Do Mental Health and Substance Abuse Issues Go Hand in Hand?

It’s all too common to see people who are struggling with two problems at once: mental illness and a substance abuse issues such as dependency. In fact, if you’re struggling with substance abuse, you might want to see a psychologist to be screened for mental health issues even before tackling your substance dependency. These two problems are often seen as comorbidities and it’s not at all uncommon to have both problems at once. If you’re grappling with substance abuse and mental health issues, it’s not the end of the world, but it does mean that you have two different, but intertwined issues which both need to be addressed in order to achieve the good health and mental balance you’re seeking.

Why Are Mental Health and Substance Abuse Problems a Common Dual Diagnosis?

Let’s start with the statistics. People with substance dependencies are twice as likely as people without substance issues to be diagnosed with mood disorders and other forms of mental illness. As it happens, the converse is also true: those struggling with mental illness are about twice as likely to become addicted to alcohol or drugs.

Substance abuse and mental illness are often comorbidities for a number of reasons, chief among them the fact that one can lead directly to the other. People who suffer from mental illnesses often self-medicate with drugs or alcohol, especially if they are not receiving any other form of treatment for their disorder. Substance abuse can also lead to mental illness by triggering latent issues; additionally, the two problems are also associated with a number of shared risk factors, which include stress, experiencing traumatic events and genetics, among others.

If You Receive a Dual Diagnosis of Mental Illness and Substance Dependency

It can be dismaying, to say the least, to receive a dual diagnosis, but don’t give up hope. You’re not struggling with anything new, after all – you’ve just received news that can help to point you in the right direction to receive the treatment you need. Better still is the fact that the methodologies used to treat mental illness and substance abuse as comorbidities has advanced rapidly over the past decade. It used to be that the idea of treating both simultaneously was discouraged, but that is thankfully no longer the case and you can now receive help with both at once.

In fact, it is now thought that the most effective way to treat people with a dual diagnosis of substance abuse and mental illness is to treat both issues at the same time. The addiction is usually the more pressing issue since many substance dependencies can create an emergent threat to the health of the patient, but many substance treatment facilities are also prepared to provide help for patients with a dual diagnosis, even screening new patients upon arrival. While beginning treatment for addiction should begin immediately, there is no reason that treatment for mental health issues cannot begin at the same time. It all begins with recognizing that you need help and asking for it.

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Latest update: September 30, 2016
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