Many people ask me if addiction issues can influence other psychological issues, such as anxiety or depression. And my answer is still yes, without a doubt.
There are strong correlations between addictive substance use and all types of psychological problems, and there is a two-way direction: Addictions increase the likelihood of developing other psychological problems, and almost all psychological problems increase the likelihood of developing addictive behavior problems.
What is dual pathology?
The dual pathology is the simultaneous existence of an addictive behavior disorder and other psychological disorders. Each case is different, but there are generally two different scenarios:
- The person already suffers from a psychological problem (anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, etc.) and ends up resorting to drug use as a means of self-medication and symptom compensation. There comes a time when the person feels unable to cope with certain situations without taking drugs.
- The person develops an addiction problem, and eventually develops other problems as a direct result of their addiction. Aggression, loss of control, marital and family problems, loss of interest in the things that used to make you happy…
Not all people with anxiety or depression develop addiction problems, just as not all people with addictive behavior problems develop other psychological problems. Each case is different and depends on many factorsthe person’s background, genetics, lifestyle, support network, etc.
Anxiety and drug use
When we experience difficult situations that we perceive as dangerous or threatening, we look for ways to feel better in the short term. Most of the time, anxiety problems are the result of some people’s “fixing attempts”. For example, avoidance behaviors, moving away from what makes us feel bad, or looking for ways to feel less.
Well, that’s exactly what happens when anxious people use drugs like alcohol or marijuana. They seek to temporarily disconnect from their worries and the suffering of everyday life.
There comes a time when drug use becomes a habit, and the person develops a tolerance to the effects of the drugs they were using. So, to make the anxiety disappear as quickly as before, you need to consume larger doses. This accelerates the development of your addiction.
This is why alcohol is the most abused drug in the world, because millions of people have become accustomed to using it in all kinds of situations, without realizing that they are gradually progressing through the different phases of life. ‘alcoholism. Some studies confirm that about a fifth of people who drink alcohol eventually develop addiction problems at some point in their lives. This is why it is crucial to understand how addictions and anxiety issues interact.
Depression and drug use
Something very similar to the previous case occurs. People with depression are more likely to use certain medications, which they help them forget feelings of hopelessness, guilt or failureor simply feel more energetic on a daily basis.
I have worked with many patients who presented with depressive symptoms and addiction to cocaine (or other drugs). They used frequent cocaine use to feel the energy and confidence they weren’t able to feel on a day-to-day basis.
This also explains the great psychological dependence on drugs (in addition to physical dependence). When the person tries to stop using, in addition to experiencing the physical withdrawal syndrome, they feel unable to cope with everyday situations without the effects of the drug. Regular drug use is an attempt at self-medication.
How is dual pathology treated?
The most effective treatment for dual pathology is psychotherapy, accompanied by psychotropic drugs in the most severe cases.
in the same way help from a mental health professional and addictions specialistthe person will become aware of their behaviors, how their addictive behaviors interact with their problems of anxiety or depression (or any other psychological problem, such as eating disorders).
Which problem should be dealt with first?
It depends on the case, because each person is a world. Normally, after evaluation of the case, the person and the psychologist will decide together on the therapeutic priorities. Normally, the problem that most limits the person’s daily life or that poses a greater risk to the person’s life will be treated.
Therefore, in most cases, the person’s addiction issues will be worked on, then the anxiety or depression issues will be worked onas part of the global relapse prevention strategy.
How to Overcome Addictions (Even If You Have Anxiety or Depression)
An extremely important aspect of any treatment to overcome addictions is to help the person learn new tools and strategies to deal with difficult situations in everyday life (without the need to use drugs).
Working on the person’s anxiety or depression issues is essential, although these symptoms will be the main triggers for relapses in the person’s daily life. Although the person begins the process with a lot of motivation and good intentions, if they do not work on their other psychological problems, they will sooner or later end up relapsing into substance use.
My name is Luis Miguel Real and I have been working as an addiction psychologist for years. If you have an addiction problem, I can help you.