Are Mental Health Issues Always Behind Addiction? Are There Other Causes?

Addiction Recovery Publishing Dual Diagnosis February 24, 2024

Are Mental Health Issues Always Behind Addiction? Are There Other Causes?

Addiction can put the individual struggling and everyone around them into a despairing and despondent thought spiral that can be hard to escape from. However, that way of thinking must change if one is to recover. The renowned spiritual thought leader Emmet Fox once said, “You must not under any pretense allow your mind to dwell on any thought that is not positive, constructive, optimistic, kind.” This way of thinking also applies when mental health issues and addiction come to the forefront.

Better Understanding Addiction

Addiction is a chronic disease that destroys individuals and everything that they have built up around them. This includes families, marriages, careers, friendships, and social standing. Addiction is also one of the most prevalent diseases out there today.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the 2021 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), “46.3 million people aged 12 or older (or 16.5 percent of the population) met the applicable DSM-5 criteria for having a substance use disorder in the past year, including 29.5 million people who were classified as having an alcohol use disorder and 24 million people who were classified as having a drug use disorder.” These are not insignificant numbers.

Now, it is important to remember that these statistics are not just numbers on a page; rather, they are lives that are being torn apart by alcohol and drugs. It is also important to remember that these numbers represent a wide swath of the American population, from the person on the street to the one in the boardroom. 

Who Is Susceptible to Addiction?

There is a saying in the recovery realm that goes, “Addiction is an equal opportunity employer.” This means that addiction does not care who someone is or what they do; addiction can take hold of anyone.

Now, yes, there are some factors that can make some people more susceptible to addiction than others. These factors can be genetic, familial, socio-economic, and environmental (just to name a few). Another factor that can lead to addiction is if an individual is struggling with mental health issues.

Are Mental Health Issues Always Behind Addiction?

So, the question is, “Are mental health issues always behind addiction?” The simplest answer is “No.” Of course, the ultimate answer is much more complex than that. The reason is that more people than not with addiction do struggle with some type of mental health issues. Also, many people with addiction issues can end up struggling with mental health issues down the road.

More people struggle with mental health issues and addiction than many people may realize. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), “7.7 million adults have co-occurring mental and substance use disorders. This doesn’t mean that one caused the other and it can be difficult to determine which came first. Of the 20.3 million adults with substance use disorders, 37.9% also had mental illnesses,” and “Among the 42.1 million adults with mental illness, 18.2% also had substance use disorders.” Again, these are not insignificant numbers.

Also, these numbers most likely underrepresented the number of people who are struggling with mental health issues and addiction because many people do not know the warning signs to look out for. Being able to recognize these warning signs could mean the difference between someone getting the help they need or struggling with a lifetime of treatable pain.

What Are Some of the Warning Signs of Mental Health Issues and Addiction?

The thing about mental health issues and addiction is their warning signs are often very similar. However, if any warning signs show up, the key is to reach out to a medical professional. They will be able to determine if someone is struggling with mental illness, addiction, or both. The following are just a few of the universal warning signs of both:

  • Wanting to isolate away from others
  • Losing interest in activities once enjoyed
  • A lack of care about one’s physical appearance or personal hygiene
  • Sudden bouts of otherwise unexplained weight gain or weight loss
  • Exhibiting excessive mood swings
  • Acting more anxious or depressed
  • Hiding one’s drinking or using
  • A sudden and prolonged loss of appetite
  • Having trouble with sleep patterns, including sleeping too little or too much
  • Expressing feelings regarding self-harm and/or suicide
  • Attempting self-harm and/or suicide

If any, some, or all of these warning signs are present, it is highly recommended that professional help be sought as soon as possible. Doing so may mean the difference between short-term side effects and long-term consequences.

Mental Health Issues and Addiction: Better Understanding Dual Diagnosis

Now, as previously mentioned, it is not uncommon for someone to be struggling with both issues of mental illness and addiction. Unfortunately, detecting both issues can be difficult because one disorder’s symptoms often overshadow the other.

