Mental Illness and Addiction: Which Came First? North Jersey Recovery Center - A woman is comforted by an experienced psychiatrist to determine which dual diagnosis she has, and whether the mental health disorder caused the substance abuse or vice versa

Mental Illness and Addiction: Which Came First?

Mental Health and Addiction

Mental illness, sometimes known as a mental disorder, may be defined as a health condition that changes the way you think, feel, behave, or some combination of all three.

This may, in turn, cause you distress and difficulty in functioning.

Bipolar Disorder, Anxiety Disorder, Schizophrenia, and Depression

The most common types of mental illness include bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and dementia.

Mental illness may range from severe to mild, and the symptoms may be different depending on the illness and the affected person.

Some symptoms could include confusion, excessive fear and worries, low energy, mood swing, extreme anger and hostility, suicidal thinking, and antisocial behavior.

Addiction is a Chronic Compulsion

Addiction is a chronic compulsion to take a substance or behave a certain way.

Addiction is the way your body yearns for a substance or behavior, especially if there is a reward attached to it without fear of the consequences.

When you have an addiction, you will be unable to or find it highly challenging to stay away from the substance or behavior.

Addiction can include a chemical or behavioral addiction.

Chemical addiction is the addiction to substances such as alcohol, opioids, and nicotine. It may be referred to as substance-use disorder.

On the other hand, behavioral addiction is an addiction to compulsive behavior.

Examples of behavior addiction include gambling addiction, shopping addiction, sex addiction, television addiction, and food addiction.


Dual Diagnosis

A dual diagnosis was identified for the first time in the 1980s and is commonly referred to as a co-occurring disorder. 

A dual diagnosis occurs when you have both a mental illness and an addiction to a substance.

People who suffer from substance use disorder, which is the addiction to drugs and alcohol, often suffer a co-occurring mental illness.

It is usually thought to be the cause of the addiction. Though they occur together, this does not imply that one is always the cause of the other; it may be challenging to find out which came first.

A dual diagnosis condition may occur as a result of: 

  1. Mental illness which contributes to a substance use disorder. Substance use may be a way for people with mental illness to deal with the illness to feel better, which may lead to an addiction.
  2. Addiction caused by mental illness. Substance abuse may abnormally change how a person’s brain functions, thereby changing the way the person thinks, feels, or behaves.
  3. Mental illness and substance use disorder occur simultaneously due to common risk factors such as stress, trauma, and genetics.

A dual diagnosis can add to the complexity of treatment and recovery and is prone to relapses instances.

The impact of dual diagnosis on people may be an increased violence, suicidal behavior, antisocial behavior, among others.

Mental Health and Substance Abuse

Mental health is the absence of mental illness.

Your mental health affects how you behave, feel, think, how you interact with others and the environment, and how you handle stress.

Mental health plays an essential role in the overall health of a person.

Substance abuse occurs when you use substances such as drugs and alcohol in a way that is inappropriate and may be harmful to your overall health.

Such practices include taking more than the regular dosage of a drug.

In the case of substance abuse, you may abuse drugs and alcohol to ease stress and to feel good, but you can still exert control on yourself.

Continual substance abuse can and usually leads to substance addiction.

On the other hand, substance addiction is more compulsive, it involves a lack of control over your actions and disregard for the repercussions of taking those harmful substances.

You become dependent on the substance.

Those with mental health issues such as depression and anxiety disorder have a high chance of getting addicted to drugs and alcohol. In turn, substance abuse and addiction can lead to mental illness.

Effects of Mental illness

There are several effects of mental illness on a person. They include:

  1. Alienation: the knowledge that you have a mental illness may lead to stigmatization and isolation by others in society.
  2. Suicide: mental illness may cause sadness and anger as well as suicidal thoughts. A person with mental illness may resort to suicide.

Effects of Addiction

Substance abuse and addiction may have short-term and long-term effects on an individual, and these effects vary depending on the substance a person is addicted to.

They include:

  1. The weakening of the immune system, which would lead to increased risks of contracting illness and infections
  2. Paranoia and hallucination
  3. Heart conditions, such as abnormal heart rates and risk of infection. For example, substances such as cocaine can damage the heart and lead to a heart attack
  4. Lung disease: substances that you inhale and smoke may damage your respiratory system and cause lung failure and disease
  5. Seizures, stroke, and brain damage
  6. Short attention span, problems with memory, and poor decision making.
  7. Loss of self-control and aggressiveness
  8. Mental illness, such as depression and anxiety disorder
  9. Death as a result of an overdose

Treatment for Addiction

Addiction is a chronic disease that has affected the lives of many people.

However, it is not a disease that cannot be cured.

The length of time it takes for various people to get better is different, and it is primarily determined by how long an individual has been addicted.

People often need long-term or repeated care to overcome their addictions and return to their healthy lives. 

The addiction treatment often comprises a combination of group and individual therapy sessions that teach the people in recovery the skills needed to stay sober and return to their healthy lives.


