When You Have a Behavioral Health Issue and an Addiction

It’s not easy to have a mental illness. It’s not easy to have an addiction. When you have both, things get even more complicated. Yet for half of individuals with severe mental disorders, a dual diagnosis is their reality. The link between mental illness and substance abuse isn’t well understood. However, researchers are finding that with support, self-help and treatment, you can get your life back on track and heal from both the mental illness and the addiction.

What is the Connection Between Substance Abuse and Mental Illness?

In a dual diagnosis, the mental health issue and addiction have their own unique symptoms. These symptoms can make it difficult to function in everyday life, manage stress and relate to others. To make matters worse, the symptoms of both conditions impact each other. When the behavioral issue goes untreated, the addiction usually gets worse. As the substance abuse progresses, the mental illness usually does, too.

Probably the biggest question that people have is what comes first – the addiction or the mental illness. Addiction is common in people with mental health issues, but one does not directly cause the other. The most likely conditions that are associated with drug and alcohol use are depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety and schizophrenia.

  • Alcohol or drugs are often used to numb the feelings of depression or anxiety.

  • Alcohol and drug use increase the risk of mental illness in at-risk individuals.

  • Alcohol and drug use can make the symptoms of an existing behavioral issue worse.

Recognizing When You Have a Dual Diagnosis

It’s difficult to admit that you have a problem with drugs or alcohol and are suffering from symptoms of depression, anxiety or PTSD. You are not weak to admit this. In order to move forward in your life, you must recognize your need for professional treatment. Mental health problems and addiction do not get better when they are ignored.

Here are a few things to consider when determining your risk factors.

  • Family history. Have others in your family dealt with mental illness, alcohol abuse or drug addiction? This can put you at risk for developing these problems, too.

  • Sensitivity to substances. What is your relationship to drugs or alcohol? Are you sensitive to their effects?

  • Symptoms of mental illness. How do you feel when you’re sober? Do you feel depressed or anxious?

  • Treatment history. Have you been treated for mental illness or addiction in the past? If the treatment did not work, why do you think this was the case?

The first step in conquering the demons and working toward a healthy, happy and substance-free lifestyle is admitting that you have a problem. If you are ready to work through your dual diagnosis, call The River Source. We are successful in treating both conditions, and our treatment is affordable and confidential.

About the Author

Director of Marketing and Admissions

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