The majority of people struggling with addiction have another mental health issue too. This is called a dual diagnosis. Often, the other issue is what leads to addiction in the first place. People often use drugs and alcohol as a way to cope with mental health issue, or to self-medicate. Sometimes they use drugs or alcohol as a way of avoiding problems caused by the other issues. Many people do this unconsciously. They might not set out to medicate their ADHD with alcohol, for example, but people who get treatment for addiction often realize in hindsight that’s exactly what they were doing. Some conditions don’t cause people to self-medicate but they may increase the likelihood of developing addiction. Schizophrenia, for example, correlates with heavier use of marijuana at a younger age, but it’s not clear that people with schizophrenia are self-medicating. People with impulse control disorders or ADHD might be more likely to develop addictions because they are more willing to try addictive drugs. Mental health issues can also result from addiction. Addiction often leads to depression and anxiety, and in some cases, psychosis. Addiction can also lead to risky behaviors, putting you at greater risk for accidents, trauma, and abuse. Someone who had reasonably good mental health before addiction might develop significant issues as the addiction gets worse. Whether the mental health issue led to addiction or developed because of the addiction, addressing it is necessary for a successful recovery. It’s crucial to find a treatment center that can handle a dual diagnosis because often these present unique challenges in terms of therapy and medication. Treating a dual diagnosis should be fully integrated with addiction treatment and having both medical and therapeutic staff with appropriate experience is crucial. Although any significant physical or mental health condition can contribute to a dual diagnosis, some are more common than others. The following are common issues that need to be addressed along with addiction.
Depression is one of the most common mental health issues in the world. People with depression often have substance use issues as a result of self-medicating. Drugs and alcohol can turn down the volume on pain and negative thinking but they also make depression worse as addiction can lead to feelings of shame and helplessness. Depression and addiction together also make suicide more likely than either by itself.
There are two common ways anxiety can lead to addiction. First, people with anxiety disorders feel like they need drugs or alcohol to relieve anxiety that is sometimes paralyzing. For example, people with social anxiety often rely on alcohol and drugs to deal with social situations. What begins as a crutch eventually turns into an addiction and they start needing drugs or alcohol to get back to normal. The other common way anxiety leads to addiction is through prescription benzodiazepine use. Often people suffering from panic disorders or insomnia are prescribed medication like Xanax. That’s fine for occasional relief, but regular use can quickly lead to addiction.
The opioid crisis has brought attention to the fact that many people who might not otherwise be at risk for addiction became addicted to opioids after being prescribed opioid painkillers. People suffering from chronic pain typically have to increase their dose in order to keep getting relief. This presents a special challenge for recovery because living with pain is so difficult. Still, there are ways to address chronic pain without opioids. These include therapy, alternative medications, methadone, physical therapy, and lifestyle changes.
By some estimates, more than half of people with post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, struggle with substance use. While PTSD is typically associated with combat veterans, it’s actually far more common among civilians who have had traumatic experiences such as car wrecks, sexual assaults, armed robberies, or the unexpected death of a loved one. PTSD can cause a range of problems including flashbacks, intrusive thoughts, angry outbursts, and insomnia. Self-medicating these symptoms can lead to addiction.
Schizophrenia has a complicated relationship to addiction. It used to be thought that drugs such as marijuana and LSD could cause schizophrenia. Now it appears that they only precipitate symptoms in people who already have a genetic predisposition to schizophrenia. Nevertheless, schizophrenia also increases your risk of addiction, both through self-medication and through mechanisms that have yet to be identified. Unfortunately, like other conditions, drugs and alcohol only end up making symptoms worse.
Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, increases your risk of addiction in several ways. Because people with ADHD tend to be impulsive, they are more likely to try addictive drugs without thinking about consequences, so their exposure is greater. They also tend to have trouble in a traditional academic setting, leading to poorer grades and social alienation, both of which are risk factors for developing addiction. People with ADHD also tend to experiment with drug use in search of novel experiences and after age 14 their rates of drug and alcohol use increased much faster than average. They also may use alcohol to dampen racing or intrusive thoughts. All of these factors make ADHD a significant risk factor for addiction.
Bipolar disorder is often mistaken for depression because the depressive episodes are longer than the manic episodes, and no one goes to the doctor because of a manic episode. Often manic episodes don’t even feel particularly manic; they just feel like a break in the depression, so someone with undiagnosed bipolar disorder might not even mention the manic episodes to the doctor. Unfortunately, depression medication does not always work for bipolar disorder and may trigger manic episodes. As a result, people with bipolar disorder may just struggle with what they believe is stubborn depression. In fact, it takes an average of 10 years for bipolar to be correctly diagnosed. In the meantime, people with bipolar often self-medicate with drugs and alcohol. Bipolar also makes addiction treatment difficult because a manic episode may make them want to leave because they no longer feel like they need treatment.
If you or a loved one struggles with addiction, we can help. Recovery Ways is a leading addiction treatment provider with an excellent recovery rate. We have the facilities and expertise to treat dual diagnoses. Our expert staff includes masters and PhD level therapists and board certified addiction psychiatrists. Our comfortable facilities will help to make your treatment as enjoyable as possible and our therapists use proven techniques like sensory integration and recreation therapy to help to engage the world without the assistance of drugs or alcohol. Call us today at 1-888-986-7848 or email us through our contact page to learn more.