Mental health is just as important as physical health. Just like physical health, mental health can develop problems. The diathesis-stress model for looking at mental illness states that mental illness is caused by certain people having genetic predispositions and life stressors triggering the mental illness to manifest itself.

Addiction is both a physiological and psychological disorder. It is physiological because the repeated use of the substance changes the body’s homeostasis, which is the body’s natural internal state. It is psychological by an underlying mental issue (e.g., childhood trauma) making the sufferers feel like they need to assuage it through their substance use. Often, addicted individuals are self-medicating an undiagnosed mental health disorder. Approximately 50% of individuals with a severe mental health condition also have a co-occurring substance abuse disorder. That is why dual-diagnosis should be available in all addiction treatment centers. Common mental health conditions that co-occur with addiction include:

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

PTSD is a disorder where the sufferer re-experiences a traumatic event through nightmares and flashbacks. Frequent sufferers of PSTD include veterans, rape survivors, and survivors of natural disasters. Many sufferers of untreated PTSD end up becoming addicted to opioids because opioids induce forgetfulness and feelings of euphoria.

Anti-Social Personality Disorder

Anti-social personality disorder is where the sufferer has a flagrant disregard for rules and societal norms and possesses an extreme lack of empathy towards all other people. Sufferers also tend to use charm and intellect to deceive people. The most common schema of someone with anti-social personality disorder are criminals (e.g., Charles Manson). Suffers of anti-social personality disorder are often called “psychopaths” or “sociopaths.” However, most sufferers of anti-social personality disorder are everyday people who appear charming and intelligent but have a dark side. Treatment for anti-social personality disorder is limited and usually ineffective. Many sufferers end up turning to alcohol to reduce their inhibitions and make them more comfortable acting out their anti-social behaviors.

Depression

Major depressive disorder can be caused by biological factors (e.g., lack of serotonin), life events, and distorted ways of thinking. While sufferers of depression can end up becoming addicted to a variety of drugs that make them feel better about themselves, many sufferers of untreated depression end up becoming addicted to heroin and other opioids to induce feelings of euphoria and forget depressing life events.

Anxiety

Generalized anxiety and other anxiety disorders are extremely distressing because they make the sufferers feel like they are in constant danger. Many people who suffer from an untreated anxiety disorder end up becoming addicted to cocaine because cocaine makes people feel like they are on top of the world and can conquer anything.

Treating Addiction and Co-Occurring Disorders

If there is both an addiction and co-occurring mental health disorder present, the co-occurring mental health disorder must be effectively treated in order for the addiction to be effectively treated. Many addiction treatment centers are hiring master’s level staff who can cater to the 50% of individuals with a severe mental health condition also have a co-occurring substance abuse disorder. Mental health disorders can be treated by a variety of medications and talk therapies. Effective mental health treatment makes addiction more treatable and preventable.

References:

Diathesis–stress model | Wikipedia

Mental Health and Addiction | Safe Harbor Treatment Center

5 Most Common Disorders with Addictions | Foundations Recovery Network

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