While many factors contribute to addiction, there is a complex relationship between addiction and other mental health problems. As many as 60 percent of people who abuse alcohol or drugs have at least one other mental illness. The reason for this relationship is not fully understood, but one contributing factor is self-medication: Many people self-medicate with substances to manage difficult symptoms related to a mental health disorder. For instance, a person suffering from social anxiety who drinks to feel more comfortable in social situations. This practice can lead to temporary relief, but is associated with more problems in the long-term, including addiction. One of the most effective paths to recovery for co-occurring disorders are residential treatment programs that take an integrated approach to care, like Seasons in Malibu Drug Rehab.
Co-occurring disorders defined
People who are suffering from addiction and another mental health disorder are diagnosed as having co-occurring disorders. Co-occurring disorders can sometimes be difficult to diagnose because symptoms of addiction and substance abuse can mask or mimic symptoms of mental illness, and vice versa. For instance, methamphetamine can induce symptoms that are similar to those of schizophrenia, such as auditory hallucinations and paranoia. It is important to get accurate diagnoses for co-occurring disorders as treatment must focus on both conditions at the same time to be effective.
More than half of U.S. adults who suffer from mental illness don’t get the treatment they need. Although there are many effective treatments available, such as psychotherapy, medications, and residential treatment programs, some people don’t have access to services or don’t seek out care. In these instances, it’s not surprising that someone suffering from mental illness would use alcohol or drugs to help them manage symptoms related to the disorder. This is what’s referred to as self-medication. Self-medication, however, can lead to a substance use disorder and addiction, making the path to recovery unclear.
Common co-occurring disorders
Certain mental health issues are frequently associated with alcohol and substance abuse. They include:
Mood-related disorders such as major depression, dysthymia, and bipolar disorder. Approximately 30 to 40 percent of people with a depressive disorder also have an alcohol use disorder. People battling bipolar disorder also suffer from substance use disorders at rates between 35 and 60 percent.
Anxiety-related disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety, generalized anxiety disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Roughly 20 percent of people with an opioid use disorder also meet criteria for an anxiety disorder.
Severe mental illness such as schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder. Nearly half of the people suffering from schizophrenia also have a lifetime history of alcohol or illicit drug dependence.
Treating two sets of symptoms
Because mental health and substance use disorders impact one another, treatment needs to address both problems at the same time to be effective. Untreated symptoms of an underlying mental health disorder can make it very difficult for a person to recover from an addiction, and untreated substance abuse issues can make mental health treatment ineffective. An integrated treatment model has been shown to be the best approach to co-occurring addiction and mental health disorders. Often, residential treatment programs, like Seasons in Malibu Drug Rehab, offer the highest standard of care. These programs provide around-the-clock services by a team of experts in a stable and structured environment, giving the greatest chance of recovery.