This reaction is somewhat expected, considering that those who suffer experience severe symptoms, such as delusions, hallucinations, disorganized thinking and speech, paranoia, and catatonia.
While this disease is treatable, many of those who experience it go undiagnosed or are resistant to seeking help due to the negative stigma placed upon the condition by society. As a result, people with schizophrenia often self-medicate, using drugs or alcohol to relieve emotionally painful symptoms. In fact, research suggests that nearly 50% of persons diagnosed with schizophrenia also suffer from substance abuse issues.
Why Addiction and Mental Health Disorders Frequently Occur Together
Three circumstances may explain why so many people who suffer from addiction also have co-occurring mental illnesses:
1. Abusing drugs or alcohol can prompt the onset of mental disease or exacerbate an existing one.
2. People who have mental illness may self-medicate with drugs or alcohol to relieve unpleasant symptoms, which can rapidly lead to addiction.
3. Overlapping factors for substance use disorders and other mental health conditions can leave certain individuals more susceptible to developing concurrent disorders.
Many people enter treatment at Just Believe Detox or Just Believe Recovery with an active addiction and a concurrent mental illness. It is critical to address both conditions simultaneously to achieve a sustainable recovery. A mental health disorder that is not treated appropriately may contribute to relapse as the person continues to endure the same problem that drove them to engage in substance abuse in the first place.
We help people who experience both addiction and mental illness by developing and implementing a comprehensive treatment plan unique to each individual. We employ a big picture approach to addiction treatment and consider how factors such as lifestyle, environment, health, and concurrent mental health conditions play various roles in a person’s addiction to drugs or alcohol.
By collaborating with you and your loved ones throughout the rehab process, we can equip you for recovery by customizing a program that features a complete continuum of care. This program will include research-based addiction therapy, individualized treatment, and aftercare planning services developed to anticipate the difficulties you may encounter on your path to long-term sobriety.
Our team of caring addiction specialists is dedicated to helping people get the treatment they so desperately need and take their lives back from addiction. If you or someone you love is suffering from addiction, contact us today!