How Mental Health Conditions Contribute to Substance Abuse

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports, “Nearly 7.4 million American adults suffer from both a mental health condition and a substance use disorder”. Living with comorbidities means living with co-occurring conditions that can drastically affect one’s quality of life. Many factors contribute to developing a dual diagnosis when someone suffers from a mental health condition and a substance abuse problem simultaneously.

Environmental Factors

Various environmental factors play into the development of mental health conditions, which can, in turn, lead to substance abuse. Stressful life events, like the death of a loved one or divorce, can trigger mental health issues. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, “Chronic, untreated mental illness can lead to poor self-care, isolation, and hopelessness. These feelings may lead to other mental health symptoms and increased drug or alcohol abuse.” The National Alliance on Mental Illness states, “Poverty, trauma, abuse, and social isolation are all risk factors for developing a mental illness.” Poverty can lead to feelings of despair which are common symptoms of depression. Trauma can lead to developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and social isolation can lead to developing anxiety.


One of the most common reasons people with mental health conditions turn to substances is to self-medicate. People with mental health conditions might abuse substances to cope with their symptoms, make themselves feel better, or numb their feelings. Disorders such as Bipolar disorder, Depression, and Anxiety are the most common disorders combined with substance abuse.

Genetic Links

Genetics significantly affects a person’s propensity to develop mental health conditions and substance abuse. Some studies have indicated that people with a history of mental health disorders are more likely to have a family member with a substance use disorder. According to The National Institute of Mental Health, an estimated 60 to 80 percent of people with a mental illness have a family history of the condition. Studies have also shown that children of parents who abuse drugs or alcohol are more likely to develop a substance use disorder. Since these two disorders regularly seem to affect each other, genetic predisposition to mental illness also allows individuals to be at risk of addiction.

Treatment for Dual Diagnoses

There is currently no one-size-fits-all treatment for dual diagnoses, as each situation is unique. Treatment for mental health disorders and substance abuse typically involves a combination of traditional psychiatric treatment, such as medication and therapy. It is vital to seek out treatment as soon as possible to improve one’s chances of recovery. Many treatment programs offer flexible hours, so people with dual diagnoses can attend therapy during regular working hours. The main goal should focus on addressing the underlying causes of these diagnoses. Dual-diagnosis patients should also be encouraged to seek support from family and friends, as these close relationships can benefit the process.


At Welwynn, we provide discreet care to high-level professionals and their families. The fight against addiction and substance abuse frequently coincides with a mental health diagnosis. Get in touch with us today to get the help you and your loved ones deserve.

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