Mental health and substance use have long been connected, with one condition sometimes proceeding the other, and other times, both conditions occurring simultaneously.

When both a mental illness and substance use disorder are present in an individual, it is referred to as co-occurring disorders, comorbidity, or dual-diagnosis (after being diagnosed).

Poor mental health is often the precursor that leads to self-medicating and the development of a substance use disorder in an attempt to cope with it. This becomes a snake-eating-its-own-tail situation, as a growing substance use disorder leads to worsened mental health, and worsened mental health leads to the exacerbation of the substance use disorder.

In this article, we’re going to take a closer look at how mental health plays a role in the development of substance use and abuse, and the signs and symptoms to watch out for.

Effects of poor mental health

Mental health and substance abuse have long been connected, even when mental health wasn’t nearly as widely recognized or addressed as it is nowadays. 

Poor mental health has been linked to a variety of issues, including:

  • Poor gut and digestive health
  • Heart health and function
  • The development of sleep disorders
  • The development of behavioral disorders
  • The development of eating disorders
  • Low self-esteem or self-loathing
  • Self-harming behaviors

Arguably, the most common effect of poor mental health is that of self-medicating in an attempt to cope with their overwhelming, sometimes what feels like crippling, symptoms. 

Mental health and substance use

Poor mental health has been consistently linked to the development of a substance use disorder.

Since the majority of people still do not seek professional help when they’re struggling to take care of their mental health, they often turn to self-medicating as a way of coping with the symptoms of their poor mental health.

In some cases, an individual with no mental health conditions can begin using a substance and develop a mental health disorder as a result. 

The effects of substance use on mental health are not as widely studied as the effects of mental health on substance use, but the correlation is still present and strong.

Most common substances used

It’s important to remember that every substance abuse situation is unique to the individual, and just because a certain drug isn’t listed in this section, doesn’t mean people can’t struggle with it.

That being said, there are certain substances that are turned to more often than others by those who are dealing with poor mental health.

These substances are alcohol, opioids, marijuana, and cocaine.

Signs of substance abuse

If you suspect someone you love might be struggling with a substance use disorder, here are some of the most common warning signs to watch out for.

  • Extreme mood swings
  • Sleeping too much or not at all
  • Losing interest in people or activities that were important to them
  • Lacking overall motivation, energy, and drive to do much
  • Developing a habit of lying or becoming evasive
  • Uncharacteristic attitude or appearance changes
  • Decline in work or school performance
  • Relationship problems
  • Self-harming behaviors

When left untreated, mental health and substance use can take a dangerous toll on someone’s physical and mental health, one that has the potential to lead to a fatality.

This is why it’s important to seek professional help

Get personal support today

If you or someone you love is struggling with a mental health disorder, substance use disorder, or both, it can be overwhelming to know where to begin — we’re here to help.

Real Recovery offers both traditional and medication-assisted treatment supported programs to help people sustainably rebalance their mental health and both achieve and maintain sobriety 

We believe in the power of evidence-based holistic modalities, which is why we incorporate a wide variety of nature and community-based classes, therapies, and activities. Recovery is hard, likely one of the hardest things you’ll ever do, but it can still be full of countless moments of joy and gratitude.

To learn more about which of our programs might be a good fit, send us a confidential message or call our office today at 855-363-7325.