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Substance Use and Mental Health Disorder Educational Blog

Helping a Loved One Struggling with Addiction and Mental Health

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How Addiction and Mental Health are Connected

For years, doctors and researchers have noticed a connection between addiction and mental health disorders. However, because there is a correlation does not necessarily mean there’s causation. What is known is that there is a high occurrence of individuals in recovery to also be struggling with mental health disorders, known as co-occurring disorders, and that both disorders need to be treated simultaneously for the best chance at recovery.

The connection between addiction and mental health is complicated; however, there are four main links between substance abuse and mental illness:

Untreated Mental Health Disorder Can Lead to Substance Abuse

Often, individuals with anxiety, depression, ADHD, PTSD, schizophrenia, and depression will turn to alcohol or drugs to self-medicate their symptoms. Although substance abuse can temporarily relieve negative emotions and symptoms, continuing this pattern of behavior ultimately leads to increased substance abuse and eventually addiction.

Substance Abuse Can Trigger Mental Health Conditions

Individuals who are predisposed to mental health disorders may inadvertently trigger the development of that disorder when abusing drugs or alcohol. Substance abuse and addiction causes physical changes in the brain which can be long term. These physical changes can lead to a wide range of mental health disorders including anxiety, depression, hallucinations, aggression, and paranoia.

Addiction and Mental Health Disorders Have Many of the Same Risk Factors

Research shows that addiction and mental health disorders can be caused by the same underlying issues and risk factors, such as early exposure to trauma, genetic factors, and environmental factors.

Mental Health Disorders and Addiction Can Share Similar Symptoms

Living with mental health conditions or substance abuse changes the brain and these changes can make the brain more susceptible to certain symptoms. For example, alcohol and other depressants can mimic symptoms of depression and stimulants like cocaine can trigger psychosis, common in schizophrenia. Similar symptoms can cause behavioral health experts difficulty in separating whether they are a consequence of substance use or from a mental health condition.

Recovery is a process that lasts a lifetime.

Warning Signs of Addiction and Mental Health Struggles

Individuals who experience mental illness and substance abuse can manage their conditions effectively with professional help. Both addiction and mental health disorders have a better prognosis the earlier it is caught and treated. Knowing the warning signs to look for can help you or someone you love to get the treatment they need sooner and better their chances at long-term recovery. Some warning signs of addiction and health issues include:

Behavioral changes, including:

    • Sudden mood swings, angry outbursts, or irritability
    • Changes in appetite or sleep patterns
    • Unexplained personality changes
    • Lowered performance or attendance at work or school
    • Lack of motivation
    • Periods of unusual agitation, hyperactivity, or giddiness
    • Substance use in dangerous situations, such as while driving
    • They may seem fearful, paranoid, or anxious for no reason
    • Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once enjoyed

Physical changes, including:

      • Sudden weight changes
      • Dilated pupils or bloodshot eyes
      • Slurred speech, lack of coordination, or shakiness
      • Deterioration of hygiene or physical appearance
      • Unusual breath, body, or clothing smells

Social changes, such as:

    • Financial problems or unexplained need for money
    • Hanging around new set of friends or places
    • Continuing to use substances despite it causing problems in their health, relationships, or work
    • Legal problems related to substance abuse

What Family Members Can do About a Loved One’s Addiction

Watching a loved one struggle with addiction and not know how to help them can be incredibly difficult and frustrating. At times, helping them can turn into enabling behavior, which only keeps them from getting the help they need. Signs of enabling behavior can include ignoring unacceptable behavior, covering up their mistakes, and taking on their responsibilities for them. However, there are ways to help your loved one without enabling them which includes:

Educate yourself. Research online or reach out to community resources to learn about substance use disorders and available addiction treatment. Knowing the connection between addiction and mental health disorders can help you understand how the addict cannot help their condition and how to approach them to get help.

Go to 12-step meetings for families. Support groups can help you understand enabling habits and what behaviors enable drug use.

Participate in family therapy with the addict. Family therapy can aid in communication and help you separate the disease from the person to begin to heal from their actions that may have hurt you. It can also open discussion on getting addiction treatment.

Begin to encourage drug and alcohol rehab. You can talk to your loved one who their substance abuse has affected your family and encourage them to go to rehab. Talk to them about rehab options you have researched and how, when they’re ready, you will help them get started on their recovery.

Take care of yourself. Caring for someone with addiction can be stressful and overwhelming. It is important that you practice self care and keep your boundaries clear to prevent burnout.

Things to Consider When Choosing a Drug and Alcohol Rehab Facility

While you cannot force your loved one into drug and alcohol rehab, you can begin to research drug and alcohol rehab facilities that fit your needs. Choosing the right treatment program may seem overwhelming at first; however, some factors to consider when choosing the right drug and alcohol treatment facility include:

  • Individualized treatment plans are necessary for long-term recovery
  • Utilize evidence-based treatment, such as cognitive behavioral therapy and motivational interviewing
  • Offer the levels of care that fit your needs, such as medical detox, inpatient treatment, and outpatient programs
  • They offer aftercare programs as long-term treatment strategies are crucial in successful recovery
  • Treatment facility is accredited and licensed by the state
  • Facility staff are also licensed and have appropriate credentials for treating addiction, such as behavioral therapists, RNs, etc.
  • They offer dual diagnosis programs to treat co-occurring mental health disorders
  • Cost of rehab is in your budget, or they take your health insurance

Magnolia Recovery of LA: Meaningful Recovery and Individualized Care

Magnolia Recovery is a drug and alcohol rehab in Los Angeles offering personalized, comprehensive treatment plans. Meeting our patients where they are in their recovery is our highest priority and together, we will build an individualized treatment program that meets your addiction recovery goals.

Our programs aim to uncover and treat the underlying causes and secondary effects of addiction to heal the person as a whole. Dual diagnosis programs at Magnolia Recovery of LA will treat mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression, PTSD, bipolar disorder, and more along with addiction disorders. Through evidence-based psychotherapy, medication assisted treatment, and holistic treatment, we can help you self-manage mental health issues long-term without the need of drugs or alcohol.

As a holistic addiction treatment program, we aim to heal the body, mind, and spirit through therapy and lifestyle changes. Successful substance abuse recovery is rooted in addressing all areas of a person’s life that has affected or been affected by addiction, including relationships. We include family therapy into all levels of care to help families heal as a whole and help loved ones learn how to better support those in recovery.

If you or your loved one is struggling with mental health and substance use disorders, our treatment programs at Magnolia Recovery can give you control of your life back. Please call us today to speak to one of our addiction specialists and learn more about our treatment programs, verify your insurance, or to get started on the admissions process.


  • As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world as in being able to remake ourselves.

Magnolia Recovery… A Special Place to Learn and Heal

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Medical Disclaimer: Nothing on this Website is intended to be taken as medical advice. Before making any decisions on your physical or mental health, please consult your doctor. The staff at Magnolia Recovery Center will work with our patients on a custom diagnosis and care plan. Specific medical advice will be provided to our patients while in our care.