The relationship between substance abuse and underlying mental illnesses is quite a complex one. Studies show varying statistics of people who live with both substance abuse and mental health disorders. Often, substance abuse will derive from a mental health issue, and the addiction grows as a result of self-medication. However, misusing substances can cause existing mental health disorders to worsen, and in some cases, cause the development of new mental illnesses.
Major depression is one of the most common mental health conditions in the United States and the leading cause of disability around the world. Sadly, many people with this condition are never diagnosed, or do not get the correct treatment. Despite being a common mental health problem that can be treated, people who suffer from depression are more likely to become addicted to substances. Depression and substance abuse or alcohol abuse are some of the most common dual diagnosis disorders.
Anxiety is one of the most common mental disorders, with various symptoms. It covers a range of other disorders such as panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and social anxiety disorder. All of these anxiety-related conditions can increase the chance of somebody becoming addicted to substances. Often, people with anxiety disorders who become addicted to substances start as a way to self-medicate to treat the disorder.
Although this mental health condition is considered to be a type of depression, it comes with unique behavioral characteristics including periods of mania and hypomania, where somebody may act out of character, be irrational, or impulsive. People who have bipolar disorder often have a higher chance of developing an addiction to substances, which can lead to more manic and volatile behavior.
Personality disorders are some of the most common mental health disorders and have an over 70% risk of leading to addiction. Personality disorders differ but are often associated with a rigid or distorted way of seeing the world, signs of being antisocial, and being misunderstood. Along with this, statistics show that people with personality disorders such as borderline personality disorder may find it difficult to trust others, which can lead to them rarely seeking professional help and choosing to self-medicate instead.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
PTSD is a form of anxiety disorder with a significant risk of addiction. PTSD occurs after experiencing a traumatic situation, which can lead to a range of terrifying symptoms such as nightmares and feeling constantly on edge. People with PTSD often have trouble sleeping, feel anxious all the time, and struggle to regulate their emotions, which can impact on their personal and professional lives. Since these symptoms are often a lot to deal with, they can often lead people with PTSD to turn to self-medicating in the form of alcohol or drugs. Over half of people who are treated for substance use disorders show signs of PTSD.
Substance abuse is often a complex issue that starts long before the affected person takes drugs or drinks alcohol. It’s important to understand the role of mental illness in substance abuse to get to the root cause of the issue during treatment.