• Staff Writer

Is My Problem Addiction or Mental Health Related?



It is no secret that addiction and mental health go hand in hand. Many symptoms of both substance use disorder and mental illnesses are interchangeable. Even with similarities, they are also different for many reasons. That’s not to say they can’t co-occur. However, based on information from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, many people who have addictions are also diagnosed with mental disorders and vice versa. In fact, various national surveys claim about half of those with a mental illness will also experience a substance use disorder. There is even evidence that says not only are they linked, but addiction and mental illness can lead to each other.

What Is Addiction?

Addiction is a problem with a substance like drugs or alcohol. It is the loss of control when it comes to limiting or stopping the use of a substance. It is most commonly classified as a disease. Long-term substance use leads to behavioral issues, health problems, a higher tolerance for the substance, and impairment within the brain. Addiction leads to a change in personality, behaviors, and thoughts. It can make someone who isn’t selfish show a lack of concern for others and put their substance use above all other priorities. Some signs of addiction include:


#1. An inability to stop using #2. Continued substance use regardless of health and life consequences #3. Obsession with using the substance #4. Lying about using the substance #5. Prioritizing substance use over relationships, jobs, safety, and the law #6. Social withdrawal #7. Trouble with finances and the law #8. Increased substance use #9. Withdrawal symptoms when not using #10. Appetite changes, fatigue, insomnia, and other health issues


Although usually kept a secret by the user, addiction can be obvious to friends and family. These signs can come on quickly and require immediate treatment. Even with treatment, during the beginning of recovery, someone with an addiction may experience symptoms of mental illnesses like anxiety or depression.

What Is a Mental Illness?

A mental illness is a disorder or health condition that affects a person’s emotions, thinking, or behaviors. The most common mental health problems are anxiety and depression, but there are more severe illnesses as well. The causes of mental illness can be biological, genetic, environmental, and situational. Mental illness is widespread, but many people do not know how to detect the symptoms. Although common mental health problems like anxiety or depression are different for everyone suffering, the symptoms include:


#1. Intense and prolonged feelings of sadness or emptiness #2. Lack of focus and concentration #3. Excessive fear, worry, and guilt or shame #4. Fatigue, low energy, and insomnia #5. A break from reality, hallucinations, or delusions #6. Extreme mood changes #7. Withdrawal from relationships and social gatherings #8. Anger or violence #9. Changes in eating habits and libido #10. Thoughts of death or suicide


More than one in four adults living with a mental health problem suffers from addiction. This is due to the stigma surrounding mental health and a lack of treatment accessibility, affordability, and educational resources regarding mental health. Someone who struggles with a mental health issue may not know where or how to seek treatment, they often self-medicate, leading to an addiction.

Can You Have a Mental Illness and an Addiction?

Although mental illnesses and addiction are not the same, they do overlap. You may have an untreated mental illness, leading to a substance use disorder, or a substance use disorder leading to symptoms like anxiety and depression. The reasons these are so likely to be experienced together are:


#1. Use, especially the excessive use of some substances, leads to symptoms of mental illnesses. #2. Untreated mental health problems cause addiction through self-medication. When someone doesn’t know how to cope with the symptoms of their mental illness, they will turn to dangerous substances like drugs and alcohol. #3. Mental health problems and addiction share some underlying causes, such as genetic vulnerabilities, changes in brain composition, and childhood experiences to high levels of stress or trauma.


Nearly 9 million people have a co-occurring disorder, Furthermore, only 7 percent are properly treated for both. Worse, about 60 percent aren’t treated at all. Those numbers aren’t just shocking but highly unfortunate. The link between addiction and mental illnesses is well studied and understood yet undertreated.

How to Seek Help

If you believe you are experiencing co-occurring disorders, seeking treatment is your best option. You have to become your health advocate. If you broke your leg and a medical professional or loved one ignored it, you would stand up for yourself and demand the proper treatment. You need to approach your treatment for mental health with the same energy and care.


As times change and access to these treatments becomes more readily available, it will be easier to find proper treatment and begin recovery for any mental health issue or substance use disorder. For now, your self-advocacy is a priority.


Mental illnesses and addiction are linked from cause to effect. Untreated mental illnesses lead to addiction. Just like addiction is a risk factor for mental illness. Both are triggered by stress, trauma, and genetics. Although they are similar, the treatment for each requires protocols and maintenance. Treating one should help the other, but the proper treatment for co-occurring disorders includes integrated therapies from doctors and counselors. Understanding the differences and links between the two will lead you in the right direction. Getting diagnosed and treated for both problems at the same time offers the best chance at a successful recovery. Finding a treatment center that prioritizes the patient and specializes in treating addiction and mental illnesses is best. Here, at California Care Detox & Treatment, our goal is to provide the highest quality care and work with you to find the best plan for your future. Take the first steps to recovery by calling us today at (949) 281-0632.

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