The Relationship Between Addiction And Mental Health: An Explanation By Experts

The Relationship Between Addiction And Mental Health: An Explanation By Experts

The Relationship Between Addiction And Mental Health: An Explanation By Experts

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Philadelphia, PADoes Mental Health Relate to Addiction? - Ask yourself something: What do you know about addiction? If you are an addict or a recovering addict, then you certainly know more than the average person. But even then, there is much that is probably a mystery to you.

Relationship Between Addiction And Mental Health

The United States has never made education about drug addiction a priority.  Kids are taught to stay away from drugs, while anyone older is taught how to use them discreetly. Nowhere does a person learn how or why people get addicted to the things that they get addicted to. As a result, there are a lot of nuances to addiction that people do not understand. Today, we are going to focus on one aspect of addiction that gets overlooked far too often: Mental health.

How Does Mental Health Relate to Addiction?

One of the most common mistakes people make when thinking of mental health and addiction is imagining the relationship between the two things to purely cause and effect.  The expectation is that a person with mental health issues is more likely to become an addict, and an addict is more likely to suffer mental health issues. Neither of these is exactly wrong.

But still, these presumptions lack supporting insight. It might be true that mentally ill people are more likely to become addicts. But why? And if addicts are more likely to develop mental illness, then how does that happen? We are going to explore these questions on two levels.

The first is the psychological level. Every addict is unique, and their struggle is their own. All the same, many addicts end up facing the same mental blocks and emotional struggles.

The second is the neurological level. People can do what they will, but they cannot always will what they will. Addicts know this better than anyone, as their craving for their addiction is, like many mental illnesses, a matter of brain chemistry.

Addiction on a Psychological Level

We will start with how addiction works inside one’s cognitive processes, as that is the most intuitive place you will find it. Contrary to what some people think, addicts do not actively want whatever it is they are addicted to. If you are hungry, you might want a burger, a fresh apple, a slice of cake, or a variety of other things. You can have whatever you want.

In this sense, craving food is like walking into a large room full of different options all around you. But addiction does something interesting: You still feel as though you are walking into that large room of craving. But rather than being surrounded by options, you have one option.

That means the only correct choice is to not satisfy the craving at all. This mirrors many mental health issues. How many depressed people find themselves with a lack of options in what thoughts they think? How many bipolar people feel forced to choose between extremes?

Such a state of mind can be horrifying, as it results in the person suffering from it feeling out of control of their own mind. On top of that, there is the guilt towards this situation. Even when people are barely in control of themselves, they feel responsible for their actions.

While that sense of responsibility has its upsides, it can also cause a person to feel unsalvageable. Guilt can become so heavy that giving up feels like a valid response.

These thought patterns are not the thought patterns of a healthy mind. And in this sense, addiction can cause a person to think very much like a mentally ill person. It is for this reason that counseling is recommended for any addict that will take it.

Addiction on a Neurological Level

While psychology explains how drug addiction can lead to mental illness, neurology shows us how mental illness can lead to addiction. The key to understanding this is understanding hormones: Hormones are chemicals that help carry signals from your brain all over your body.

One of the tell-tale signs of mental illness is an imbalance of these chemicals. Remember, imbalance does not always mean that you lack the chemical.

For example, a person with depression will lack the hormone dopamine in their brain. But a person with bipolar disorder will have a massive overabundance of dopamine in their brain. Go to Ocean Recovery's website to learn more about which mental illnesses are at risk.

Dopamine is oftentimes called the “happiness hormone” because it plays a direct role in making you happy. You get dopamine out of activities that you like. Holding your children, petting pets, seeing good movies, listening to music, eating good food, and so on.

Drugs and alcohol flood the body with dopamine. The amount that they provide is massively out of proportion to the substances themselves. This is part of what causes addiction.

When the body produces dopamine, it can’t produce any more until it has rested for a period of time. The human body also knows to only produce dopamine under specific circumstances in order to avoid overproduction. Drugs and alcohol essentially convince your body that it should only produce dopamine in the presence of those substances.

This makes people with pre-existing dopamine issues, like depression, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and borderline personality disorder, susceptible to addiction.


The more you think about it, the more you can see how addiction and mental health play off of each other. Someone who is thinking terrible thoughts about themselves all the time is likely lacking the engagement and stimulus to produce much dopamine. And even if they get that engagement, their body might simply have trouble making enough to keep them balanced.

For this person, the quick rush of an addictive substance is a godsend. But that is how it starts. Many addicts begin using drugs and alcohol by treating them as medications for their illnesses.

As you might imagine, drugs and alcohol are hardly a suitable replacement for real psychiatric drugs. If you or someone you love is suffering from addiction, then just remember that there is help out there. The blurred line between mental health and addiction means that there are plenty of people who know a whole lot about how to treat both.

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