How To Get Help: Addiction And Mental Health

16. February 2016

Addiction is a disease that affects millions of people in the United States alone. Another widespread issue faced by at least 1 in 5 Americans is mental illness. Very often, they go hand in hand.

In many respects, addiction is a form of mental illness. It is marked by the obsessive, compulsive need to use substances. It also meets the criteria of a disease: Chronic, progressive and deadly.

Mental illnesses include depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and other mood and personality disorders.

The Connection Between Mental Illness And Addiction

The relationship between mental illness and substance abuse is sometimes unclear and varies from case to case. For some people, the mental illness was already present, and using was a means to cope with symptoms. For others, the substance use itself seemed to trigger the illness. It’s hard to say if drug use is really the cause of a mental illness, or if it simply triggers something that was already there. What is known is that almost half of all people who suffer from addiction also struggle with mental illness.

mental health issue

The Challenges Of Having A Co-Occurring Disorder

When you have an addiction and other mental health issues it is known as having a co-occurring disorder. Another common term is a dual diagnosis. Sometimes, there are more than two disorders. An example would be a person who is an addict and struggles with depression and an eating disorder.

Getting help when you have a co-occurring disorder has historically been quite difficult. This is because addiction treatment was seen as completely separate from mental health treatment. Frequently, persons in need of addiction treatment who were suffering from mental illness couldn’t get help for their addiction, and vice versa. Here’s a scenario: A woman who is having a bipolar episode needs mental health services to get stabilized, however, she can’t stop using heroin, so she is turned away from the mental health program she needs. She is referred to a drug rehab, however, she gets turned away from the drug rehab because they do not treat people with an unmanaged mental illness.

Too often, people who are struggling with severe mental illness end up in jails because of situations like this. But even people with less severe mental health issues face challenges when drug rehabs don’t offer or address mental health issues.

Why Both Mental Illness And Addiction Must Be Addressed Simultaneously

Addiction is a serious, life-threatening illness that is best treated with professional help through drug treatment, as well as follow-up support whether through counseling or twelve step programs.

Mental illness is generally a recurring disorder that must be managed so that you can enjoy a healthy, happy life. In some cases, mental health issues are temporary, and in some cases, a person may always have them.

Either way, in order for a full recovery, both must be treated. This is because when one issue goes unaddressed, the other one will often return. Let’s use the example of someone suffering from chronic, severe anxiety. He also has a serious drinking problem. He goes to treatment and gets help. In treatment, he learns ways to deal with his alcohol cravings and receives some behavioral therapy and some good support. However, his anxiety goes untreated. In the protected environment of his treatment program, things are okay. Once he is out of treatment, though, his anxiety comes back full force, and it’s only a matter of time before he starts drinking again.

On the other side of this issue is the fact that alcohol and drugs tend to exacerbate mental illness symptoms. In addition, substance abuse often leads to poor self-care and makes managing mental illness more challenging. The results can be disastrous.

It’s easy to see that it makes sense that a drug treatment center shouldn’t just provide help for addiction, but for co-occurring mental health disorders as well. This includes trauma and PTSD, two issues that frequently show up in persons who struggle with addiction.

How To Get Help If You Have A Co-Occurring Disorder

While dealing with co-occurring disorders isn’t easy, it is possible with the right help. If you are struggling with a mental illness and you want to get help for your addiction, it’s important that you select a treatment center that can meet your needs. Look for a treatment center that states that it treats co-occurring disorders, or dual diagnosis. These programs are becoming more common, and can provide help for a wide variety of disorders along with addiction treatment.

Getting stable and sober is the first step, from there it’s important to focus on making behavioral changes, learning new coping skills and learning more about your mental health issues as well as how to manage them.

Does Your Loved One Need An Intervention

If you have a friend or family member with a co-occurring disorder and you haven’t been able to convince them to get help, an intervention may be in order. Denial is a common issue among those who are addicted, and if there is a mental illness involved, it can be even more difficult to broach the subject.

Often, substance abuse can worsen symptoms of mental illness, despite the fact that people are often using drugs to self-medicate. In some situations, it is imperative that a person using drugs with a mental illness get help for addiction, as the situation can dramatically increase risks of serious mental health problems.

An intervention can help. Professional intervention services can help your family and your loved one break through denial so healing can begin. If you would like to learn more about how an intervention specialist can help your family, call  Intervention Services, Inc. at 1-877-478-4621 to talk to someone today.