Types of Mental Illness Common with Drug Addiction and Their Signs

Michelle Rosenker

July 26, 2019

Drug addiction is an insidious disease that can bring users to their absolute “rock bottom” and then some. Regardless of the drug being abused, those trapped in the cycle of addiction experience physical, mental, and emotional effects that can completely alter the course of their lives.

Even though each individual drug user experiences his or her addiction in his or her own way, those addicted to drugs develop generally similar behaviors. As the abuse continues, users begin to neglect the responsibilities they have, avoid accountability, withdraw socially, experience problems at work or school, and even begin developing health problems related to the drug they are consuming. Relationships can be broken, careers can be destroyed, and everything that someone had going for them can disappear because of drug addiction.

As the disease of addiction has become more pervasive within American culture, more people are accepting addiction for the disease it is, rather than referring to it as a “choice.”

The disease of addiction is one that can be triggered by biological factors, genetic factors, environmental factors, or any combination of the three. Addiction is deeply rooted in one’s personal pathology and those who struggle with the disease can also experience one or more mental health disorders at the same time.

The Connection Between Drug Addiction and Mental Illness

Drug addiction, as mentioned before, is a powerful disease that can destroy a person and his or her entire life. The physical act of using drugs is not just dangerous because of the threat of overdose, but also because drugs can manifest in the mind and body in negative ways.

Some drugs, like heroin and other opioids, can trigger symptoms of depression, in that going from being “high” to “coming down” can alter the way the brain functions over time. A drug like methamphetamine can cause so much drug-induced paranoia that a user begins experiencing symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, or even obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Plus, if there are emotional issues that are lying beneath the surface that have never been tended to, people can continue to use drugs to numb the pain of such issues.

On the other hand, many people who grapple with profound mental illnesses like depression and anxiety turn to drugs to cope with their symptoms. The instant relief that drugs can provide for individuals can be highly appealing, and it can become habitual for them to engage in drug use when the going gets tough. However, when this is the case, both the mental illness and drug addiction tend to grow much worse.

Common Mental Illnesses That Co-Occur Alongside Drug Addiction

Roughly 5 percent of Americans experience a mental health disorder in any given year, while one in 25 develop a severe mental illness that impacts their overall functionality. Compared to the national average, nearly 50 percent of those with a substance use disorder have a co-occurring mental illness. This calls for a specialized approach to treatment.

The mental illnesses that are most often experienced alongside drug addiction include:

Anxiety

Out of the many different mental illnesses, anxiety ranks as the most pervasive, as it affects approximately 40 million Americans. Among the addicted community, anxiety is much more common.

Some drug users begin to use drugs as a way to self-medicate their anxiety, while others experience drug-induced anxiety that stems from the way in which drugs affect their brains. Either way, living with an anxiety disorder like panic disorder, OCD, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or social phobia can be extremely upsetting. When drugs are being abused in the presence of anxiety, a person’s anxiety typically grows worse, especially when coming down from a high.

Depression

Depression is not only common in active drug users, but also in those recovering from addiction. This is because some drugs, like meth and cocaine, can damage the brain and affect its functionality, leaving both current users and those in recovery struggling to achieve feelings of happiness and reward on their own.

Substance Abuse and Depression

Often, this is tied to the production of dopamine receptors and the brain’s inability to create dopamine at a healthy level during and after addiction. Depression is one of the primary reasons why people continue the cycle of addiction, since, without drugs, the symptoms of this condition can feel unlivable. Someone who turns to drugs to manage their depression symptoms can expect those very symptoms to get worse.

Personality disorders

People with personality disorders have several personality traits that do not run in line with the behaviors, actions, and emotional responses considered appropriate in society. For example, people with antisocial personality disorder have traits that include deceitfulness, impulsivity, and aggression. Another common personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, is defined by traits such as grandiosity, hostility, destructive behavior, and a distorted self-image. Those who have these types of disorders and who do not receive treatment for them are more likely to abuse drugs, either on impulse or in response to one of their problematic traits.

Getting Help is Easier Than You Think

If you are struggling with a drug addiction and a mental health disorder, know that you are not alone. At JourneyPure Louisville, we work with countless individuals who experience this type of co-occurring disorder and who find their way to recovery and wellness. By calling us, we can help you get started on getting your life under control and building a future worth living.