Mental health and addiction are strongly linked with one another. Oftentimes, an individual who has suffered from a severe addiction to alcohol, drugs, or prescription medications are also suffering from mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, or another serious diagnosis. Understanding common mental health issues that are common among those who are faced with addiction is essential to properly address them while providing the individual in need with the tools and resources to overcome it.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Individuals who have been formally diagnosed with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) have a much greater risk of becoming addicted to potentially lethal drugs and alcohol. PTSD can cause individuals to feel the need to escape or to minimize anxieties associated with the trauma they have experienced in the past. Some of the most common situations where PTSD causes an individual to develop a severe addiction include:
- Physical/Mental Abuse: Physical and mental abuse can lead to feelings of alienation and isolation, ultimately leading to the development of a dangerous addiction.
- Sexual Abuse/Trauma: Sexual abuse or trauma due to rape can quickly cause an individual to isolate themselves socially while coping with emotional pain through the use of drugs, alcohol, and prescription medications.
- Loss: Experiencing the loss of a loved one, a marriage, a child, a home, or even a career can lead down a path of addiction if the issues are not addressed and treated head-on.
- War: Serving in the war has to lead to millions of cases of PTSD among active and non-active soldiers. Living through wartime and facing dangerous and deadly situations each day greatly increases the chances of developing PTSD alongside serious and severe addiction.
Anxiety, typically diagnosed as GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder) is a mental disorder that impacts millions of children and adults each year worldwide. In addition to GAD, there is an additional subset of anxiety disorders that include:
- Social Anxiety Disorder: Social Anxiety Disorder is most commonly referred to as Social Phobia disorder. Social Anxiety Disorder triggers alienation and isolation while causing individuals to feel judged constantly, keeping them from participating in traditional social gatherings and outings.
- OCD: OCD, or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, is another form of anxiety which causes an individual to overthink each decision they make throughout their days. Some individuals diagnosed with OCD may find themselves feeling compulsive during work hours or when completing a specific task while others find that their OCD infiltrates all facets of their life.
- Panic Disorder: Panic disorder causes panic attacks among individuals who have been diagnosed with it. Individuals with panic disorder often feel out of control in their lives and with the choices they make, even if the outcome is likely positive
- GAD/PTSD: Generalized Anxiety Disorder and PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) are two of the most common types of anxiety found in both children and adults alike. GAD and PTSD are typically triggered by stressful or traumatic events, causing a shift in the brain’s fight or flight mode (making it much more difficult to face and address problems head-on).
Depression is extremely prevalent among individuals who are currently struggling with an addiction or have faced addiction in the past. Depression causes those who are suffering from a mental disorder to feel despondent, apathetic, lonely, isolated, alienated, and in serious cases, suicidal. Depression can manifest both physically and psychologically, making it one of the most detrimental mental health issues in the world.
When an individual feels depressed, they are much more likely to turn to alcohol, prescription medications, or illicit substances to help with escaping their current environment or numbing the emotional and physical pain they feel simply getting through each day. Becoming addicted to a substance is a way to avoid facing the root cause of depression while suppressing negative feelings that amplify the symptoms of depression.
Psychological Signs and Symptoms Associated With Addiction and Mental Health Disorders
Some of the most common psychological signs and symptoms to look for when you believe a friend or loved one is struggling with an addiction and a mental health disorder include:
- Personality Changes: A shift in personality is extremely common among individuals who are struggling with their mental health and addiction. Social withdrawal, apathy, and a depressive nature may become more apparent in individuals facing addiction and mental health disorder.
- Anger/Irritability: Increased irritability is also common among individuals who are struggling with addiction and a mental health disorder. Rage and anger outbursts are not uncommon.
- Anxiety/Depression: Anxiety and depression go hand-in-hand with a developing addiction.
Physical Signs and Symptoms of Mental Health Problems and Addiction
While there are common psychological signs of addiction and mental health issues, there are also physical symptoms that manifest one an addiction or mental health disorder has become more severe. Some physical symptoms to watch for when caring for a loved one or friend who is struggling with their mental health and a potential addiction include:
- Tremors/Shakiness: Severe addiction causes individuals to experience tremors and shakiness throughout their limbs and extremities (often beginning in the fingers and hands).
- Nausea/Vomiting: Increased nausea and vomiting may be a sign of overindulging in alcohol, drugs, and other unhealthy substances.
- Red Eyes: Bloodshot eyes indicate a lack of sleep or drug and alcohol abuse.
- Pain: Muscle cramps and pain throughout the body can indicate a more serious addiction to substances such as methamphetamine, heroin, or other opiates (especially when an individual is experiencing withdrawal).
Understanding the most common links between mental health and addiction is imperative whether you or someone you know is struggling with the use of alcohol or drugs. Properly addressing mental health struggles and having a complete understanding with the connection between mental health disorders and developing addiction is a way to prevent pitfalls or the temptation to use substances again even after completing an inpatient or outpatient rehabilitation program.