Mental illness and addiction often go hand-in-hand. Most commonly, the addiction has emerged as a result of self-medication for the mental illness in place of proper treatment. Substance abuse can appear to help a person cope with their mental illness, but in actuality is often aggravating the symptoms in the long run.
Though self-medication and addiction can be found coinciding with a number of mental illnesses, addiction is even more common among people who suffer from a few specific mental disorders. Here are the top four mental illnesses most frequently found alongside addiction.
People with bipolar experience severe mood swings and, in extreme cases, hallucinations. Learning to live with this disorder can be very challenging, even with the help of a counselor. This leads a number of bipolar sufferers to use alcohol and/or tobacco as a way to quell their symptoms.
The connection between tobacco and bipolar disorder is still being researched. A surprising percentage of people with bipolar disorder will become tobacco users, piquing the interest of researchers. Based on the findings, it has been suggested that tobacco can actually help mitigate the severity of bipolar symptoms though the reason why has not yet been discovered.
It’s no secret that people who suffer from depression have a higher risk of addiction, a tendency believed to be linked to the desire to self-medicate or drown out the symptoms of depression. Alcohol is a common vice, which may first seem to provide relief from the worries, sadness, and other symptoms that plague the minds of people struggling with depression.
However, consuming alcohol can result in restless, low-quality sleep, which in turn may exacerbate the symptoms of depression. Ultimately, this can lead to a vicious cycle in which a person continues to consume alcohol with increasing frequency in effort to combat their symptoms, and culminating with an addiction. In the worst of cases, this cycle of worsening symptoms coupled with alcohol consumption can even lead to thoughts of suicide. Abuse of alcohol in people with depression may seem to make things easier in the moment, but the lingering effects are not worth the risk of a temporary reprieve from your symptoms.
People who suffer from schizophrenia are among those with the highest risk of developing an addiction as a comorbidity to their mental health condition. People with schizophrenia may attempt to self-medicate in an effort to escape hallucinations or psychosis. In some studies, nicotine was found to potentially ease symptoms of psychosis, which explains the increased rate of tobacco use among people with schizophrenia.
However, similar effects from other substances have not yet been proven in studies, yet people with schizophrenia are also more likely to consume substances like alcohol and illicit drugs. Cannabis, for example, has been shown to amplify psychotic symptoms yet is used frequently by people with schizophrenia. The current theory suggests that, while it may not help with psychosis, the euphoric effect may offer some relief from other symptoms of schizophrenia.
People with anxiety may also self-medicate to cope with everyday life. People with social anxiety tend to drink or smoke in social situations or other environments that cause anxious thoughts, with some feeling as though they’re unable to cope with social situations without the aid of alcohol or other substances. They may also consume alcohol in attempt to numb the racing, anxious thoughts that sometimes come with anxiety disorders.
Unfortunately, the symptoms of anxiety typically return – sometimes even worsen – when the effects of alcohol wear off, which can contribute to a cycle of increasing consumption in effort to chase and quell the uncomfortable symptoms of anxiety.
If you have one of these mental health concerns, you have a heightened risk of developing an addiction. The best way to prevent addiction or treat an existing addiction is to seek professional help from a trained rehabilitation counselor.
With an effective treatment plan that keeps symptoms under control, people with mental health disorders are better able to avoid self-medicating or turning to negative coping mechanisms. Regardless of whether or not you have developed an addiction, seeking help for a mental illness now will allow you to maintain control over your life and avoid falling into the addiction trap.
Author Bio: Adam Cook has a strong understanding of the devastation that can be caused by addiction. He recently lost a close friend to an addiction-related suicide. In an effort to better educate himself and to help others, he created AddictionHub.org, a site that provides addiction and mental health resources. When he isn’t working or adding to his website, he’s prepping for his first triathlon.