Drug addiction is a disease that takes many forms and is generally defined as any circumstance wherein a person is chemically dependant on a drug, including alcohol, which they are using to alter their mood or mental state. Drug addiction is closely linked to mental illness for a number of reasons. When a person suffers from certain forms of mental illness, they may be more susceptible to drug abuse. Individuals who suffer from depression or anxiety, for example, may be at a higher risk for becoming addicted to drugs or alcohol.
Drug and alcohol abuse also alters a person’s mental and emotional state in a way that may create higher instances of mental instability. Although drug abuse and mental illness are related, they are not the same thing. When a person is diagnosed with both an addiction and a mental disorder, they are referred to as someone that has co-occurring disorders. This is sometimes also referred to as a dual diagnoses.
Addiction and Mental Disorders
Some experts believe that as many as 50% of all people who have a severe mental disorder may also struggle with addiction. Of all people who have been found to have a mental disorder of any kind, 29% are also addicted to drugs or alcohol. This means that many of the individuals who enter treatment for a substance abuse problem are concurrently working through treatment for a mental health issue. Working through addiction is a difficult challenge for any person in recovery, but for those with co-occurring disorders, the struggle may be even more arduous.
Common Co-Occurring Disorders
A wide variety of mental disorders may be present in an individual who is struggling with drug addiction, but some of the most commonly occurring disorders in recovery include anxiety, depression, personality disorders, and psychotic disorders. Many of these disorders are quite complicated and difficult to recover from individually, and finding mental health may become even more complicated when a patient is also working through the process of achieving sobriety.
Just as no two instances of addiction are exactly alike, no two disorders have the same symptoms. Many mental disorders have their own set of symptoms that can make it difficult to find the clarity and general balance that are necessary to help find healthy thoughts and decisions that will lead to sobriety.
Difficult Does Not Mean Impossible
Although recovering with co-occurring disorders is often difficult, it is certainly not impossible. Most mental health officials believe that co-occurring disorders can effectively be treated by using an integrated approach wherein doctors and other professionals treat both addiction and mental health issues at the same time. In many cases, a therapist may work with a patient in a way that helps both disorders because the roots of both addiction and mental illness may be similar.
Because one disorder often fuels the other, as the symptoms of one disorder lessen, the other disorder may follow suit. Often finding success in treating co-occurring disorders means getting a firm understanding of how one disorder impacts the other. Depression, for example, can occur much more frequently and severely among those who are also using mind altering substances.
Many people in recovery with dual diagnoses may be seen by a therapist who is familiar with the challenges presented by having more than one disorder. Working with the right therapist helps a patient understand the causes of their disordered behavior and is a good step in setting goals for progress for mental health. With the right program, resolve to find health, and generally patient attitude, anyone can hope to find a happier and more stable life.