Substance abuse affects a wide variety of people from all different backgrounds. For many, substance abuse is accompanied with mental illness. Self-medicating for a mental illness can sometimes result in substance abuse. This can potentially lead to addiction and can have negative effects on an underlying mental illness. In some cases, substance abuse can increase the frequency and intensity of mental illness symptoms.

When two illnesses or disorders are present at the same time, they are referred to as comorbid disorders [1]. Comorbid disorders can interact with each other. A person with depression may experience worsened symptoms when also struggling with substance abuse. Conversely, a substance abuse disorder can be exasperated by the substances being used to medicate for illnesses such as depression.

High comorbidity rates contribute to the reason that treatment centers offer comprehensive mental health treatment in addition to the physical treatment for substance abuse disorders [2]. In a treatment facility, patients have access to therapy and coping skills to address both substance abuse issues and mental illnesses. These therapies can range from individual to group therapy.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, about half of people who have any mental illness over the course of their lives will also have a substance use disorder at some point. There is a high rate of comorbidity between mental illness substance abuse disorders. In adolescents, more than sixty percent of youths enrolled in community-based treatment programs for substance abuse also have an existing mental illness [3]. Often times, substance abuse occurs in tandem with some form of anxiety. Anxiety disorders include post-traumatic stress disorder, panic disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder. People who experience ADHD or any psychotic disorder are also at an increased risk of developing a substance use disorder. Certain personality disorders show high rates of substance use comorbidity, chiefly antisocial personality disorder and borderline personality disorders.

If you or a loved one are struggling from either a substance abuse issue or a mental illness, professionals can create treatment plans that address the underlying causes and triggers of each.