How Mental Illness Can Lead to Addiction

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The Stigma of Mental Illness

Of the 20.2 million people who have a substance abuse disorder, 7.9 million or nearly half of them also have a mental health disorder.

This information is according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. To reduce these numbers, it’s important to understand the connection between mental illness and addiction.

One of the most common reasons for drug abuse in those who suffer from a mental disorder is self-medication. It’s embarrassing to admit you have a mental illness, and many people are afraid they’ll be called crazy or lose their job, kids or home because they are labeled mentally unstable.

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Rather than seeking treatment that they fear will be held against them, the person attempts to treat the symptoms of the illness on their own through drugs or alcohol. Some common instances include the following:

  • The person who suffers from severe anxiety takes a few drinks before going out in public
  • The person who has panic attacks takes a medication to help them remain calm
  • The depressed person who takes a drug to give them more energy to face the day

Unfortunately, the symptoms are often relieved for only a short time before they resume even more intensely. The person then seeks out more relief in the form of additional drugs and alcohol. In addition, they may feel even worse as the effects of the drug wear off. For example, a person with depression may use alcohol to help them feel better. When the effects of the alcohol wear off, it often causes depression, which makes the condition even worse for the person.

The causes for the two conditions are often similar. A person who suffers from a mental health disorder may have been exposed to trauma or have a genetic tendency to such a condition. The same is true for those who have a substance abuse disorder.

If you have a mental health condition, you shouldn’t be ashamed to seek out help from a professional facility. If you also have a substance abuse disorder, you need to find a place that treats both conditions together for success.


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