Mental Health Awareness Month | Mental Illness and Addiction

Mental Health Awareness Month | Mental Illness and Addiction

mental illness and addiction

Knowing that you are not alone can be a critical aspect of getting the help you need for mental illness or an addiction. During Mental Health Awareness Month, it is important to understand more about the connection between mental illness and addiction. For your mental and physical health, it is also important to know how to get effective treatment for the co-occurring disorders.

Substance Use Disorders and Mental Illness

About half of the individuals experiencing a mental illness will also have a substance use disorder and vice versa. In particular, there are high rates of co-occurring substance use disorders and anxiety disorders, such as panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and generalized anxiety disorder. People with substance use disorders also experience mental health issues at high rates, including attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), bipolar disorder, depression, psychotic illness, antisocial personality disorder, and borderline personality disorder.

Approximately one in four individuals diagnosed with a serious mental illness also has a substance use disorder. Serious mental illnesses include major depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia, as well as other mental disorders. Individuals with schizophrenia have higher rates of tobacco, alcohol, and drug use disorders than the general population.

Reasons for Common Co-Occurrences

Although the rates of mental illness and addiction occurring together are high, it does not mean that one caused the other. There are several possibilities as to the reasons for these co-occurrences, also referred to as a dual diagnosis.

Common risk factors. Addiction to drugs or alcohol and mental health disorders can both run in families, indicating that genetics can be a risk factor. There are also other common risk factors for both conditions, including stress and trauma.

Coping with symptoms of a mental disorder. Some people with anxiety, depression, or PTSD turn to drugs or alcohol in an attempt to cope with the symptoms of their mental illness. Changes in the brain functions of individuals with mental health disorders can enhance the sensation of reward when using drugs or alcohol. Unfortunately, these substances often make the symptoms worse over time.

Substance use contributes to mental disorders. When an individual is addicted to drugs or alcohol, they will experience changes in their brain structure and function. This could also lead to them developing a mental health disorder.

Treatment for Mental Illness and Addiction

For an individual experiencing a dual diagnosis of an addiction to drugs or alcohol and a mental illness, reaching out and getting help is critical. The most effective treatment approach is to address both conditions together.

Understanding the underlying causes of the addiction will help in determining whether the mental illness is a contributing factor. Targeted treatment for the mental illness is essential to also being able to overcome the addiction. Treatment may include behavioral therapies and medication, tailored to the individual’s specific diagnosis.

Mental Health Awareness Facts to Consider

During Mental Health Awareness Month, there are many facts you need to know. Mental illnesses and addiction are medical illnesses. When you have a mental illness and an addiction, it is absolutely essential for your safety and well-being to get help. When you suffer from a dependency on substances such as drugs or alcohol as well as depression, it will increase the possibility of suicidal thoughts and attempts. If you are having thoughts of suicide, call 911 or the hotline at 800-273-8255 immediately.

Seeking treatment for your dual diagnosis can help reduce your suffering as well as the risk of relapse and the risk of suicide. You may need a combination of psychotherapy and medication to treat your medical illnesses. If you do not seek treatment for your depressive illness, it will increase your risk of a substance use disorder. There is no one type of dual diagnosis, so you will need to see a professional who will be able help you in your specific situation.


At Sober Austin, we want you to find the resources you need to address your mental illness and addiction so you can move forward with a successful recovery. We also understand that life can be even more challenging during the coronavirus pandemic. The dangers of denial are greater, though, so it’s important for you to know when it’s time to get help and how to get that help for your addiction.

Browse our site to learn more about finding support in Austin. Please feel free to contact us directly by calling (512) 522-7135 or emailing