How Drug Use Causes Misdiagnosed Mental Illness

undiagnosed mental illness

If your doctor or therapist has diagnosed you with a mental illness such as depression or bipolar disorder, you may wonder about your next steps for getting healthy. However, if you also abuse alcohol or drugs, you might struggle to get an accurate diagnosis of your condition because these substances’ effects can mimic some of the symptoms of mental health disorders. 

Untreated mental illness often compounds the dangers of addiction, and vice versa. If you are one of the millions of American adults struggling with a dual diagnosis, you may wish to seek a second or even third opinion on your condition so you can start pursuing treatment options.

Do You Have a Dual Diagnosis?

Substance use disorders often evolve when people struggling with emotional turmoil turn to substance abuse to find short-lived relief from their symptoms. However, they could be unwittingly exacerbating their mental illness. Drug use causes various changes in the brain’s reward system, leading to compulsive, erratic behavior. After long-term drug abuse, you may no longer feel “normal” when you’re sober. Additionally, you might feel anxious or irritable when you run out of drugs and don’t know when you will get more.

Some drugs also make it more likely that their users will develop a mental illness. Because many drugs have dangerous and unpredictable side effects, it’s possible for someone to experience mental health problems such as psychosis after drug use, even if the drug has never been problematic for them before. As a result of drug abuse, some people with no history of mental health issues can also develop depression or bipolar disorder symptoms that were previously nonexistent.

Depression and Substance Abuse

For many women, drug use side effects can worsen or imitate depression symptoms. In some cases, the two conditions become so intertwined that it’s nearly impossible to determine which came first, or to separate one disorder from another. While drugs can cause a brief respite from depression, a drug dependency will make you feel sicker as you experience more isolation, sadness and hopelessness.  

Bipolar Disorder and Addiction

People with bipolar disorder alternate between extreme highs and lows. These episodes can last days or weeks at a time. Though we don’t fully understand the root causes of bipolar disorder, it may have genetic and environmental influences. For many people, this condition has severe ramifications that make it challenging for them to maintain relationships, focus on tasks and think rationally.

The symptoms of mania and depression share many characteristics with drug abuse and addiction, making bipolar disorder more challenging to diagnose and treat, even in a professional setting. For example, someone going through a manic episode can look and act like a cocaine user in terms of talkativeness and hyperactivity. On the other hand, a major depressive episode can mirror many withdrawal symptoms.

Women’s-Only Rehab in Arizona

Drug use and mental illness go hand in hand, and addressing them simultaneously through dual-diagnosis treatment is essential for improving outcomes. If you suspect you have an undiagnosed or misdiagnosed mental health condition and are also struggling with substance abuse, we encourage you to reach out for help. Canyon Crossing is a gender-specific drug and alcohol rehab community offering long-term care, transitional living and outpatient treatment in Prescott, Arizona.   

Benefits of Residential AddictionTreatment

You cannot heal in the same environment that made you sick. This is the philosophy behind our residential addiction treatment program. At Canyon Crossing, women learn to live life on life’s terms while staying in a safe, substance-free setting. This gives our clients the space and peace needed for lasting recovery.
Our residential program combines high-accountability sober living arrangements with first-rate clinical care. While staying in our homes, clients participate in process groups, one-on-one counseling sessions, and hands-on learning opportunities. They also receive ongoing training; in these meetings, life skills like financial management and conflict resolution are imparted. All of this happens with 24/7 encouragement, guidance, and supervision from our clinical team.
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