Guest Post –
Mental Illness and Addiction: Who is At Risk?
Mental illness and addiction are commonly found together, whether the addiction or the mental illness came first. Not everyone who has a mental illness will develop an addiction nor will everyone with an addiction develop a mental illness.
However, it is important to know if you or a loved one is at risk for either of these detrimental conditions so that you may take the necessary steps to prevent them. Here are a few of the risk factors for developing an addiction as a result of mental illness and vice versa.
Going Untreated is a Common Cause
Many people with a mental illness will develop an addiction after going untreated for too long. Without proper treatment, it is likely that a person will seek their own methods of coping with the symptoms of their illness. Often, that means self-medication with an addictive substance.
For example, a person with untreated anxiety may find that alcohol slows their racing thoughts and takes the edge off of their anxiety-induced tension. Before they know it, they are drinking every night to cope with the stress from their job. They may even drink during social events to cope with anxiety induced by social interaction.
The process can be very quick and is often unintentional. This is why receiving proper treatment is so important. Professional help will negate the perceived need to self-medicate, preventing an addiction from taking root.
PTSD, Schizophrenia, and Other Isolating Illnesses
Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, Schizophrenia, and other serious mental illnesses can lead a person to avoid going out in public or seeing other people. As social beings, we need to spend time with others or we will experience negative effects from the solitude.
Depression and suicidal thoughts are common in people who are isolated. As a result, isolated people tend to abuse substances in order to escape reality. The real world is controlled by their illness and escaping through a substance-induced high can seem like the only way to feel good again.
With severe mental illness, it is even more critical that treatment is found. Friends and family of people with these types of illnesses should work together to ensure the person receives regular treatment and is not permitted to isolate themselves. It may actually be beneficial for the person to have a pet or service dog, if only to get them up and move and out of the house.
Long-term Substance Abuse Can Cause Mental Illness
While substance abuse will not cause genetically influenced illnesses such as schizophrenia and autism spectrum disorder, it is fairly common for an addiction to result in depression and anxiety. Both are caused by an imbalance of chemicals in the brain which can be an effect of substance abuse.
Addiction can also cause symptoms of certain mental illnesses without the full effect of a disorder. With treatment, it is fully possible for both the addiction and symptoms of mental illness to be resolved.
Addiction and mental illness too often come together due to lack of treatment. If you or a loved one has a mental illness, seek help immediately before the symptoms become worse or an addiction develops. If you or a loved one is suffering from an addiction, begin treatment before the long term effects set in and trigger a mental illness.
The bottom line is treatment. It’s never too late to start.
This post was written by Chloe P.