Mental health issues such as depression, bipolar disorder, or anxiety can often have a profound impact on addiction as well. Dealing with addiction is not easy, and a struggle with mental health issue can greatly increase the level of stress.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 37 percent of alcohol abusers and 53 percent of drug users have a mental illness, and 29 percent of people with a mental health issue abuse alcohol or drugs. Many people struggle with both issues at the same time, and one can often interact with the other to increase the challenges of treatment.
There are three main ways that a mental health issue can interact with drug or alcohol abuse in ways that cause both to can get in the way of a person's ability to function.
Addictive Substances Can be an Attempt to Self-Medicate
The stressful feelings, and internal pain of a mental health issue can motivate someone to look for a coping mechanism, or way of dealing with the issue to be able to "get on with life." Alcohol and drug use can seem like an effective short-term way of numbing pain or coping with situations that may otherwise seem insurmountable.
People undergoing stress or trauma from abuse should be aware of the temptation to use drugs or alcohol to numb the pain, rather then dealing with root causes.
Alcohol and Drug Abuse Can Increase Risk for a Mental Health Issue
Mental disorders emerge out of a complex system of interaction between genetics, and the environment. Some people at risk for a mental health issue can find drug or alcohol use to be triggering to push them over the edge.
Genetic vulnerably for mental health issues and addiction often overlap, since both involve similar brain regions.
Alcohol and Drug Use Exacerbates Mental Health Issues
Even though drug or alcohol use can seem to bring short-term relief to a struggle with mental health, it can also intensify symptoms and worsen the effect of a mental illness. This is especially apparent during times of withdraw, where some substances such as alcohol may bring on feelings of depression as they ware off.
Drugs or alcohol can also interact negatively with medications used to treat mental health, making them less effective in helping to stabilize moods.
One thing substance abuse and mental health issues have in common is a propensity for denial and unwillingness to admit the problem is as big as it really is. An important first step towards healing is to admit that there is a struggle with both addiction and an underlining mental health issue.
Gaining the self-awareness necessary to realize you need help for both of these issues is an important step to determining how to treat both conditions, and find better and new ways of coping with the challenges of life.
Help is Available
Even though it may take years of commitment and courage, with treatment and personal commitment, these problems can and do get better, and knowing that can give you enough hope to take the first step towards seeking treatment. The best treatment will be integrated, in which the same provider is aware of both the mental health issue and the addiction, and is able to deal with them both concurrently.
Treating one condition without awareness of the other can limit their long-term effectiveness. This means being open with a support group and therapist about both conditions, so you can get support for both, recognizing both are deeply connected.