Mental Health Disorders That Often Accompany the Disease of Addiction

disease of addiction

When an individual is treated for a drug or alcohol addiction, there are several mental health disorders that can also co-occur. In fact, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), around 9.2. million U.S. adults have some type of co-occurring disorder. Living with one of these conditions can make someone more susceptible to the other. For instance, an individual suffering from drug addiction may experience depression or anxiety. At the same time, someone with depression may turn to drugs or alcohol as a way to cope with their symptoms, which can exacerbate the disease of addiction.

At Detox to Rehab, we help individuals suffering from any form of addiction navigate their journey to sobriety. Understanding co-occurring disorders is key to this process. Today, we’re taking a closer look at some of the mental health disorders that commonly accompany addiction, and how we can help.

Symptoms vs. Disorders

Before we dive into the most prevalent co-occurring disorders, it’s important to make one important distinction. When someone is in the throes of an addiction, they may experience symptoms that mimic those associated with a mental health condition.

These can include:

  • Low self-esteem
  • Guilt
  • Anger
  • Sadness
  • Grief
  • Nervousness
  • Suspicion

While some of these symptoms can be linked to mental health disorders, their presence does not automatically indicate that a disorder is present. For example, someone can be sad about their addictive behavior and how it’s affecting those around them without suffering from clinical depression.

Only a certified physician can diagnose someone with such a condition. Once this diagnosis occurs, the symptoms can be classified as a mental health disorder.

Understanding this, let’s take a look at some of the disorders that often go hand-in-hand with drug or alcohol addiction.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

According to the Anxiety Disorders Association of America (ADAA), generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) affects nearly 7 million adults in the U.S. That’s more than 3% of the total population.

It’s normal to feel a little anxious from time to time, especially in high-stress situations. However, for someone with GAD, those feelings are almost always present.

This condition is classified by excessive, ongoing worry and anxiety that interfere with day-to-day life and are challenging to control. The symptoms of GAD can be emotional, mental, and physical in nature.

Physical signs include:

  • Sleep disturbances
  • Functional impairment
  • Fatigue or restlessness
  • Muscle tension or aches
  • Nausea or gastrointestinal distress
  • Trembling or twitching

Emotional signs include:

  • Persistent, recurring anxiety or panic attacks
  • Inability to release worry
  • Overthinking plans and solutions
  • Inability to relax
  • Difficulty concentrating

When someone lives with GAD, their life can be a constant barrage of doubts, worries, and concerns. As such, they may be more likely to rely on illicit drugs or alcohol to help them cope. These substances might make social situations easier to manage or may help them manage their symptoms.

In addition, individuals with GAD may also be more likely to abuse prescription anxiety medications, such as Xanax. While these can offer short-term relief from the pain they’re experiencing, they can also lead them into a cycle of addiction that’s difficult to break.

Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition that causes intense mood swings. When an individual is experiencing an emotional high, this is known as mania or hypomania. When they’re low, it’s known as depression.

Someone suffering from this disorder is especially vulnerable to drugs and alcohol. They may feel as though these substances will help them “balance” and regulate their emotions. However, it’s important to note that bipolar disorder isn’t a short-term condition.

Rather, it’s caused by a chemical imbalance in one’s brain, which leads to extreme bouts of both mania and depression. While someone with this condition may choose to self-medicate with addictive substances, any kind of relief they feel will be temporary in nature.

Ultimately, that behavior can even increase the frequency and duration of their episodes. Only medication and therapies specifically designed to treat bipolar disorder will prove effective in the long term.

Eating Disorders

In addition to the physical sensations and immediate pain relief that drugs and alcohol can provide, some substances can also help suppress one’s appetite and contribute to weight loss. This is especially the case with drugs marketed as stimulants or diet pills.

For someone already vulnerable to an eating disorder, this appeal can be enough to catalyze an addiction. Some of the most common types of eating disorders include:

  • Anorexia
  • Bulimia
  • Binge eating
  • Pica (eating objects not considered food)
  • Avoidant/restrictive food intake

These conditions can be traumatizing to an individual’s mind and body. As such, they may develop an addiction to cope. In addition to drugs, they may also choose alcohol in an attempt to boost their self-confidence.

When an eating disorder is present, it’s often accompanied by some type of body dysmorphic disorder. This is a condition in which a person is excessively critical of their own body and appearance, obsessing over minor or even made-up flaws that they perceive within themselves. Eating disorders, as well as dysmorphia, can occur in both males and females and can happen at any age.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), is a psychiatric disorder that can occur in people who have experienced a traumatic event or series of events. It can affect the entirety of a person, including their mental, physical, emotional, spiritual, and social wellness.

Every year, PTSD affects around 3.5% of all U.S. adults. It often sets in after someone has gone through a period of extreme stress, which can sometimes be life-threatening. For this reason, PTSD is typically associated with veterans who have experienced front-line combat, though it can affect anyone at any time.

Individuals suffering from PTSD might have trouble sleeping, due to nightmares, anxiety, or night terrors. They may also find it difficult to engage in daily life due to flashbacks or feelings of being on edge. These feelings and reactions can lead them to use (and eventually abuse) drugs and alcohol.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is commonly diagnosed in children, though the diagnosis can occur at any age. This is a neurodevelopmental disorder that can lead to any of the following conditions:

  • Inability to focus
  • Hyperactivity
  • Impulsive behavior

ADHD can affect many aspects of one’s life, from their academic achievements to their professional pursuits. It can also hinder their personal relationships and make daily functioning a challenge.

For this reason, the condition often occurs alongside drug or alcohol addiction, though a substance use disorder can make the symptoms more intense. Patients may also begin abusing the medications that their physician prescribes to help treat their condition, which can include stimulants.

Mood and Personality Disorders

When an individual suffers from a mood or personality disorder, it can affect every aspect of their life.

Mood disorders affect a person’s ability to regulate their feelings. Some of the most prevalent ones include:

  • Depression
  • Dysthymia (less severe than depression, but longer-lasting)
  • Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)

On the other hand, personality disorders affect how an individual relates to other people. Often (though not always), they are linked to instances or traumatic events that occur in childhood or adolescence. Common ones include:

  • Borderline personality disorder (BPD)
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Paranoia

Of these, BPD is among the most common. It can involve a range of symptoms such as:

  • Severe mood swings
  • Impulsive behavior
  • Severe emotional imbalance

People with personality or mood disorders often find it difficult to manage and maintain a relationship with others. As a result, they may turn to drugs and alcohol as a coping mechanism.


Schizophrenia is a severe form of paranoia. This is a mental health condition that causes individuals to experience a host of symptoms, including:

  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Psychosis
  • Disorganized thinking

Many schizophrenics find it difficult or impossible to distinguish reality from fantasy. These can lead to unnerving and overwhelming experiences, often accompanied by feelings of intense suspicion and nervousness. Individuals with this condition may seek temporary solace and relief from drugs or alcohol.

Break Free From the Disease of Addiction

If you or someone you know is struggling with the disease of addiction, you may have also noticed the signs of another, co-occurring mental health disorder.

From anxiety and depression to personality disorders, there are many mental illnesses that can occur, especially when substance abuse has made an individual physically and emotionally vulnerable.

Our team at Detox to Rehab can help individuals achieve the future they deserve. You can break free from the holds that these conditions have on you, and the right treatment option is just one call away.

Contact us today to learn more about the programs we provide and let’s take this next step together.

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