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Although chemical dependency and substance abuse are serious health issues in their own right, they generally stem from an underlying mental health issue, such as depression, anxiety or trauma. Turning to illicit substances as a means to cope with an internal struggle, or self-medicating, is a common cause for addiction and dependency, and mental health issues affect huge amounts of people. More than 1 in 4 American adults are living with both a severe mental health issue and substance use disorder[1]. Unfortunately, many people go without realizing that the negative emotions they’re feeling are part of a more severe problem, so here’s a quick and simple guide to the symptoms of some of the most common mental health issues.

Depression

According to the National Association on Mental Illness (NAMI), 16 Million adults[2] in the United States are dealing with Major Depression. Many people assume that clinical depression only takes the form of feeling sad all the time, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Like many mental health issues, depression can affect people in a wide variety of ways, but a lot of them share several symptoms in common.

If you’ve recently experienced an unexplainable change in your sleeping and eating habits — whether too much or too little — those are often the clearest telltale signs of depression. Add in behavioral and mental aspects such as becoming agitated more quickly, lacking concentration, and not wanting to get out of bed in the morning or engage in daily activities, or isolating yourself from others, you may be dealing with depression, which if not addressed, could lead to more severe issues or even suicide.

Anxiety

There’s a big difference between being anxious about a specific event and dealing with a severe anxiety disorder. It’s perfectly normal to feel a bit nervous before doing something outside of your comfort zone — whether it’s for work, enjoyment, or to improve yourself — but you shouldn’t feel that way all the time. If you find yourself worrying about everyday occurrences like running errands or getting lunch with a friend, you may be suffering from an anxiety disorder. This can particularly come into play when the anxiety becomes crippling enough to deter you from completing standard tasks (or even leaving the house) and interrupts your sleep schedule.

Many of the 40 Million American adults[3] dealing with anxiety disorders turn to anti-anxiety medications such as benzodiazepines when they feel this way, which can very quickly develop into dependence and abuse. One study found that more than 5% of all adults between the ages of 18 and 80 had at least one prescription for Benzodiazepines[4]. Anxiety disorder often stems from cognitive distortions or irrational beliefs and should be addressed with an experienced therapist.

Trauma/PTSD

Trauma, as we wrote about in previous articles such as this one, is not an experience, but rather the way in which you experience an adverse life event. As humans, we encounter adverse life events regularly and can include childhood abuse, divorce, domestic violence, a medical emergency, or even the loss of a loved one. Depending on your resilience, trauma is something that virtually every person will have to deal with on some level in their life. Of course, different levels of trauma can leave individuals more or less shaken depending on their previous experiences, and severe cases of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can last for a lifetime without relenting.

Beyond the symptoms most people associate with trauma and PTSD, such as nightmares and flashbacks to the trauma, some of the more common and less severe signs can be increased agitation and a general emotional disassociation from daily life — or feeling “numb.” Because trauma is stored in our body and parts of our brain that are not consciously accessible, treatment for trauma requires a holistic approach that addresses all of these issues, including Mindfulness-Based EMDR and Somatic Experiencing.

Treatment

As there is no “one-size-fits-all” treatment for mental health issues like these three, seeking appropriate treatment from a facility or professional who addresses the mind, body and spirit can help make drastic steps in the right direction. Even for those who have self-medicated and potentially added a chemical dependency on top of the pre-existing issues, getting professional help from a facility like Roots Through Recovery can assist in addressing not only substance abuse, but also the underlying mental health issues that may have contributed to its development.

References

[1] https://www.mentalhealth.gov/what-to-look-for/mental-health-substance-use-disorders

[2] https://www.nami.org/NAMI/media/NAMI-Media/Infographics/GeneralMHFacts.pdf

[3] https://adaa.org/about-adaa/press-room/facts-statistics

[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25517224

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