What Does Mental Illness Have to Do With Addiction?

Do you ever wonder if you have mental health disorder as well as a substance use disorder? While it’s true that many people have co-occurring disorders, not everyone who has a substance use disorder has a mental health disorder as well. Mental illness is common in today’s world, and we have a good understanding of how substance users use drugs to self-medicate.

The Ties Between Mental Illness and Substance Use

Many people with mental health issues find themselves self-soothing with drugs or alcohol. When you’re struggling with an undiagnosed anxiety disorder, you may discover alcohol helps you to “feel safe” and “break out of your shell” at a young age. Later on, you may need this same alcohol to simply “feel normal.” As the body adjusts to more amounts of the substance, you need more of it to function without physically uncomfortable side effects such as tremors, sweats, etc. – also known as withdrawal.

It’s an easy pattern to fall into, and many people don’t realize they’re in full-blown addiction until it’s too late.

Common Mental Health Disorders

There are many different kinds of mental illness that people can have, but some of the most common disorders that co-occur with a substance use disorder are bipolar disorder, anxiety, depression, PTSD and eating disorders.

  1. Do you have trouble getting out of bed in the morning due to feelings of extreme sadness or anxiety?
  2. Do you feel “flat” or numb sometimes and have a desire to use drugs or alcohol to “feel something”?
  3. Do you experience mood changes, such as being elated for a few days, then seriously “down” for a few days or more?
  4. Do you obsess about your eating or exercise habits?
  5. Does your mind race so much you can’t sleep or forget to eat?
  6. Do you have trouble relaxing?
  7. Have you had nightmares about past things that have happened to you, or feel preoccupied with thoughts of trauma you’ve experienced?
  8. Do you feel detached from people and situations, even when you’re in the same room or conversations with them?
  9. Have you ever harmed yourself on purpose?
  10. Do you have suicidal thoughts?
  11. Do you feel hopeless, exhausted, and unmotivated?
  12. Do you feel like you hate yourself or that the world would be better off without you?


The above questions are not exhaustive, but if you’re experiencing anything described above, it’s time to meet with a mental health professional. Mental illness can cause a lot of inner turmoil that is hard to cope with on your own. To get healthy, you need to allow yourself the chance to heal. Quitting drugs and alcohol is only part of the equation.

Mental illness is a common problem in today’s world, and learning to cope with the symptoms of your disorder can help you live a better, stronger, fuller life in recovery. If you’re sick, and you don’t seek help, you probably won’t get well. Living in recovery with the confusion of an untreated mental health disorder can be painful and discouraging.

If you ever have emotions that seem to occupy your waking hours, distract from your goals, or overwhelm you, speak to somebody in recovery about them. Reaching out to a treatment professional or somebody that you trust who also has a mental health disorder can point you towards the direction of help and healing.

Getting Help for Substance Abuse

Do you or somebody you love have a problem with alcohol or drugs? Help is available. Even if you have a co-occurring order such as PTSD or depression, you can get clean, recover, and reclaim your life. Please reach out to us at 1-877-228-2401 to learn more about our services.


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