Substance use and mental health disorders commonly co-occur. For instance, around a third of people with depression also have a Substance Use Disorder. Around half of people who enter addiction treatment have symptoms of PTSD.
So, does addiction cause mental health disorders, or the other way around?
Addiction and mental health disorders often exacerbate one another. People may turn to substances to self-medicate if they have an undiagnosed or untreated mental health disorder. They may drink alcohol to temporarily quell anxiety, or use opioids to numb their depression.
In turn, many substances increase mental health symptoms. For instance, alcohol use—especially chronic alcohol use—can increase anxiety and depression.
Some substances may trigger symptoms of a mental health disorder in people who are otherwise susceptible. A study of over 100,000 patients prescribed opioids found that 10% of participants—none of whom had received a prior depression diagnosis—developed depression after a month of use.
Addiction and mental health disorders may also share similar risk factors, such as genetic predispositions, environmental triggers like trauma, and involvement of similar brain areas. For instance, a person with Bipolar Disorder experiencing mania will often struggle with impulse control; they will be more likely to engage in risky behaviors like heavy drinking or drug use.
In essence, there is no one answer as to whether addiction causes mental health disorders or vice versa. Co-occurring disorders are the result of a complex interplay between the two, and between genetics and environment. As such, mental health disorders and addiction need to be treated together.
A person in treatment for a mental health disorder who has untreated addiction will continue to exacerbate their symptoms with substances. A person in treatment for addiction who has an untreated mental health disorder will continue to self-medicate—and will be less cognizant to manage their mental health symptoms.
If you are struggling with addiction and a co-occurring mental health disorder, there is hope. TruHealing Centers across the country specialize in co-occurring disorders. We understand the importance of treating both. Our staff will help you manage the symptoms of your mental health disorder and break free from addiction. Call an admissions specialist at 410-593-0005.