The chicken or egg concept has been used for centuries to illustrate the frustration of not being able to definitively say what action comes first. While it has been proven scientifically that a chicken came before the egg, other questions are yet to be answered. “Does mental illness cause addiction or does addiction cause mental illness” is one of those questions yet to be answered completely.
When Two Brain Disorders Occur at the Same Time
Both mental illness and addiction occur because of a disruption in the way a person’s brain works. The disruption found in mental illness can influence probability of addictive behaviors, just as the disruption in brain function for an addictive personality can influence mental illness. But the question of does mental illness cause addiction or does addiction cause mental illness has not been completely answered by the scientific community.
Does Mental Illness Cause Addiction?
Many people suffering with mental illness report using drugs or alcohol to self-medicate the pain of their illness. Drugs and alcohol can remove fears, social anxiety, and relieve depression by increasing neurotransmitters in the brain. The danger is that with prolonged and unsupervised use, self-medicating will decrease the brain’s ability to work normally without the substance of abuse, causing dependency and addiction. Basically, the drug or alcohol will alter the brain so it cannot function without more of the drug or alcohol.
While this points to a strong case for the argument in favor of does mental illness cause addiction, it’s not certain. While many people who suffer with mental illness self-medicate with drugs and alcohol, there is also a strong sign that addiction can cause mental illness too, or at least increase the problem.
Does Addiction Cause Mental Illness?
Meth, cocaine, and other stimulants can cause anxiety, panic attacks, manic behaviors, and insomnia. People addicted to meth often report hearing voices and suffering from hallucinations much like a schizophrenic. While this points to a positive for the argument of does addiction cause mental illness, it’s not 100% certain either.
Many researchers and scientists across America believes that substance abuse triggers mental illness. But the word trigger is important in this discussion. Those researchers and scientists believe that the substance abuse triggers genes already vulnerable to mental illness.
These professionals believe substance abuse increases symptoms of mental illness that were already present but were under some form of control before the substance abuse. Again, this points back to self-medicating a mental illness to act normally.
Mental illness and addiction are brain diseases. While impossible to know the answer to the question does mental illness cause addiction or does addiction cause mental illness, one thing is certain; substance abuse only increases symptoms of mental illness.
Addiction Mimics Mental Illness and Mental Illness Mimics Addiction
As a brain disease, both addiction and mental illness affect the same chemicals and neuropathways. Cocaine abuse illustrates this concept as dopamine levels are increased by the drug. Those same levels of dopamine are present in sufferers of schizophrenia.
Mood disorders are characterized by how serotonin is used in the brain. Alcoholics and those suffering with bipolar disorder have the same dysfunction in the transportation and use of serotonin in the brain.
More interesting is a recent study that links marijuana use with schizophrenia if a gene variant is present. Those who have a variant of COMT (catechol-o-methyltransferase) are more likely to develop schizophrenia if they smoke marijuana regularly. Surprisingly, 1 in 4 people may have this variant.
While addiction and mental illness mimic each other, it’s impossible to answer the age-old question of chicken or egg. Instead of focusing on the cause, it may be more beneficial to focus on the treatment.
Mental Illness and Addiction: Which Gets Treated First?
Which brain disease gets treated first is the wrong question. Each person will be different in their recovery needs and should have an individual care plan. There is no one-size-fits-all treatment method when dealing with brain chemistry. The best practice is to balance brain chemistry while detoxing from abused substances. This is not accomplished overnight. It will take months of hard work and rigorous support.
While detoxing, the person suffering from mental illness needs to be monitored closely for increased symptoms of depression, anxiety, panic attacks, and suicidal thoughts. He or she should detox in a closely supervised medical detox center.
Once detox is complete, he or she needs support through psychotherapy, group therapy, and alternative therapies designed to manage mental illness and support sobriety.
Are You Struggling with Mental Illness and Addiction?
It is estimated that 50% of people suffering with mental illness also struggle with addiction. If you struggle with addiction and treatment doesn’t seem to help long-term, consider being evaluated for mental illness. Depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders can make recovery difficult if not treated alongside addiction.
Speak to your doctor or treatment professional about any symptoms you may have. Sometimes it becomes hard to talk to your doctor if treatment has repeatedly failed. Fear of rejection and shame make it difficult to speak about symptoms. If this sounds familiar, you can call Northlake Recovery’s helpline at (561)-770-6616. Addiction specialists will listen to your concerns and help you find the right treatment for mental illness and addiction recovery.
Ready to Break Out of the Mental Illness and Addiction Cycle?
If you or a loved one are ready to break out of the mental illness and addiction cycle, call Northlake Recovery at (561)-770-6616. While there is no chicken or egg definitive answer for the question, does mental illness cause addiction or does addiction cause mental illness, you don’t have to wait to get help. Addiction specialists will take your call 24/7 and help you find complete treatment for mental illness and addiction. Don’t settle for only half recovery, get complete help for your symptoms today.