What Mental Health Issues are Most Common in People with Addiction?

What Mental Health Issues are Most Common in People with Addiction?

It is often the case that someone with a substance use disorder also has another mental health issue or a dual diagnosis. Studies show that about half of people with a substance use disorder have a co-occurring mental health issue and that about half of the people with a serious mental health issue will develop a substance use disorder. [https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/common-comorbidities-substance-use-disorders/part-1-connection-between-substance-use-disorders-mental-illness] Sometimes mental health issues lead to substance use, often as a means of self-medication, and sometimes substance use causes or exacerbates mental health issues. Sometimes both share a third cause. There may also be mechanisms we don’t yet understand, like the link between schizophrenia and increased marijuana use. This is why it’s crucial to find an addiction treatment program that can address mental health issues concurrently with addiction and why it’s essential to continue mental health care after leaving treatment. The following are the most common co-occurring conditions with substance use disorders.

Anxiety disorders

More than 19 percent of American adults had an anxiety disorder within the past year and more than 30 percent will have an anxiety disorder at some point in their lives, making anxiety disorders the most common mental health issue in the US. [https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/any-anxiety-disorder.shtml] One reason so many people are diagnosed with anxiety disorders is that the term includes several conditions, such as generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, PTSD, OCD, phobias, and panic disorder. 

People with anxiety disorders often use drugs or alcohol to try to manage their symptoms. For example, someone with a social anxiety disorder might rely on alcohol to help them socialize without feeling crippled by anxiety. Benzodiazepines are commonly prescribed for insomnia and anxiety disorders such as panic disorders and phobias and they are extremely addictive. You can develop a dependence on benzodiazepines in as little as two weeks of daily use. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, about 20 percent of people with an anxiety or mood disorder also have a substance use disorder and vice versa. [https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/related-illnesses/substance-abuse] That’s more than twice the rate of substance use disorders in the general public.

Depression

Major depression is one of the most common mental health issues in the US and it’s the leading cause of disability worldwide. More than 17 million American adults suffered an episode of major depression in 2017, which is more than seven percent of the adult population. [https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/major-depression.shtml] Major depression significantly increases your risk of developing a substance use disorder. One study found that among people with mood disorders, 32 percent also had a substance use disorder. Of people with lifetime major depression, 16.5 percent had an alcohol use disorder and 18 percent had a drug use disorder. [https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2851027/] As with anxiety disorders, those numbers are at least twice the rate of substance use disorders in the general public. 

PTSD

Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is technically an anxiety disorder but it increases your risk of developing a substance use issue so much that it deserves special mention. About half the people seeking help for a substance use disorder meet the criteria for PTSD. That’s about five times the rate of PTSD in the general public. What’s more, PTSD presents special challenges for recovery. People with this condition report more intense drug and alcohol cravings and tend to relapse more quickly after treatment. [https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3466083/

While people tend to associate PTSD with combat veterans–and indeed the rates of PTSD are higher among combat veterans than civilians–relatively few people ever serve in the military and even fewer experienced combat trauma. Most people who experience PTSD suffer more familiar kinds of trauma such as abuse, assaults, accidents, the unexpected death of a loved one, or a natural disaster. Women are about twice as likely to develop PTSD as men and between seven and eight percent of Americans will develop PTSD at some point in their lives. [https://www.ptsd.va.gov/understand/common/common_adults.asp

ADHD

Having attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) significantly increases your risk of developing a substance use disorder, starting as early as your teen years. An estimated 25 percent of teens with substance use issues have been diagnosed with ADHD and ADHD symptoms continue into adulthood in about 60 percent of cases. [https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2676785/] What’s more, only about 20 percent of adults with ADHD have been properly diagnosed and treated. [https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/related-illnesses/other-related-conditions/adult-adhd] That means most adults with the condition just have to live with the racing thoughts, agitation, and insomnia typically caused by ADHD. One study found that about 15 percent of adults with ADHD have some degree of substance use issue and that about 70 percent say they use drugs or alcohol to cope with the symptoms of ADHD. [https://www.additudemag.com/the-truth-about-adhd-and-addiction/] The good news is that once ADHD is properly treated with medication and therapy, it’s much easier to refrain from substance use.

Bipolar disorder

Bipolar disorder is typically classified as a major depressive disorder but it increases the risk of addiction so much that it deserves special mention. As noted above, 32 percent of people with a mood disorder also have a substance use disorder but people with bipolar disorder have a 56 percent lifetime risk of developing a substance use disorder. [https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2851027/] What’s more, bipolar disorder isn’t as rare as most people think. About 2.8 percent of American adults had bipolar disorder in the past year and about 4.4 percent of American adults will be diagnosed with bipolar at some point in their lives. [https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/bipolar-disorder.shtml

At Patrick Hart Consultants, we provide a number of different services to fit the needs of each individual client. Among these, are helping you choose a treatment provider, helping you develop a treatment plan, helping you establish post-treatment support, and ensuring continuity among the different elements of treatment. Contact us today at 844-262-7970 or Info@PatrickHartConsultants.com or explore our website for more information.

AUTHOR: Patrick Hart Consultants