In short, they certainly can be. There are 2 ways in which addiction and mental illness coincide. In one way, addiction can perpetuate symptoms related to a mental illness, which can further develop as time continues. In another way, people who already have a mental illness may lean towards substance abuse in order to help them cope with distressing symptoms. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) defines either of these scenarios as cases of comorbidity, or “two or more disorders or illnesses occurring in the same person”. The NIDA notes that both the addiction and mental illnesses can worsen the course of each, causing a person a lot of distress.
For example, a person with anxiety and depression may choose to drink alcohol often as a way to relax and interact more in social settings. This could eventually lead the person to develop alcoholism, in which case the person would have both an addiction and a mental disorder. On the other hand, a person who is addicted to antidepressants may develop more severe symptoms of paranoia, leading them to develop paranoid personality disorder, for example. There are a variety of causes for both addiction and mental disorders:
- Environmental factors such as stress, trauma, early exposure to drugs, etc.
- Brain activity such as a person’s responses to reward and stress
- Developmental disorders and other disorders or mental illnesses that occur before the other one begins
Gender also has an impact on comorbidity, as the rates of abuse and susceptibility to mental disorders vary from person to person. For example, the NIDA states that overall rates of dependence and abuse tend to be higher in males, but women have higher rates of anxiety and mood disorders which are considered risk factors for drug abuse.
The U.S. News emphasizes that no research has been shown to prove that mental illness causes addiction, but it does increase someone’s risk. Comorbidity is quite common despite widespread belief – a study conducted by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism found it prevalent in 28.6% of their respondents, with these individuals experiencing both alcoholism and at least one personality disorder.
Thankfully, dual diagnosis is becoming more prevalent to help individuals who are struggling with 2 or more addictions or mental illnesses at one time. If you’re seeking a treatment center, aim to find a reputable center that can offer expertise in dual diagnosis. Recovery is possible and there are many resources available to you.
Avalon Malibu is a world-renowned, California state-licensed mental health and substance abuse recovery center. Our treatment center provides exceptional dual diagnosis treatment to help you work with the many challenges you are facing. If you are ready to seek treatment, call us today at 888-958-7511 for a consultation.