a woman researches mental health and substance abuse and dual diagnosis treatment

There's a strong link between mental health and substance abuse. Many of those with a substance abuse disorder also struggle with a mental health issue. There are several reasons why these disorders occur together, including the fact that they have common risk factors. Developing one can also contribute to developing the other. If you're battling an addiction and mental health condition, please contact our team from San Antonio Recovery Center today at 866.957.7885.

Risk Factors for Mental Health Disorders and Substance Abuse

Around half of a person's risk for developing substance abuse disorder is genetic. It's believed that these genes may also increase the risk of developing mental health conditions. There are also common pathways in the brain that are affected by both disorders. These often involve the brain's reward center and include dopamine, serotonin, and GABA. If a person's brain is lacking in these chemicals due to a disorder like depression, they may self medicate and develop a substance abuse problem as well.

Environmental risks are also a factor. These can include:

  • Childhood trauma
  • Trauma as an adult
  • Chronic unmanaged stress

Self-medicating is extremely common in people with both disorders. It's common in those with all degrees of mental health issues, from very mild to severe. Doctors often term mild mental health issues as subclinical. This means the symptoms aren't severe enough to meet the criteria for an official diagnosis, but the symptoms can still affect your thinking and your life. You may self medicate using drugs or alcohol to cope with the symptoms, starting a cycle that continues to worsen over time.

Sequential Treatment Was Once the Norm

Clinicians long ago recognized that mental health issues and addiction disorders occur together, but how professionals treat them has changed drastically. It was once believed that these disorders needed separate treatment. Sequential treatment had high rates of relapse because it required a person to get one disorder stable before getting treatment for the other. Since the disorders feed off each other, this is very difficult to accomplish. Sequential treatment did not offer a way to break the cycle created by the disorders.

The Cycle of Mental Health Issues and Addiction

Mental health issues and addiction create a cycle that is difficult to break. To do so requires an understanding of how they function together and how to treat both mental health issues and addiction at the same time.

The cycle often looks like this:

  • Depression, anxiety, or another mental health issue begins
  • The person drinks or uses drugs to cope
  • This worsens their mental health problems, so they turn to the drug more frequently
  • As their relationships and lifestyle suffer from the disorders, they fall deeper into the spiral created by the disorders

It can also occur in the opposite direction. A person might use drugs or alcohol socially or recreationally. They feel negative emotions when they try to stop using the substance because they have become physically dependent on it. They continue to use the drug, but the mental symptoms remain. In addition, they may get worse due to guilt or stress created by the addiction.  Dual diagnosis means that both conditions require treatment together, regardless of which came first. It's important to know that one is not better or worse than the other.

Treatment at San Antonio Recovery Center

At San Antonio Recovery Center, we tailor our treatment plan to the individual. We offer a holistic caring approach to dual diagnosis treatment. In our addiction and behavioral health treatment center, we can help you create the life you deserve. We give you the skills you need in and out of recovery with routines like daily goals and meditation and our recovery support dog, Lacy. For more information, contact us at 866.957.7885 today.

Now is the time to focus on your recovery.


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