When people struggle with anxiety or depression, drugs and alcohol often seem like a miraculous solution for the fear, discomfort, hopelessness or pain those disorders can cause. Unfortunately, that solution is only ever short-term. Drugs and alcohol may provide temporary relief, but when used as a means to escape a problem, those problems will only worsen, not go away.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 29% of all people diagnosed with a mental illness abuse drugs or alcohol. Looking specifically at alcohol, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism states that nearly 1/3 of people with major depression also have problems with alcohol. The NIAAA states that in many cases, depression may be the first to occur.
There is a lot of debate about whether anxiety and depression are causes for addiction, or if addiction itself is the cause of some mental health disorders.
Truthfully, there is no correct answer. Each person is unique. And because each person brings such a wide set of life experiences to their current mental health state, there is no sure-fire formula that will decide if and why a person encounters mental health challenges or addiction issues.
One thing can be certain though, it is nigh impossible to determine how anxiety or depression factors in someone’s life if they are abusing drugs and alcohol. Often the very first step in a treatment plan or program to address anxiety and depression is to make sure the person has a period of continuous sobriety.
Anxiety and depression can be marked by strong feelings of hopelessness, worry, agitation, despair, fear, guilt, and worthlessness. Drinking and using drugs can amplify these feeling to a strong degree, or, in people prone to depressive or anxious traits; they can bring them out after long-term substance abuse.
Some factors that may contribute to the co-development of addiction or mental health disorder:
- Family history
- Sensitivity to drugs or alcohol
- Symptoms of depression or anxiety throughout life
Fortunately for anyone impacted by an addiction that also suffers from anxiety or depression, there is hope!
Dual treatment programs exist to specifically address these issues. In particular, a specialized program will help you look at your abuse of drugs or alcohol, while providing structured support as you also cope with the symptoms of anxiety or depression. Working with a medical or treatment team that can help you with both issues is a wonderful way to get the guidance you need.
It is also incredibly helpful to reach out to 12 Step groups that focus on dually diagnosed persons. Having a community of people who can provide experience, strength, and hope as you move through the journey of recovery is of immeasurable value. You never have to do this alone! There are others who have successfully gotten sober facing these same challenges and can share their hope with you. For immediate support and guidance, contact the Pat Moore Foundation!