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The Close Connection Between Mental Health and Addictions

mental health and addiction treatment

Mental illness. Drug abuse. Addiction. Three terms that are typically shied away from in common conversation. Three terms that are generally followed by judgment, disappointment, shame, and fear. Three terms that carry a considerable, long-standing social stigma in communities across the nation.

All the while, these are also three very critical, encumbering disorders affecting society today. And they are not uncommon. An estimated 43 million Americans over age 18 have experienced some form of mental illness in the past year. Nearly 20 million American adults are battling a substance use disorder at this time. And inevitably, some people are experiencing both – in 2015, over eight million adults were battling drug addiction alongside a co-occurring mental health disorder.

Mental illness and addiction are not only present across our nation, but also in the people we know and love most – a family member, a friend, a significant other, our children. The problem is, we too often fail to recognize their presence in the people that are closest to us. We often deny the probability that they could exist. We often avoid the reality that anyone, no matter of their age, gender, or upbringing, can develop a substance use or psychological disorder – let alone the possibility of both.

Yet we see people struggle with mental health and addiction regularly: a teen binge drinks to dismiss his social anxiety disorder; a young woman supplements her eating disorder with stimulant use; a person smokes marijuana to calm panic attacks; another self-medicates depression with drugs and alcohol. The list goes on. The connection between mental health and addiction remains.

But what is the connection, exactly?

Drug addiction is, as affirmed by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, a mental health disorder. It changes a user’s brain chemistry and disturbs their fundamental hierarchy of needs, desires, and priorities. Not to mention, the parts of the brain that addiction affects are the same areas that are disrupted by other mental health disorders like depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia. It is not surprising, therefore, mental health and addiction disorders so often co-occur.

When a person is diagnosed with both mental health and addiction issues, he or she is said to be battling “co-occurring disorders” or “dual diagnosis.” This simply means that the two disorders co-exist within a single person.

Substance addiction can co-occur with any mental disorder, including depression, anxiety, ADHD, bipolarity, mood disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorder. The same can happen vice versa, where a mental illness co-occurs alongside a substance use disorder such as alcoholism, opiate addiction, and methamphetamine abuse. Co-occurring disorders come in all forms and extents – there is no single combination of disorders and no universal cause or explanation of which came first:

Mental disorders are recognized risk factors for subsequent drug abuse, and drug abuse and addiction are established risk factors for the development of mental health disorders.

If you or someone you love is struggling with a mental health disorder and/or a drug addiction, it is extremely important to identify the root of it. By doing so, you can learn to understand the issues at hand and develop an effective plan for recovery and personal growth.

This is exactly what we aim to do at Turnbridge’s integrated, dual diagnosis treatment center. Here, we identify and address the underlying problems that led each client to drug abuse and addiction – Was it feelings of hopelessness or a lack of self-esteem? Did it start as a compulsive need to fit in or stand out? Did the drug use stem from overwhelming stresses or trauma in one’s life? These are just some of the many predecessors of mental health and addictive disorders, ones that are especially frequent in youth.

Mental health and addiction are commonly intertwined, yet the combination of these disorders can be dangerous if left unaddressed. Untreated mental health disorders are likely to increase the frequency and risks of substance abuse, as those afflicted will try to self-medicate their mental health issues through the use of drugs. All the while, an untreated substance use disorder or increased substance abuse can augment the manic, depressive, or compulsive symptoms of a mental health disorder. Sometimes, it can also trigger new symptoms that were previously unknown.

According to a SAMHSA report, “If one of the co-occurring disorders goes untreated, both usually get worse and additional complications often arise. The combination of disorders can result in poor response to traditional treatments and increases the risk for other serious medical problems.”

The good news is, co-occurring disorders are in fact treatable. But because they are typically complex and carry a greater risk of relapse, co-occurring disorders require a specialized, integrated form of treatment and a long-term, multi-dimensional recovery plan.

In a professional dual diagnosis treatment program, each disease, both mental and addictive, is treated at the same place, same time, and with the same amount of attention, allowing clients to heal physically as well as mentally. Therapies such as CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) and DBT (dialectic behavioral therapy), as well as group sessions, one-to-one counseling, mindfulness techniques, and complimentary modalities are leveraged by trained dual diagnosis therapists to help clients restore their psychological and physical wellness. This type of treatment is the key to sobriety and stability— the key to addressing mental health and addiction.

To learn about Turnbridge’s dual diagnosis treatment for young women and men, please call 877-581-1793 today.