Mental Health Problems and Addiction

Researchers have found that addiction is often associated with mental health problems. This is often referred to as “co-occurring conditions.” The mental health condition can cause addiction, and the addiction can increase the symptoms of the mental illness. Dual diagnosis treatment is needed to treat both the addiction and the mental health problems in order to achieve successful recovery.


Many people who become addicted to various types of substances often suffer from depression and attempt to use the substance to treat the profound feelings of hopelessness, fatigue, lack of enjoyment and physical pain that often accompanies this condition. Any attempt to stop using the substance results in a return to the negative feelings, which can reinforce the addiction. In addition, the problem of addiction can increase feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness, which serves to reinforce the underlying depression in a never-ending circle of negative feelings, self-medication and the increased need for more self-medication.

Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety disorders cover a range of mental illnesses that include post traumatic stress disorder, social anxiety disorder, generalized anxiety disorder and others. These individuals may experience crippling feelings of nervousness, heart palpitations, abdominal cramps, breathlessness and physical distress that prevents them from functioning in everyday activities. Many people who have anxiety disorders attempt to treat themselves with drugs or alcohol and subsequently become addicted. Unfortunately, many substances can help to increase anxiety symptoms, further encouraging the use of the substances. In these cases, addiction treatment must also manage the underlying anxiety problem in order to achieve success.

Bipolar Disorders

Bipolar disorders are mental illnesses that encompass phases of emotion and activity with very high highs, and very low lows. Living with this ever-changing emotional condition can cause a number of problems for these individuals. They often try to control their moods with alcohol or other substances. These two problems occur so often together that many experts feel that anyone diagnosed with bipolar disorder should be tested for substance abuse problems. Managing the twin poles of this mental illness with lithium or other effective medication can go a long way toward aiding the recovery from addiction.

Personality Disorders

Personality disorders cover a number of different psychological problems such as borderline personality and antisocial personality. In borderline personality disorder, the individual exhibits strong manipulative behavior with a high sense of drama. They often have extremely intense, unstable relationships. An antisocial personality has little regard for the feelings of others and may be aggressive and hostile to others. Both of these disorders may show high levels of impulsivity that often include substance abuse and addiction. These individuals are known to be at high risk for addiction and may require long-term treatment of their underlying disorders in order to successfully rid themselves of the addiction.


Schizophrenia is a severe and disabling mental condition in which the individual may have difficulty distinguishing delusions from reality. The person may think that others are spying on him or trying to hurt him. He or she may withdraw from relationships, lapse into disjointed speech or hear voices. A number of medications can successfully treat schizophrenia, which can be helpful in aiding the individual in recovery.

Although mental illness can complicate addiction treatment, a reputable program can help these people to gain control over both the substance abuse problem and the underlying mental illness that may be contributing to it. If you know someone who may need dual diagnosis treatment, encourage him or her to find a program that has experience with these unique problems.

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