Illness And Addiction

Studies indicate those with underlying mental illness conditions are more likely to develop substance abuse problems. They often use these substances to help them subdue the symptoms they have with their mental health disorder. In some instances, it helps them to cope with the loss of relationships or other struggles. They haven’t made the connection there is something wrong with them that is responsible for the cycles repeating themselves again and again.

Such studies also confirm the complex nature of mental health issues and the link with substance abuse. In almost all of these instances, the user starts taking the substances as a means of self-medicating. They may feel therapy is taboo or they are ashamed to ask for such help. If they didn’t follow through previously with it, they may believe it doesn’t work.

It doesn’t take long for someone with a mental health condition to become addicted to drugs or alcohol. They also build up a tolerance quickly, so they need more of it to get the same results. While they feel it is making them better, in reality, this substance abuse often makes the mental health symptoms worsen.


This is why most mental health screenings are thorough. They include questions about the use of drugs and/or alcohol. Such screening tools can help the professional identify what should be in the treatment plan. This may include treatment for drug/alcohol dependency along with the mental health diagnosis treatment. It is important for them to be treated at the same time for the best outcome for the patient.

Dual diagnosis is common, and today most professionals are well aware of this need. Of course, the screening tools are only powerful if the patient is honest and transparent. If they aren’t sharing the true facts during the assessment, underlying mental illness and/or drug/alcohol dependency may not be recognised as it should have been.

It is important to find the right treatment program for the specific needs of a person. Typically, someone with mental illness and drug/alcohol dependency can benefit from a residential program. They will enter the facility for at least 90 days, starting with the detox process. In other scenarios, they will be part of a day program. They will attend each afternoon but they return home at night rather than sleeping at the facility.

There are several different types of mental illness that are linked to an increased risk of drug/alcohol abuse. They include:

  • ADHD
  • Anxiety Disorder
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Major Depression
  • Personality Disorders
  • PTSD
  • ADHD

Is a mental health condition, but it is often misdiagnosed. Children often have it and they are deemed as being lazy in school or impulsive. They have a hard time focusing on something for long. When it isn’t treated, they grow up to be adults that struggle to stay focused on the job. They have a hard time with relationships because they are impulsive with their behaviours.

The use of drugs/alcohol can help someone with ADHD feel calmer than they normally do. They like that relaxed feeling. It can stop their mind from racing. They can finally sleep because their mind isn’t all over the place. It can also improve mood. About 70% of adults with ADHD that isn’t treated are believed to use drugs and/or alcohol regularly to self-medicate.

Anxiety Disorders

There are many different forms of Anxiety Disorders that fall into this category. They are further broken down when professionals complete a diagnosis with a patient. Some of the common ones include GAD, Panic Disorders, phobias, OCD, and PTSD. They all increase the risk of substance abuse.

Bipolar Disorder

Even though Bipolar Disorder is a Depressive Disorder, they aren’t the same. There are enough differences for it to be in a separate category. Bipolar Disorder conditions can put someone at great risk of abusing drugs or alcohol. Studies indicate almost 60% of individuals with Bipolar Disorder that don’t get adequate treatment will have issues with drugs/alcohol at some point in their lifetime.

The ups and downs of moods for someone with Bipolar Disorder are hard to live with. There are extreme highs and deep lows, and that makes it hard to understand why they behave differently. Sadly, Bipolar Disorder can be misdiagnosed and that can make it harder to get adequate treatment. If someone is addicted to drugs/alcohol, their behaviours are more erratic.

Major Depression

The most common mental illness people are diagnosed within the USA is Major Depression. It is also a top reason why many individuals are deemed unable to work in the USA. It isn’t just adults who suffer from Major Depression. Teenagers ranging from 12 to 17 can also have these episodes where they don’t feel their best.

Sadly about 60% of teenagers with Major Depression and approximately 35% of adults with Major Depression don’t receive a professional diagnosis. They don’t get the treatment they need to help them have a successful life. They may struggle with relationships, jobs, have low self-esteem, and face challenges with routine daily tasks.

When you add addictive nature to the mix with these individuals, it can take them further and further away from the life they wish to have. They may be labelled as someone with a drug or alcohol addiction. Others around them don’t realise there is an underlying major problem and that is the mental illness.

Personality Disorders

When a person has a personality disorder, they see the world very differently. They may hear voices in their head. They may be nervous and fearful of those around them. Paranoia is common. All of this is compounded when someone drinks or takes illicit drugs on top of dealing with the mental illness. When this type of mental illness is present, a person has a 72% chance of addiction problems.

One of the conditions we hear plenty about is Borderline Personality Disorder. It has an extremely high risk of addictive behaviours. The same is true of those with Antisocial Personality Disorder. In both of these categories, individuals rarely seek professional help. Those that do have a hard time sticking to their treatment plan. Personality Disorders are complex and unique to the individual. They can be difficult to properly diagnose. The treatment plan may need several modifications to find the right combination of treatment options for the person.


We mentioned PTSD above in Anxiety Disorders, but it is common enough that it warrants its own discussion here too. PTSD is triggered by accidents, trauma, war, physical abuse, emotional abuse, and much more. When a person goes through this, they experience triggers that can make them feel like they did in the moment. They feel anxious, upset, and it can be hard to focus on reality.

Coping with the symptoms of PTSD is a challenge, and many people turn to drugs or alcohol to help calm themselves. However, it can be harder for them to break that cycle as the cravings for drugs/alcohol tend to be intensified when PTSD is present. This means they are more likely to relapse if they don’t receive dual treatment.

Exploring the Options

Any indicators of mental illness in yourself or someone you care about should be evaluated. Talk to your primary care physician. Complete assessments openly and honestly to ensure the right diagnosis is made. Be open to the treatment options and follow through with what is recommended by professionals. Keep all scheduled appointments and talk about your thoughts and feelings in therapy. With the help of professionals, you can get to the root of your condition.

Do your part to break the dependency on drugs or alcohol. They are a temporary solution to a larger problem. Self-medicating with drugs or alcohol puts you on a path that is dangerous. It can intensify the symptoms of mental illness and make the condition worse. It is possible to get on a path to treatment and a better life!

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