You might already be aware that it’s possible to have a mental illness alongside addiction. However, there are common forms of mental illness that are frequently seen in those who struggle with substance use. For instance, mood disorders (such as depression, various types of anxiety disorders, and bipolar disorder) is the most common type of psychological illness that accompanies addiction.
And there is a reason why mood disorders pair up with addiction so easily. Mood disorders affect one’s mood, emotions, and thoughts. When a person feels as though they don’t have the ability to cope with their thoughts and feelings, it’s easy to turn to drugs and alcohol to feel better. When someone struggles with a mental illness and uses drugs as a way to cope, experts call this self-medicating. However, a person who is facing symptoms of mental illness might not even realize that they have a mental illness. Sadly, most people who face depression or anxiety or bipolar comment that they believe that this is how it is for everyone. It is usually not until later that they realize that what they were experiencing was a mental illness and that they needed drugs and alcohol to cope.
This is one benefit of learning about addiction and mental illness. There’s an opportunity to learn about yourself. It’s common to read a list of symptoms for a particular psychological illness and realize that in fact you have many of those symptoms yourself. And of course, the benefit of recognizing this is that then you can get the support you need versus turning to drugs and alcohol.
To provide that kind of support now, here is a list of symptoms for depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder:
- Anger and aggression, especially in male depressed teens
- Low self-esteem, high self-criticism, extreme pessimism, especially if they are female
- Confused and dysfunctional thinking
- High self-consciousness
- Irritable / depressed mood
- Loss of interest in activities
- Poor interpersonal problem solving and high stress from close relationships
- Antisocial behavior, particularly in males
- Sleep disturbance – insomnia / hypersomnia
- Appetite disturbance – weight loss/gain
- Difficulty coping with stress from relationships, family environment, or depressed parents
- Symptoms of other mental illnesses, which are common to co-exist with adolescent depression, such as ADHD, eating disorders, anxiety disorders, and substance use disorders.
- Suicidal thoughts
- Poor concentration
- Poor memory
- Slow thinking
- excessive and irrational worry for at least six months
- persistent feelings of fear or worry often without an associated trigger
- racing heart
- shortness of breath
- sweating palms
- hot flashes
- swing in moods from depression to mania.
- manic episode can include euphoria, elation, racing thoughts, irritability, and substance use depressed episode can include decreased energy, insomnia, fatigue, agitation, and suicidal thoughts.
- severe depression can lead to suicide
- extreme mania can lead to substance abuse.
- might engage in forms of self-harm, such as cutting
- risky behavior as a way to take away their emotional pain and accelerate the highs
If you’re struggling with any of the above symptoms as well as substance abuse, you might be unknowingly using drugs and alcohol as a means to cope. If this is the case (or even if you don’t recognize these symptoms in yourself but you’re using drugs or alcohol regularly to feel better) contacting a mental health professional today!
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