The Relationship Between Mental Illness and Substance Abuse

Both mental illness and substance abuse are troubling when they affect friends and loved ones. Some feel that disorientation and behavioral issues are the result of the drugs someone many have taken, while others believe people tend to find solace in drugs or alcohol as a self-medication for mental illness. There is some truth to both of these positions, and it is clear that there is a link between mental illness and substance abuse in many cases

Mental Health

A Dual Problem

Substance abuse and mental illness can be a dual problem that may require two different kinds of treatment or at least distinct approaches to address each issue. The symptoms of each may be separate and in some cases, they may become interrelated. For instance, a person can turn to drugs because of overwhelming social anxiety and paranoia, but certain kinds of drugs can intensify fears of others or cause one to feel there is a conspiracy against them.

The one thing both of these problems have in common is that if they go untreated, they will most likely get worse over time. The first priority is to seek treatment and afterward refine one’s approach treatment. Rehab centers may be helpful at the beginning to stabilize those suffering from these conditions.

Which Is the Cause?

Although people suffering from mental illness may decide to turn to substances for relief, it would not be entirely accurate to say that mental illness causes substance abuse. Not only do conditions such as depression and social anxiety cause the kind of anguish that can make someone feel desperate for relief and acceptance, but problems such as bipolar disorder or psychosis can affect a person’s judgment and can encourage people to make impulsive choices such as taking drugs. Then again, the person suffering from mental illness can indulge in other risky behaviors rather than specifically drugs and alcohol.

How the Conditions Affect Each Other

Although one of these conditions can’t be said to cause the other, they may have mutual effects and an interrelationship. Alcohol and drugs are often seen as a means to self-medicate certain mental health conditions. Although mental health problems are often caused by genetic and environmental factors, the addition of drugs and alcohol may trigger symptom and make underlying problems more severe. A large number of people who suffer from mental illness may be vulnerable to substance abuse.

Although it can be a challenge to treat dual disorders, such as mental illness and substance abuse, one thing that can make it easier is if the person being treated is not in denial and admits he or she has a problem. Denial can make both of these problems worse and can keep people from getting the treatment they need. Many people who admit they have a mental health and a substance abuse problem may seek help in an inpatient setting or clinic at the beginning and find solace through psychotherapy or a support group that meets on a regular basis. Those with the dual problem of a mental illness and a substance abuse issue may need two different types of treatment, one for each issue.

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