Mental Illness & Addiction

mental illness

Mental Illness and Addiction are disorders that affect cognitive and behavioral aspects of a person. If you both suffer from addiction and mental illness, you may have what we call dual diagnosis.

Dealing with substance abuse and mental disorder is a struggle. It is hard to deal with substance abuse when you are struggling with mental illness because are dealing with two behavioral problems at once. Sometimes, a mental illness may even bring on addictive behaviors, or vice versa.

Understanding Substance Abuse and Mental Illness

Mental health disorder affects the emotions, thoughts, and behaviors of a person, the ability to function in every situation. It influences the ability to enjoy a normal life, it makes a person feel less than them and it can hinder their ability to function efficiently in life.

Substance abuse occurs when a person decides to abuse drugs or alcohol. It can happen faster than mental illness. Substance abuse is a dangerous problem in society, and if you wish to recover, you’ll need to go through medical detox, rehabilitation, and continual therapy.

When substance abuse is neglected, it may worsen. Symptoms a person may experience depend on the substance they abuse and on how long you’ve been abusing it. As we mentioned previously, mental illness can even cause a person to develop an addiction. But what does mental illness look like? Let’s discuss! 

Symptoms of Mental Illness


For people suffering from mental illness, they may experience depression. The mood of a person changes quicker than a normal person. Someone with depression feels alone and has poor self-esteem. It is a common mental illness people often suffer from.

Symptoms of depression are as follows

  • General sadness
  • Change in appetite
  • Lack of interest in activities, relationships, work, etc.
  • Developing the feeling of being worthless
  • Slowed movements such as speaking.
  • Low self-esteem

Withdrawals from friends and family

People who develop mental illness often detach themselves from society, friends, and family. For them, it is better to be alone. They often don’t feel like going out and enjoying the company of others.

Developing suicidal thoughts

A person suffering from mental health is prone to developing suicidal thoughts. It is dangerous when they reach this kind of mindset. The first stage in developing these kinds of thoughts is first detaching from society, then developing depression, and lastly developing suicidal thoughts.

Because these symptoms of mental illness can be extremely difficult to deal with, some individuals try to find ways of coping. Some people find healthy coping mechanisms like working out, therapy, holistic treatment, etc., but some people develop unhealthy coping mechanisms. Substance abuse is one coping mechanism that many people who struggle with mental illness resort to. Let’s discuss what substance abuse looks like.

Symptoms of Substance Abuse

Uncontrollable urge to use substances

A person who abuses substances does so because they have developed a sever tolerance constantly need satisfying because of uncontrollable urges. These uncontrollable urges are an indication that a person has abused a substance for more than 2-3 weeks. When a person continually abuses a substance, they develop a tolerance which means they need more of a substance in order to feel the desired effects.

Changes in behavior/personality

Some people who suffer from addiction will start to change their normal behaviors and their personalities. Addiction has a way of completely altering a person’s personality and behaviors, changing them into something they never were. Someone who was a responsible hard-working husband may turn into an irresponsible and lazy person. Anyone who suffers from addiction starts to develop selfish and irresponsible behaviors, completely changing who they used to be. 

These are some of the most prominent symptoms of someone abusing substances, but there are other signs that you can look for, such as:

  • Poor hygiene/Lack of concern for appearance
  • Diluted pupils
  • Significant weight loss
  • Confusion
  • Generally late for events or simply doesn’t show up
  • Lack of concern for anyone but themselves
  • Isolation
  • Depression/Anxiety

Treatment for Co-occurring disorder

It is important to know that you must treat both mental illness and substance abuse separately because the causes of the two are different from each other.

Below are some treatments for mental health disorders:

Talking Treatment

Talking treatment gives the patient an opportunity to open up to someone who knows how to deal with their condition and help them cope. People can freely express their problems and everything that is bothering them, giving them an opportunity to open up and free themselves of negative thoughts.

This kind of therapy can help you to do the following:

  • Deal with a specific problem
  • Deal with problems and situations that may trigger your disorder
  • Improve relationships with others

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a short term treatment that identifies connections between thoughts, feelings, and behaviors to develop practical skills to manage negative behavioral patterns.

Now let’s discuss different forms of therapy for people suffering from substance abuse:


Detoxification is the first thing a person should do if they want to start your recovery. It removes the toxic chemicals in the body which harm the normal cognitive and behavioral functions. Through this process, a person can comfortably go through the initial first stages of recovery. Withdrawal symptoms can be minimized through medicinal detox and medical professional assistance.


After medical detox, a person is recommended to go through a rehabilitation program. These kinds of programs offer different kinds of therapy and treatments for an individual to recover from their substance abuse. Rehab centers offer various forms of therapy for individuals to develop strong coping mechanisms when they start to feel urges to use substances again. 

Though mental illnesses and substance abuse disorders seem difficult to treat, they are entirely able to be treated. Both mental illness and substance abuse are treatable with proper guidance and support. Treating co-occurring disorders takes a lot of time, you have to be patient and committed to getting better.