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Anxiety And Addiction: Which Comes First?

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Mental health issues and addiction often go hand-in-hand. For many, addiction can lead to anxiety, depression, and a host of other mental health issues—but just the opposite stands true as well.

According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, 53% of those with a mental health disorder also experience issues with drugs or alcohol. Similarly, 29% of people that have a mental health disorder also have an addiction disorder at some point in their lives.

With these statistics, many are left wondering if anxiety or addiction comes first. The fact is that there’s no definitive answer. Everyone has very different experiences when it comes to mental health and addiction.

There are some reasons why anxiety and addiction are co-occurring disorders. Here’s what you need to know.

Addiction May Increase the Risk of Developing a Mental Health Disorder

For those at an already high risk of developing a mental health disorder, substance abuse and addiction may be the straws that break the camel’s back. Environmental factors, along with genetics, increase the risk of developing a mental illness. The same risk factors also increase the chances of developing an addiction to drugs or alcohol.

For instance, let’s say you suffer from mild anxiety and depression before you start to use drugs. In the beginning, substance abuse may make you feel better and less weighed down—but, over time, substance abuse will make you feel worse than when you started.

Because causes for addiction and anxiety are the same, it can be hard to say which one caused the other. Many who suffer from minor mental health issues go undiagnosed and untreated. This makes it seem like your mental health issue stemmed from addiction. Yet, addiction may have simply been the factor that pushed you over the edge.

Self-Medicating Is Common in Those with Mental Health Issues

There’s a stigma around mental health issues, which causes many people experiencing anxiety, depression, and other conditions to never get the help they need. In turn, someone with an undiagnosed and untreated mental health disorder may choose to self-medicate by using drugs or alcohol as a way to treat the symptoms.

For example, someone suffering from depression or anxiety may decide to use alcohol, prescription pills, and benzodiazepines as a way to relieve the symptoms associated with these disorders. This is because these drugs enhance relaxation, but relief is fleeting. In turn, the user is likely to become addicted, which can make symptoms worse.

Brains with Mental Health Disorders May Be Wired for Addiction

The brain and its structure may offer some of the lingering questions we have about the link between drug and alcohol abuse and mental health. Many of the same regions of the brain that are involved in mental health disorders are also involved in addiction.

Let’s look at dopamine, a neurotransmitter in the brain. People with depression and anxiety are more likely to have low dopamine levels. In turn, that person may turn to heroin or opioid pain killers as a way to boost these levels. High dopamine levels cause you to feel euphoric and, for many, the dopamine rush is enough to get hooked.

Over time, the body and brain build a tolerance to opioids, which often leads to even higher drug usage. By this time, the person is already addicted, dependent, and unable to stop.

Need Help with Co-Occurring Disorders? We Can Help

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If you’re suffering from a mental health disorder and addiction, it can be hard to know where to turn. The team at the Dedicato Treatment Center offers comprehensive substance abuse treatment, including detox, residential treatment, and intensive outpatient services. We offer dual diagnosis treatment for those needing mental health treatment, as well as help in overcoming addiction.

With our co-occurring disorders treatment approach, we’re confident that you can live your best life yet. Once your mental health disorder is under control and you’re no longer under the grips of addiction, you can uncover your true happiness and potential.

Are you ready to take the first step in getting the help you need? Contact our team at 626-921-0113 to learn more about Dedicato Treatment Center.