The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) found that 45% of people who have addiction issues also have a known co-occurring mental health condition. Estimates from NIDA, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, are similar—that 18% of Americans have some kind of mental health condition, and about half of those will have a substance abuse disorder at some point in their lives. Because co-occurring disorders are so common, it’s essential to find addiction treatment programs that are able to treat both issues.
Co-Occurring Disorders of Substance Use and Mental Illness
If you haven’t heard about these connections between substance use and mental illness, you’re not alone. Recognizing how common it is for addictions and mental health conditions to occur together is a new topic at the forefront of addiction science. Clinicians, scientists, and researchers are learning more about it every day.
One connection between substance abuse and mental health conditions may be the idea of self-medication—simply that a person is more likely to misuse substances when they are seeking relief from emotional pain or mental distress. Another connection is that certain mental health conditions may compromise willpower and decision-making, making it more likely that someone who uses substances will become addicted.
At Spokane Falls Recovery Center, we understand the clinical connections between mental health conditions and substance use disorders. We screen for mental health conditions because we want the people who receive treatment with us to have as much information as possible about factors that impact their addiction. We believe that knowledge and self-awareness play an important role in recovery, and our individual and group therapy offers insight into recovery with co-occurring disorders.
Mental Health Conditions That Play a Role
Many different mental health conditions can co-occur with substance abuse disorders. Here are some of the most common.
Depression is a mood disorder that affects a person’s feelings and thoughts, as well as their ability to handle daily activities like eating, sleeping, and going to work. A depressed person may feel sad, anxious, irritable, or empty, and may struggle with other symptoms like fatigue, lack of energy, and changes in appetite. Depression can occur in major episodes, or a person can feel mildly depressed over a very long period of time.
Most people are familiar with the feelings of anxiety that occur in specific situations, like doing something unfamiliar or facing a deadline at work or school. An anxiety disorder is when worries or fears are excessive. Anxiety may be attached to specific triggers or phobias, or it can be generalized, not attached to any specific circumstances or ranging over many different issues. Anxiety disorders can disrupt a person’s regular activities and cause significant problems in social interactions, school, or work.
Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, comes from living through very stressful or dangerous circumstances, such as a natural disaster, a car accident, experiences of abuse, or other traumatic events. People with PTSD can continue to feel frightened when they are not in danger. They may experience flashbacks or avoid certain circumstances because it reminds them of traumatic events.
Most people experience trauma at some point in their lives. Examples of traumatic events include:
- An accident
- Death of a loved one
- Natural disaster
Patterns of addiction often take root in trauma, and exploring past trauma can be a useful tool during addiction treatment.
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder is characterized by patterns of inattention or impulsive and hyperactive behavior that make functioning difficult. People with ADHD often struggle with executive function, meaning that it is very difficult to stay focused on tasks like work, school, or personal activities. ADHD has often been diagnosed in children and young adults in school and treated with certain prescription drugs that can cause issues with addiction and misuse.
Seeking Treatment for Co-Occurring Disorders
Do any of these mental health conditions sound like conditions that you experience? They may play a role in your experience of addiction, too. To learn more about co-occurring disorders and mental health treatment, contact Spokane Falls Recovery Center at 844.962.2775.