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Mental Illness and Addiction: Exploring the Connection

Experience clinician-run addiction treatment at Red Oak Recovery® in the pristine Blue Ridge Mountains

Mental Illness and Addiction: Exploring the Connection

More and more experts are seeing a lot of overlap between the conditions. In fact, about 9.2 million people in the United States struggle with mental health and addiction, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Unfortunately, despite the growing prevalence of these co-occurring disorders (also known as dual diagnosis or co-morbid disorder), few people seek treatment for both the addiction and the mental illness. In fact, only about 10 percent of people who struggle with dual diagnosis get treatment for both issues.  This condition is a slippery slope, as a healthy mental state is imperative for battling addiction.

Warning Signs of Co-Occurring Disorders

Spotting the signs of a dual diagnosis can be tricky – since they’ll vary depending on your addiction and your mental illness. For example, the signs of depression and alcoholism will differ from, say, cocaine addiction and anxiety disorder.

In general, however, co-occurring disorders make it difficult to function on a daily basis and can lead to the following:

  • An inability to maintain employment
  • An inability to maintain functional relationships
  • Legal problems
  • Financial issues
  • Extreme mood swings or an inability to control their emotions

In addition, according to NAMI, you may see that the person is engaging in risky behaviors, or feeling like they need the drug to handle their daily life.

Why is There a Connection Between Mental Illness and Addiction?

When it comes to the connection between mental illness and addiction, it is essential to realize that these two factors are inextricably linked. Many times, people begin drinking or using drugs to suppress symptoms of mental illness. For instance, you may have begun using alcohol to numb the pain of depression. As your addiction continues, you find that you need more of the substance to stay balanced. You eventually realize that if you stop drinking or using drugs, your mental illness symptoms will come back full force.

Alternatively, sometimes, addiction can cause mental illness. Some substances, for instance, cause paranoia or anxiety, which gets worse as you continue to use it. Maybe you began receiving mental health treatment but kept using drugs or alcohol. As a result, your symptoms got worse.

If you struggle with both a mental illness and an addiction, it is critical to get treatment for both your problems. However, when you get treatment for both issues, you can address both problems. If you don’t, your untreated symptoms may cause you to relapse. At Red Oak Recovery®, we offer treatment for a variety of substance use disorders, such as:

  • Alcohol addiction
  • Cocaine addiction
  • Heroin addiction
  • Benzo addiction
  • Opioid addiction

In addition to our addiction treatment programs, we also treat many mental issues, including:

  • Depression
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Anxiety
  • Eating disorders
  • PTSD

Getting the Help You Need

If you or someone you love is showing signs of struggling with mental health and addiction, it’s not too late to get the help you need. At Red Oak, our clinical team is comprised of master level therapists, dually licensed in Mental Health and Addiction disciplines. Call us today at 866.457.7590 to learn more about the connection between mental illness and addiction.