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How Addiction Impacts Mental Health

a woman looks out at the water in a depressed state due to her co occurring mental health condition and addiction

Sadly, addiction and mental health problems often go hand in hand. While it isn’t always clear if one caused the other, it is obvious that they can create a self-perpetuating downward spiral. Finding a way out of the cycle of substance abuse and mental illness can feel crushing, but remember that you’re not alone in this difficult time. Call the caring team at NuLife Behavioral Health at 888.568.2057 or reach out online for support. We’re eager to talk to you about our co-occurring disorder treatment programs in Massachusetts, Illinois, Indiana, and New Jersey.

How Does Addiction Impact Mental Health?

​​Looking specifically at how drug or alcohol abuse can impact mental health yields a number of unfortunate connections. Some substances alter brain chemistry over time, which means using them raises the risk of developing mental illness. For example, methamphetamines have been linked with schizophrenia, especially in people who experience strong psychotic reactions to the drug when using it. Alcohol abuse is likewise strongly tied to depression and anxiety disorders.

In reflecting on these connections, it’s important to remember that the interplay between nature and nurture related to mental illness is never simple. It’s rarely possible to assign a clear, causal link between mental health problems and substance abuse, and even skilled medical providers are often faced with a “chicken or the egg” type problem. What is fairly clear is that for those with already elevated risk for mental illness, for example, those with a parent suffering from a mental illness, using substances can tip them over the edge. For example, abusing opioid painkillers may trigger a full-out depressive disorder.

Abusing substances can also make symptoms of a known mental illness even worse. This is especially true for people taking medication to manage their symptoms who then abuse a substance that makes their medications less effective. For example, those who need antidepressants experience much less benefit from them if they abuse alcohol at the same time. This can cause major delays to recovery and chain reactions of negative consequences.

Signs that Your Loved One May Be Coping with Both Substance Abuse and Mental Health Concerns

Everyone manifests mental illness and substance abuse a little differently. The best way to reach an informed judgment is to consult a physician. That said, here are a few warning signs that a co-occurring disorder may be present:

  • Your loved one’s substance abuse and mental health show a clear relationship with one another; this could show up as becoming depressed when they drink or drinking when they feel overwhelmed or anxious
  • They are using substances to deal with painful feelings, memories, or situations
  • Anxiety, depression, or other mood symptoms are present even when your loved one is sober
  • A previous treatment your loved one received for either addiction or mental illness was unsuccessful due to issues caused by the other vector
  • Your loved one’s close family includes at least one other person with known mental illness or substance abuse

Knowing these signs of co-occurring disorders can help you better recognize when someone needs help.

Seek Help Today Through NuLife Recovery’s Effective Dual Diagnosis Recovery Programs

If your loved one is grappling with the two-fold challenge of addiction and mental health concerns, know that this is far from a no-win scenario. Dual diagnosis treatment programs like the ones offered at NuLife Behavioral Health are an evidence-based response to precisely this situation.

Following an initial assessment, clients with a co-occurring disorder get access to many effective resources. Individual therapy helps them understand the underlying causes of their condition, address triggers, and learn coping skills. Group therapy generates accountability and nonjudgmental support. Family sessions likewise help clients repair the damage done to their closest support system and create more stable relationships to facilitate recovery.

Reach out to NuLife Behavioral Health today for programs in New Jersey, Massachusetts, Indiana, and Illinois or referrals elsewhere. We’re available at 888.568.2057 or via online message and look forward to connecting you with the support you need.