How Do Mental Health Disorders Inform Addiction?

December 22, 2022

Written By: Buena Vista Recovery

There is nothing easy about navigating daily life while experiencing the effects of mental health disorders. From persistent feelings of anxiety and panic to depression, bipolar disorder, trauma, and much more, an individual’s mental health greatly impacts their regular routines and overall health. However, these intense feelings can also beget the use of drugs or alcohol, leading to complex relationships with these addictive substances and the need for dedicated professional treatment.

The Effects of Mental Health Disorders

Mental health disorders affect every aspect of daily life, from morning routines and workplace performance to a person’s ability to engage in personal hobbies or interests. Pervasive feelings of anxiety or depression can also influence sleep patterns, creating fatigue coupled with exhausting thoughts and emotions. It is common for those challenging the effects of mental health disorders to look for any outlet possible to get a “break” from these difficult, uncomfortable effects. This often comes in the form of drug and alcohol use, which sets a dangerous precedent and can quickly lead to the development of addiction.

While some substances may initially feel like they are helping an individual overcome or forget about the effects of mental health disorders, providing respite from the deluge of anxiety, depression, or other racing thoughts, such an effect is temporary. Moreover, these substances often end up causing much more harm than good. As their effects wear off, addictive substances bring even further feelings of depression, anxiety, panic, and more, creating a cycle of use and addiction that has a myriad of adverse effects on both physical and mental health.

Many of those struggling with mental health disorders may be aware of the dangerous effects that addictive substances bring and continue to engage with them anyway. For some, addiction can cause an individual to act against their better judgment and continue engaging with these substances. Others may feel that the benefits of temporary relief may be worth the other damage caused, either through feelings of desperation to quell these difficult feelings or as a result of a compromised sense of self-worth.

The Effects of Addiction on Mental Health

While mental health disorders can inform one’s use of addictive substances, these substances themselves can create even more tumultuous emotional states. Some effects of addiction on one’s mental health include:

  • Decreased motivation 
  • Feelings of helplessness
  • Increased anxiety or depression
  • Mood swings
  • Frequent irritation, anger, or frustration
  • Self-isolating tendencies
  • Difficulty sleeping 
  • Compromised hygiene routines
  • Lack of self-care or disinterest in previous hobbies

Each of these can further compromise recovery efforts and further exacerbates the challenges mental health disorders present.

Co-Occurring Substance Use and Mental Health Disorders

On the one hand, the presence of mental health disorders can cause an individual to seek out drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism. On the other hand, the use of drugs and alcohol can bring their own feelings of anxiety, depression, or other mental health disorders. Regardless, understanding the intersection between an individual’s mental health and substance use is crucial for recovery.

A co-occurring disorder happens when a mental health disorder and substance use disorder (SUD) occur simultaneously. Co-occurring disorders are common. Among nearly 42 million adults with a mental health disorder, about 18% also struggle with a SUD.

For example, an individual struggling with depression and opioid addiction have co-occurring disorders. Others may struggle with bipolar disorder and alcohol use disorder (AUD) that developed as a result of self-medication attempts. Regardless of which unique mental health disorder or substance one is using, professional treatment is necessary for effectively overcoming co-occurring disorders and establishing a truly transformed lifestyle.

Addiction alters brain chemistry in many ways and can even exacerbate levels of stress or depression. Even subclinical levels of depression, anxiety, or risk-taking behaviors can be brought to light as a result of addiction, developing into clinical and intense mental health disorders.

Creating an Effective Recovery Plan

It is crucial to work alongside trained professionals to create an effective treatment and recovery plan. There is nothing easy about overcoming mental health disorders, especially when addictive substances are involved. A comprehensive support system and education are necessary to heal the whole self throughout an individual’s recovery.

Addressing the effects of mental health disorders without acknowledging the effects that drugs or alcohol have on a person can leave an individual without the proper coping techniques and continuing to engage with these substances while stifling other recovery efforts. Likewise, addressing an individual’s use of drugs or alcohol without acknowledging the underlying mental health disorders that informed their use in the first place can lead to ill-equipped coping strategies and an increased chance of relapse. 

Only by addressing both sides in tandem can an effective transformation take place. Dedicated professionals are essential for not only developing these plans but also for providing the education and direction necessary to understand the complex and profound intersection of mental health disorders and addiction. 

Overcoming the effects of either mental health disorders or addiction is incredibly difficult. Tackling them both simultaneously is even more complicated. At Buena Vista Recovery, we understand the complex, interconnected nature of addiction and mental health disorders. Our caring, trained staff is prepared to help you develop an effective plan to heal the whole self. We are committed to creating a truly transformative experience in recovery, addressing both mental health disorders and addiction in tandem to create a new lifestyle in sobriety. From detox and residential treatment to intensive outpatient programs, your journey is personalized to your needs each step of the way. For more information on how we can help you, call us today at (480) 741-9414.