For example, someone with alcohol use disorder (AUD) may also be struggling with some type of anxiety disorder. When being diagnosed, the doctor may only see the addiction and assume the anxiety is just a symptom, or the doctor may detect the anxiety disorder and conclude that the individual is only drinking as a means of self-medicating. This is dangerous because it is important that all disorders be detected (dual diagnosis) as soon as possible if one is to fully heal at the cellular level.

Getting to the Root/Core Causes: The Importance of Treating Mental Health Issues and Addiction at the Same Time

Once an individual has a proper dual diagnosis, the proper treatment can begin. It is critical that both disorders be treated at the same time. If not, the untreated disorder is liable to trigger the treated one, and the cycle of mental illness and addiction will start all over again.

The good news is that treating someone with a dual diagnosis can be very similar to treating someone who struggles with a sole issue. Just as many of the symptoms overlap with mental illness and addiction, so do how they are treated. 

The key is to make sure that people dealing with mental health issues and addiction are treated both individually and comprehensively. This means utilizing many modalities from across the spectrum of mental health and addiction care. Now, this includes treatments from the more traditional realm, like psychotherapy, from the more experiential arena, like nature immersion therapy, and from the holistic world, like meditation and yoga. Doing this can best ensure that all issues are addressed efficiently and effectively.

Treating Mental Health Issues and Addiction With Psychotherapy

Perhaps the most common way of treating someone with a dual diagnosis is via psychotherapy. Now, the most prominently used psychotherapy is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT).

CBT is not as complex as it may sound. According to the peer-reviewed write-up, Cognitive Behavior Therapy, by Doctors Chand, Kuckel, and Huecker, “CBT is based on a straightforward, common-sense model of the relationships among cognition, emotion, and behavior. Three aspects of cognition are emphasized: automatic thoughts, cognitive distortions, [and] underlying beliefs or schemas.”

The idea is that the way people behave is based on the underlying way that they think about themselves and the outside world. By addressing these underlying thoughts (“cognitions”), one can begin to change the emotions and behaviors associated with them. This can be exceptionally helpful for people with mental health issues and addiction because it addresses the underlying mental illness that is often the root/core cause of addictive behaviors. Another therapy that can be very helpful as a supplement to CBT is ketamine therapy.

Treating Mental Health Issues and Addiction With Ketamine Therapy

Ketamine therapy has been gaining a lot of traction as of late. There are two reasons for this. One is that the social stigma associated with utilizing ketamine as a treatment has been lifted significantly. Two is that the positive results regarding people who use ketamine therapy have been both promising and exciting.

The British Journal of Psychiatry recently discussed a series of studies that showed promising results across a wide range of mental health and addiction issues. These studies concluded that “the plethora of evidence from the systematic reviews and meta-analyses reviewed here supports a robust, rapid and transient antidepressant effect of ketamine in unipolar and bipolar depression, as well as treatment-resistant depression, with repeated dosing increasing the duration of effectiveness. In numerous studies, ketamine was also demonstrated to have short-lived anti-suicidal properties, independently of improvements in depressive symptoms… There is also evidence that ketamine results in short-term increases in abstinence, reductions in use, cravings, and symptoms of withdrawal related to problematic substance use.”

As with CBT, ketamine therapy can potentially be a win-win for people with dual diagnosis because it specifically shows treatment benefits related to both. Another therapy that has been shown to have cross-benefits is nature immersion therapy.

Treating Mental Health Issues and Addiction With Nature Immersion Therapy

Many people in the U.S. currently have little to no relationship with nature. This is not a judgment; it is merely the way life seems to be continually set up in the 21st Century. Many people argue that this lack of natural exposure may exacerbate one’s mental health and/or addiction issues.

This is why an experiential therapy known as nature immersion therapy can be so beneficial. It allows people to reconnect to nature, and often, this helps them reconnect to themselves and brings certain issues to the surface.

