The Connection Between Mental Illness and Substance Abuse

Many people don’t realize that they have a mental health disorder until much later in life. Mental illness symptoms can sneak up anybody, and it can be extremely confusing and scary. Rather than asking for help, it’s common for people to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol.

After self-medicating for a period of time, many individuals develop substance abuse problems. When this happens, individuals begin to struggle with the symptoms of mental health disorders and addiction simultaneously.

When a person suffers from a mental illness and an addiction problem, they have what’s called “co-occurring disorders.” A co-occurring disorder is also known as a dual diagnosis. Those who are dealing with these issues should seek a certain kind of addiction treatment.

Some of the most common mental illnesses include:

The Science Behind Co-Occurring Disorders

In many cases, self-medication aggravates a mental illness. The brain is constantly changing and learning how to help you feel well. If your mind is racing, or you’re constantly depressed, you may find that drugs or alcohol make you happy or calm you down. When the brain makes this connection, it begins to crave substances to make you feel better. Over time, this “solution” can eventually become your biggest problem.

Mind-altering substances can actually exacerbate mental illness symptoms. They can also counteract the effects of any prescriptions you take for various mental health disorders. When you choose substance abuse programs that specialize in dual diagnosis, you’ll begin to find better solutions.

Why Dual Diagnosis Treatment Is Important

When a person is suffering from co-occurring disorders, the addiction might exacerbate the symptoms of mental illness. On the other hand, a person’s mental health symptoms might lead to even more substance use and abuse.

Again, many people develop addiction problems as a result of self-medication. But, in some situations, people develop symptoms of mental illness because of their substance use habits. For example, a person who has alcoholism may become depressed because of the effects of alcoholism.

Regardless of whether addiction or mental illness comes first, those who have co-occurring disorders should get help from a dual diagnosis treatment program. This kind of rehabilitation program offers people the chance to improve their mental health and end addiction. It is absolutely necessary for those who are seeking addiction treatment to get help through a program that will address both mental health and substance abuse. 

Why Mental Illness Goes Unnoticed

Educators often shy away from the topic of mental health. Unfortunately, this promotes a negative stigma concerning mental illness. While most of us go through some form of health education in school, it typically focuses mainly on physical health. There’s a misconception that having a mental illness is shameful or embarrassing. Additionally, when parents don’t suffer from a mental illness themselves, they can be ill-equipped to teach their children about mental health.

When a person begins to develop a mental illness, it can be incredibly confusing and frightening not to know what’s happening. It’s difficult to understand the feeling of constant panic or the difficulty of getting out of bed in the morning while everyone else seems fine. Instead of talking with someone about these issues, it’s common for individuals to self-medicate with illicit substances.

Sometimes, symptoms of mental illness are overlooked as normal characteristics. For example, people may consider constant feelings of anxiety as the characteristic of a “nervous personality.” Feelings of fear might be considered the nature of a “worrier”. That’s just the way they are. This is often the thought process that rationalizes the way a person behaves or feels. But, having this approach might actually cause people to miss mental illness symptoms and mislabel them as personality traits.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment Center at Crest View Recovery Center

Addiction treatment should begin at a qualified drug or alcohol detox facility that uses a trauma-informed approach. In some cases, people begin to see a drastic improvement in their mental health once they go through the detox process. Medical detox is instrumental in helping to clear the body from alcohol and drugs as well as the toxins brought in from the substance. 

After the detox process is complete, patients will undergo an evaluation with a psychiatrist to check symptoms. Concrete answers are often a breath of fresh air for both patients and loved ones. Once this is all complete, a treatment program can begin so the patient is in an environment to develop the skills needed r to manage mental health symptoms while remaining free from substance abuse.

Treatment for Dual Diagnosis: Holistic Therapy Approaches

Some of the therapy approaches that may be involved in a customized treatment program are:

Holistic Therapy: There are various types of holistic therapy that may be involved in the addiction treatment process. Holistic approaches do not use medication-based rehabilitation methods. Instead, they focus on bringing healing to the mind and body through spiritual approaches. 

Yoga and Meditation: Both of these are holistic approaches to treatment. They focus on helping the individual incorporate mindfulness activities. Through practicing mindfulness, people in treatment can develop an awareness of the present and develop a sense of stability in order to eliminate compulsive and harmful behaviors.

Fitness Therapy: Sports, hiking, exercise classes, dancing, and other activities may all be involved in fitness therapy. People often think of recovery as the process of emotional healing from the effects of addiction. But, it’s important to also focus on improving physical health throughout the recovery process. After all, substance abuse negatively affects people’s bodies, too. 

Acupuncture: This type of treatment therapy can help to relieve stress and release toxins from the body. During acupuncture therapy, small needles are placed in various areas of the body, at specific pressure points. Each area where these needles are placed will trigger specific responses throughout the body. Pain relief, stress relief, sleep pattern regulation, emotion management, and anxiety relief are all possible benefits of acupuncture.

Treatment for Dual Diagnosis: Behavioral Therapy

Behavioral Therapy: This approach works to help people change harmful behaviors and develop healthier ones. In order to overcome addiction, individuals must address unhealthy behaviors (i.e. substance abuse, self-medication, violence, anger-related behavior, etc.).

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: Also known as CBT, cognitive behavioral therapy is a type of behavioral therapy. It focuses on the thought patterns and processes of those in treatment. In other words, it pays close attention to the actions of the mind, the thoughts people have, and why. By focusing on these areas, individuals can identify any harmful, addiction-related thoughts. After identifying these thoughts, individuals can also learn how to properly address them and replace them with better ones. 

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy: This is another type of behavioral therapy, often called DBT. It’s similar to CBT in that it works to identify and modify harmful thought processes. DBT works to help change and improve behaviors, emotions, feelings, and thinking patterns. It helps people to identify both their strengths and their weaknesses. This therapy also works to help individuals learn how to avoid or deal with situations that might trigger a relapse.

Let Us Help You Find Freedom Today

Here at Crest View Recovery Center in Asheville, NC, we offer addiction therapy services that address both addiction and mental illness. It is possible to live a fulfilling life through holistic healing methods and non-narcotic medications. At our facility, our patients’ needs will always remain at the forefront. 

Contact us today to get started.