Addiction and mental health issues often go hand in hand. It’s very common for someone who has mental health issues to end up facing addiction issues, and it’s very common for someone who is facing an addiction issue to realize that they have an underlying mental illness that is exacerbating their addiction. This is known as dual diagnosis – when someone is experiencing a substance abuse issue as well as a mental health issue. The age-old question is generally: which comes first? Is the mental health issue causing the addiction, or is the addiction causing a mental health issue? It can happen both ways.
Some people are genetically predisposed to certain mental illnesses, and using drugs triggers it and brings that mental illness to the surface. Conversely, many people with mental health issues end up using drugs and alcohol as a way to medicate their mental illness, often unknowingly. It’s common for addicts to start the recovery process and then realize that they actually have a mental illness, which can provide a lot of insight as to why they started using in the first place. Sometimes people who have an undiagnosed and un-medicated mental health issue turn to drugs and alcohol, not even knowing what it is that they are medicating. Once the drugs and alcohol are taken away, the mental health issue may become more obvious and they will be able to address it appropriately.
Managing addiction and mental health can be really difficult; it’s hard enough to manage one of them, let alone both of them at the same time. If you or someone you know has an addiction issue as well as a mental health issue, make sure to seek the appropriate treatment. There are designated treatment centers that deal with dual diagnosis, and this is better than going to a treatment facility that does not specialize in dual diagnosis. While most, if not all, addiction treatment facilities will have doctors and psychiatrists on staff, this doesn’t mean that they all focus on mental health to the same degree. Certain facilities will focus purely on addiction – they will probably also talk on behaviors and thoughts that lead to that addiction, but these facilities may not have the capability to properly diagnose and treat a person who also has an co-occurring mental health disorder. If the addiction aspect is addressed in a treatment facility, but the mental health issue is left untreated, it’s likely that a relapse will occur because of the tendency to self-medicate mental health issues with drugs and alcohol. For example, someone who experiences severe depression and is not on any kind of psychiatric medication may end up drinking or using drugs to try to make themselves feel less depressed. While this may work in the short term, it won’t work in the long term and it can lead to serious addiction issues as well as exacerbate the depression.
If you or someone you know is experiencing addiction and mental health issues, find a place that will address both.
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