According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, about 9 million people face co-occurring disorders. The condition refers to comorbidity, where two states co-exist. One is related to mental health disorders, and the other to substance use disorder. It generally means that people with addictions normally struggle with a particular mental health disorder as well.
There is insufficient research on if one of these causes the other. However, both of them co-exist and exacerbate the effects of the other.
How Are Mental Health and Substance Abuse Linked?
People with substance abuse problems experience various challenges that directly influence their mental health. In dual-diagnosis, quitting drugs often becomes even more difficult for them. A person with a co-occurring disorder faces unique symptoms of addiction and mental health issues, which often become too overwhelming. When this happens, they are unable to focus on their life, school, work, etc., and may end up in a dark place.
The problem worsens when either of the co-occurring disorders is not treated properly. For instance, people with depression or anxiety may try to seek help from addiction to avoid their life’s problems. Similarly, when addiction is not treated, it ends up exacerbating the mental health condition.
Psychological Impact of Addiction on Mental Health
Addiction is not easy to leave and poses a constant threat to a person’s mental health. Here is a list of psychological impacts caused by addiction:
1. It Rewires the Brain
If your loved one is struggling with addiction, you might have noticed a shift in their behavior and priorities. It’s generally because addiction rewires the brain pathways, leading to severe mental health issues. Dopamine, serotonin, norepinephrine, etc., are responsible for generating different feelings, including reward, motivation, and pleasure in the body.
Drugs affect the pathways and rewire the brain to feel these feelings when the person is high. Once they feel relaxed, they tend to feel more attached to the highs to feel satisfied. To an addict, people around them become less important, and the need to satisfy their drug cravings takes over everything.
2. It Increases Anxiety
Anxiety makes a person feel overwhelmed by perceiving the danger that is not present. Some mental and physical symptoms of anxiety include sweating, insomnia, mood swings, rapid heart rate, and restlessness.
These effects are also common with the use of methamphetamine and cocaine. As soon as the person gets back to normal, they tend to experience more anxiety, especially while hiding their habit from other people.
3. It Causes Negative Feelings
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Image Alt Text: A depressed woman
An addict usually thinks that they are constantly making bad choices, which triggers a negative feedback loop. Mostly, when the addict is high, they feel a strong feeling of belongingness. However, the feeling fades away as soon they sober up. The pressure of not belonging in society due to their poor choices can make them fall back into the trap of addiction.
4. It Leads to Depression
Depression is another mental illness that is largely associated with addiction. There is a link between the two, but it’s not clear whether addiction is caused first or depression. Some symptoms of depression are hopelessness, weight gain, suicidal ideation, loss of interest, lack of motivation, and irritability. Some withdrawal symptoms also overlap with depression symptoms, which makes it challenging to treat both disorders.
5. It Causes Shame and Guilt
Most people struggling with addiction are not treated well in society. This stigma leads to severe feelings of shame and guilt among individuals battling addiction, making them believe that they don’t belong in society. This often adds to the fire and makes people hesitant to quit drugs altogether. Addicts generally think negatively about themselves, especially if they have faced any trauma in their life.
If you’re struggling with drug addiction, there is a book that can help you in your journey –A Notebook of Love by Luis Trivino. Luis is a former US Army Veteran who has written several mental health books. He has struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), alcoholism, and bipolar disorder. The core concept of the book is to accept the illness and start loving yourself despite your struggles. This book is a motivation manual that will help you deal with mental health and addiction.