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Mental Health and Addictions

By: Ian Murnaghan BSc (hons), MSc - Updated: 15 Jan 2013 | comments*Discuss
 
Mental Health Addiction Suffers Mood

Mental health disorders such as depression and addictions have an interesting relationship in that either can underpin the other. For a majority of people, their mental health suffers when they deal with an addiction. Conversely, mental health disorders such as depression are thought to be a risk factor that makes a person more susceptible to an addiction.

Overcoming Both Health Disorders

When a person is diagnosed with both – known as co-morbid – it can be particularly difficult to overcome the two problems. Each can worsen the other and in this way, they interact and make individualized treatment very important.

Misuse of Drugs and Alcohol

With common substances that are abused, the longer the user is abusing the drugs, the higher the likelihood of adverse mental effects from the substance. With alcohol, for instance, excessive use is known to affect cognitive functioning. It is estimated that up to a quarter of abusers suffer from major psychiatric disturbances.

Withdrawal Symptoms

While psychiatric symptoms can worsen when an addict is in the withdrawal phase, these symptoms will usually decline. The longer an addict abstains from the harmful substance, the better he or she can regain some of their mental health.

Increased Risks

In comparison with those in the general population, people addicted to drugs are approximately twice as likely to also be diagnosed with a mood or anxiety illness. As mentioned above with it being a two-way street, those with a mood or anxiety disorder are twice as likely to suffer from an addiction.

Drug abuse can trigger the symptoms of a mood disorder. What this means is that the symptoms of drug abuse can ‘bring out’ the symptoms of a mood disorder.

As one example, studies suggest that heavy marijuana use can trigger symptoms of psychosis. A person who suffers from a mental health disorder such as bipolar disorder might turn to alcohol or drugs to cope. In this way, the mood disorder can lead to addiction.

Eating Disorders

Mental health disorders such as depression are statistically more prevalent in those who have later gone on to develop eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa. The physical effects of eating disorders can significantly worsen mental health symptoms, making it challenging for successful treatment outcomes.

One positive finding has been that some antidepressant treatments can stimulate appetite and also treat the symptoms of depression. This has been important in treating anorexia nervosa in particular.

Genetics and Co-morbid Disorders

Researchers generally agree that there is evidence to support our genes being an underlying factor that can make us more susceptible to an addiction and another mental health disorder. There is, however, still much we do not know about the specific genes involved and how we can identify those at risk in the general population.

Treating Mental Health and Addictions

Ongoing research continues into how mental health disorders can be a risk factor for addictions and also how the two intertwine when co-morbid. Medications can sometimes address symptoms of both.

Where two or more medications are used, it can be difficult to predict exactly how the two will react together for the patient. Usually counselling will be a key part of any treatment program where addiction is present along with another mental health disorder. The key is to get treatment early on to help bring relief to the sufferer and prevent symptoms from worsening or leading to another mental health disorder.

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