For some people who abuse drugs or alcohol, depressive and low feelings are temporary, part and parcel of withdrawal. Yet for others, chronic depression is a parallel condition, unknowingly intensifying consumption.

Medically recognised as a dual diagnosis, both mental health issues and addiction are found to exist alongside one another. Whilst a primary condition is more than likely to lead the way, secondary symptoms and impacts can develop, resulting in a vicious, co-occurring cycle.

Whilst dual diagnosis risks aren’t high for each drug abuser, and vice versa for someone with poor mental health, there is an indefinite relationship, which can complicate diagnosis, symptoms, and recovery.

Here’s some insight into ‘mental health and addiction – is there a relationship?’, considering the direct effects that each have and how to treat the cycle. At Asana Lodge, we specialise in dual diagnosis treatment which consists of both mental health and addiction recovery programmes.

Reach out for support with either disorder or to work through a dual diagnosis.


Recognising a dual diagnosis

Where substance abuse is paired with consistent mental health issues, this is recognised as a dual diagnosis. A dual diagnosis means that two conditions can be experienced and can have an impact on the body and brain at the same time. Common addiction diagnoses are found to develop alongside the likes of depression, anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, and personality disorder.

Whilst substance abuse disorders and mental health issues are both primary conditions and concerns, their signs and symptoms can be very similar. Symptoms can also co-occur and can aggravate one another, found to complicate health and wellbeing. By that, we mean that the urge to consume drugs or alcohol may be driven by low or anxious moments, and vice versa.

Symptoms of a dual diagnosis are mostly recognised through behavioural and emotional changes. Yet they can also be displayed physically, through ill-health. Common signs and symptoms include:

  • Abusing drugs or alcohol to self-medicate through mental health issues
  • Experiencing consistent low moments throughout consumption and withdrawal
  • Symptoms of depression, anxiety, panic, schizophrenia, and personality disorders
  • Difficulties of withdrawal, due to a spike in poor mental health
  • Intense cravings of drugs and alcohol
  • Changes to personality, outlook and coping strategies
  • Experiencing a vicious cycle between symptoms
  • Social withdrawal and changes
  • Impulsive and erratic behaviour
  • Feeling lost, a lack of control and engulfed by illness

Although recognisable, there is a unique dynamic between both conditions. Here’s further insight into the relationship between mental health and addiction, by considering their effects on one another.


What comes first: substance abuse or mental health problems?

Both substance abuse disorders and mental health disorders can be primary diagnoses, meaning that they influence the relationship. Addiction is significantly linked to poor mental health, both directly and indirectly. The direct internal effects of drug and alcohol abuse can damage the brain and how it produces happy chemicals, increasing the risk of depression and mood disorders. The consequences of addiction, such as financial worries and isolation indirectly affect mental health, which can cause episodic symptoms.

Mental health issues can also trigger substance abuse problems as drugs and alcohol are common escapes. Especially drugs of the depressant and stimulant kind, they are abused to manage negative episodes and to unwind the mind. This type of action is recognised as self-medication, instead of relying on or following prescriptions. Self-medicating is however dangerous, and the presence of drugs and alcohol can worsen mental health symptoms, known as the rebound effect.

The relationship between addiction and mental illness can be chronic, making it possible for both to coincide and co-occur in the brain. With that, the relationship makes it harder to recover and to simultaneously manage both conditions.

It’s also important to note that both primary conditions can be caused by similar influences. In every situation, a dual diagnosis will not be the core trigger, for example, genetics can increase the risk of both poor mental health and addiction. Social factors, toxic environments and stress can also fuel both conditions. Yet their relationship is close and can solidify internal effects.


Treatment for a dual diagnosis

Integrated treatment programmes are used to treat dual diagnosis. Both conditions will be treated separately, following independent plans of action and progress. Yet by treating both addiction and mental health issues together, recovery will be stronger and more reliable.

Alongside treatment, it’s also important for our clients to understand the relationship between both disorders and how either can relapse and trigger the cycle. With that, educational sessions surrounding lifestyle management and relapse prevention will also be encouraged alongside core dual diagnosis treatment.

Treatments for both conditions and for each client will in fact differ. Dual diagnosis is a complicated and personal concern, requiring specific treatment strategies. For most, drug and alcohol addiction treatment will focus on withdrawal, rehabilitation, and relapse prevention planning. An alcohol and drug detox will be offered through a medically assisted structure, alongside cognitive behavioural therapy, and counselling.

The mental health aspect of dual diagnosis treatment will focus on emotional restoration and reinforcements. Sessions underpinned by cognitive behavioural therapy and dialectical behavioural therapy are common, alongside holistic therapies, such as satori chair therapy.

To diminish the relationship between mental illness and addiction, awareness will be key. Being aware of lifestyle choices, actions, associations, and risk factors will be paramount to recovery. Our treatment programmes at Asana Lodge follow a comprehensive format to heal the mind through both conditions.

The best way to overcome either condition or a dual diagnosis is by checking into a specialist treatment facility. Due to their co-occurring nature, self-help or medication will not be enough. The rebound effect will likely strengthen through ignoring the signs and symptoms.

Although dual diagnosis is more common than expected, it can develop in many different forms. For more information on mental health and addiction, reach out to our team. Alternatively, we at Asana Lodge can help you understand and overcome their relationship through personalised dual diagnosis treatment.


John Gillen - Author - Last Updated: 10 January 2022

John has travelled extensively around the world, culminating in 19 years’ experience looking at different models. He is the European pioneer of Nad+ (Nicotinamide Adenine Dinucleotide) treatment to Europe in 2010; and recently back from the USA bringing state of the art Virtual Reality Relapse Prevention and stress reduction therapy. his passion extends to other metabolic disturbances and neurodegenerative diseases.

The journey continues, in recent times john has travelled to Russia to study and research into a new therapy photobiomudulation or systemic laser therapy working with Nad+ scientists and the very best of the medical profession in the UK and the USA, together with Nadcell, Bionad Clinics own select Doctors, nurses, dieticians and therapists, Johns’ passion continues to endeavour to bring to the UK and Europe new developments with Nad+ therapy in preventive and restorative medicine and Wellness. In 2017 John Gillen was made a visiting Professor at the John Naisbitt university in Belgrade Serbia.

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