There are also many other benefits that nature immersion therapy has been shown to produce. According to the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, “Besides physical health improvements, nature exposure can bring about positive influence upon psychological constructs such as boredom, friendliness, wellbeing, and liveliness,” and “Besides improvements to physical and psychological well-being, exposure to natural environments has been shown to bring about positive impacts on cognitive functioning.” Also, “While cognitive restoration and physiological well-being are the prominent and renowned benefits of nature exposure, there is one important construct that is often overlooked in environmental psychology research studies – that is, the human-nature relationship; also known as connectedness to nature (CN).”

Now, there is probably no better place to get this “connectedness to nature” (CN) than at Exclusive Hawaii Rehab and the Hamkua Coast of Hawaii’s Big Island. Just mere minutes from our 30-acre luxury resort, one can explore some of the most beautiful mountains, overlooks, live volcanoes, beaches, and waterfalls that the world has to offer. Also, the benefits of these natural wonders don’t just apply to nature immersion therapy. They can also help one better cultivate their holistic practices of yoga and meditation.  

Treating Mental Health Issues and Addiction With Yoga

Yes, one can practice yoga basically anywhere that they go. However, there is something uniquely special about practicing yoga as one looks out over the vast Pacific Ocean under one of Hawaii’s life-changing sunrises.

Yoga has been practiced for thousands of years. It began solely as a religious practice but is now highly regarded as a way to help people treat their issues of mental health and addiction. The reason for this is the countless benefits that yoga has been shown to offer.

Yoga can be wholly therapeutic and help to heal at the cellular level. According to the International Journal of Yoga, “Therapeutic yoga is defined as the application of yoga postures and practice to the treatment of health conditions. Yoga therapy involves instruction in yogic practices and teachings to prevent reduce or alleviate structural, physiological, emotional, and spiritual pain, suffering, or limitations. Yogic practices enhance muscular strength and body flexibility, promote and improve respiratory and cardiovascular function, promote recovery from and treatment of addiction, reduce stress, anxiety, depression, and chronic pain, improve sleep patterns, and enhance overall well-being and quality of life.” Also, a big part of yoga that cannot be left out is meditation.

Treating Mental Health Issues and Addiction With Meditation

The spiritual poet Milarepa once said, “The affairs of the world will go on forever. Do not delay the practice of meditation.” For no one is this more true than those that wish to recover from mental health issues and addiction. Like yoga, meditation has been practiced for thousands of years. Also, like yoga, it began as a purely spiritual and/or religious practice but has now moved into the realm of recovery.

Mediation has so many benefits that everyone seems to experience them differently. According to the Journal of Research in Ayurveda (AYU), “During the process of meditation, accumulated stresses are removed, energy is increased, and health is positively affected overall. Research has confirmed a myriad of health benefits associated with the practice of meditation. These include stress reduction, decreased anxiety, decreased depression, reduction in pain (both physical and psychological), improved memory, and increased efficiency.”

It has also quite literally been shown to help people live longer. Yes, meditation, in addition to all of the other modalities mentioned, can not only help one recover from issues of mental health and addiction but can also help those recovered individuals live more peaceful and fulfilled lives.

Healing at the Cellular Level With Exclusive Hawaii Rehab

Emmet Fox also said, “It makes no difference how deeply seated may be the trouble, how hopeless the outlook how muddled the tangle, how great the mistake. A sufficient realization of love will dissolve it all.” That is also one of our promises here at Exclusive Hawaii Rehab; we are here to love people struggling with addiction and mental illness until they once again learn to love themselves.

We are also here to help our clients heal at the cellular level by any means necessary. The good news is that we have all of the means directly at our disposal to do it. Remember, life is a journey, never a destination, and for those who are seeking the journey of a lifetime, it can all start right here on Hawaii’s Big Island.

The reality is that there are many causes of addiction. Yes, some causes pertain to mental health, but other causes include genetics, family dynamics, work stressors (especially for high-profile individuals), and one’s socio-environment. However, regardless of where someone’s addiction originates, there are many ways to treat both addiction and mental health issues at the same time efficiently and effectively. If you feel like you or a loved one may be struggling with issues of mental illness, addiction, or comorbidities, we can help get you on the right road to recovery. For more information on the origins of addiction and how they may relate to mental illness, please reach out to Exclusive Hawaii Rehab today at (808) 775-0200.