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Understanding Addiction and Mental Illness

Understanding Addiction and Mental Illness

What Is Mental Health?

According to, mental health refers to a person’s emotional, psychological and social well-being, affecting how we think, feel and act. Many factors impact a person’s predisposition for mental health problems, including biology, family history, trauma or abuse. Many times, these factors of mental health also often lend to addiction and mental illness. For maintaining mental health, you need a delicate balance between social interactions, stress levels, sleep, nutrition and more. Adding drugs and other addictive substances into the mix often has negative implications on overall health.


Addiction and Co-Occurring Disorders

For many, addiction and mental health go hand in hand. In a clinical setting, it can be difficult to identify which came first once a person is in the throes of a substance use disorder.  Because mental health is such an integral part of a person’s overall health, both addiction and mental illness need to be treated when both are at play. Co-occuring disorders are medically identified combinations of addiction and mental illness, like alcoholism alongside depression.

There are a variety of combinations of drug and alcohol use disorders and mental illnesses. While an estimated 8.4 million adults in the United States suffer from both mental and substance use disorders, only about 7.9 percent of people are treated for both. Oftentimes, addiction is treated on its own, without identifying the underlying cause or contributing factors. Substances are often used to soothe pain from abuse and post-traumatic stress disorder, which can also contribute to mental illness. These disorders are all intimately intertwined and should be addressed as such. That’s why it’s so important to understand and identify mental health problems before, during and after an issue arises with substance use.

If addiction is an issue, it cannot be treated alone. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 53.7 percent of people with co-occurring disorders are not treated for their addiction or mental health problems, creating a never-ending cycle of substance use and mental illness. Hybrid Counseling will help you understand and work with you to treat both addiction and mental health problems in tandem, ensuring that both are addressed for a more successful recovery. When issues like depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and eating disorders are identified by a professional, it is much easier to understand triggers for addiction.

Mentally Healthy Habits

Maintaining mental health starts in childhood and is a lifelong endeavour. But having an untroubled childhood doesn’t necessarily ensure a lifetime of mental stability. A balanced family life and caring environment are the foundations of mental health, but prolonged health requires individual maintenance and constant awareness. Just as anyone is susceptible to the flu, everyone is prone to addiction and mental illness without proper checks and balances in place.

Because so many turn to drugs and alcohol to deal with major struggles, it is important to have alternative coping strategies to maintain both physical and mental health. Studies show that those facing significant mental health challenges are far more likely to develop a substance use disorder. In fact, compared to others, people with severe mental illnesses are about four times more likely to drink alcohol in excess and 4.6 times more likely to use other drugs at least 10 times in their lives. These odds stress the importance of mental health as a priority, as mental illness can often lead to substance use disorders.

There are simple steps that you can take to avoid a mental health crisis and decrease the chances of misusing substances to cope with illness. Mental Health America outlines the following 10 tools to help you live well:

  1. Connect with others
  2. Stay positive
  3. Get physically active
  4. Help others
  5. Get enough sleep
  6. Create joy and satisfaction
  7. Eat well
  8. Take care of your spirit
  9. Deal better with hard times
  10. Get professional help if you need it

While some of these tips are simple, like eating well or getting enough sleep, others may seem more subjective and difficult to manage, especially if you are already experiencing depression or other mental challenges. “Staying positive” is certainly easier said than done in many instances, but building an optimistic outlook is a daily practice, just like any other skill. Keeping a gratitude journal, savoring sweet moments in life and sharing good news with others are all small steps toward optimism. While it is natural to feel a fluctuation in emotion, an overall practice of positivity can put things into perspective and help you differentiate between true tragedy and daily inconveniences.

Understanding how to cope with a change in your mental state is also key. Changes in energy levels, loss of interest in otherwise enjoyable activities, disruption of normal eating habits and extended feelings of emptiness, sadness or guilt can all be symptoms of mental illness. Seeking professional help is a responsible way to manage your emotions and improve your mental health. Hybrid Counseling offers both mental health and chemical assessments to help determine if you or someone you know is struggling with addiction and mental illness. Identifying a problem is the first step toward healing and preventing further issues like drug or alcohol addiction.

Changing Views on Mental Health

Despite the importance of mental health, especially as it relates to addiction, a strong stigma still surrounds the issue. This prevents many from seeking the help they need. By working to shed the negative stereotypes associated with mental health, we can begin a new narrative and help people cope with life’s challenges in a productive way without drugs and alcohol.

If you or someone you know is exhibiting signs of mental illness or using drugs or alcohol to cope, reach out to Hybrid Counseling to learn more about treatment options for co-occurring disorders and healthy living.