However, behavioral therapy is one of the most common components used during substance abuse rehabilitation.

Alongside therapy and counseling, medication is also used in many addiction treatment protocols.

These medications may be used to help reduce cravings and ease off withdrawal symptoms.

In the case of co-occurring mental or medical health issues, medications are used to treat these problems.

At North Jersey Recovery Center, we offer some of the best treatment types.

Some of these include Inpatient Rehab, Outpatient Rehab, and Evidence-Based treatments, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), that are utilized for both drug and alcohol rehab. 

Highly trained professionals administer these treatments.

Payment Methods and Free Insurance Verification

At North Jersey Recovery Center, we have multiple payment methods that will help you and your loved ones get the quality help you deserve.

We accept most PPO insurance, private pay options, and we also offer payment plans.

At your request, we can contact your insurance provider to make arrangements that will help us serve you better.

Contact North Jersey Recovery Center Today

Our team at North Jersey Recovery Center comprises highly trained professionals who want to see you and your loved ones happy and healthy.

We understand how delicate rehabilitation can be and we have our doors wide open to give you the help you need.

Integrated Treatment North Jersey Recovery Center - A man sits with a professional counselor at a rehab center to determine whether he has a dual diagnosis and requires integrated treatment during an initial assessment

What is Integrated Addiction Treatment?

Integrated treatment refers to the increasingly common practice of a substance abuse provider or recovery team that provides both mental health and substance abuse services at the same time.

This is particularly important because research has shown that mental health crises and substance abuse are closely connected.

One in Four with Mental Illness Have Substance Abuse Issues

One in four individuals with a serious mental illness, including depression and bipolar disorder, have substance abuse issues.

Through integrated treatment, these individuals can find the holistic treatment they deserve, enabling them to experience a happy, substance-free life.

Understanding Integrated Addiction Treatment

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration defined co-occurring disorders as “at least one mental disorder, as well as an alcohol or drug use disorder.”

While mental illness often drives individuals into substance abuse as they struggle to cope with feelings of anxiety, loss, low self-esteem, or suicidal ideation, it is also understood that substance use can result in the development of mental illness.

This occurs because most abused substances, from alcohol to opiates, change brain chemistry.

The result is that users can no longer feel “normal” with the substances, and they may even experience extreme depression, mood swings, violent tendencies, and physical pain during withdrawal.

As a result, nearly anyone who enters a rehabilitation center struggles with a mental illness that either motivated or resulted from substance use.


Effects of Integrated Treatment

Addiction and recovery are more complicated than they are portrayed in popular culture.

And, as we’ve seen, it can be difficult to understand where a mental illness stops and a substance abuse issue begins.

This tangle of emotions, chemical imbalances, environmental factors, and substance use effects can make it difficult for individuals to manage their care.

So, contrary to the notion that a “strong” person can “stop whenever they want,” most individuals struggling with addiction find themselves lost in co-occurring disorders.

Integrated treatment can help untangle these disorders, treating them individually, until a recovering user begins practicing their new, healthy coping skills in the real world.

Another advantage of integrated treatment is that it is flexible and able to incorporate other treatment elements as desired in the clients best interest.

For instance, if one patient finds comfort in prayer, while another appreciates participating in a 12-step program, these techniques can be included in the integrated treatment plan, allowing for flexibility and recognition of their needs.

In light of this focus on individualized care, integrated treatment has been shown to improve the motivation for recovery in those seeking care.

Given the evidence suggesting its effectiveness, it can address a variety of co-occurring substance and mental health issues, so integrated treatment is becoming increasingly easy to find.

Treatment centers like North Jersey Recovery Center can employ these techniques to offer life-changing recovery opportunities, helping patients realize their potential for recovery and succeed in achieving their dream of a drug-free future.

Mental Illness and Integrated Treatment

Integrated treatments are more effective in treating individuals with substance abuse disorders than more traditional forms of therapy.

This is because this integration is better at adapting to the whole person’s needs – responding to their emotional needs, family dynamics, cultural background, mental health issues, and other considerations that will impact their journey.

This is not to say that everyone who enters a rehabilitation center for substance abuse is necessarily suffering from a serious mental health crisis, such as untreated schizophrenia.

However, it is highly likely that some form of struggle or disfunction in their life has compromised their mental health. If left unaddressed, this issue will re-emerge to compromise treatment.

For example, a medical professional suffering from a combination of burnout and PTSD may turn to alcohol as an escape. This has caused conflict within their marriage. This conflict results in further alcohol consumption, as feelings of failure set in.

Even after successful detoxification, this individual may lack the coping skills required to return to their job or communicate their stress and emotional needs to their spouse.

If they return to their position unable to handle additional stress and trauma, further unhappiness and relapse become likely.

However, integrated treatment would provide strategies to understand why the medical professional has come to this point – such as fear of appearing weak, inability to recognize their stress, poor marital communication, or an unhappy work environment.

By better understanding these underlying causes, the clinical team may be able to provide marital counseling, a peer support group, and perhaps insight regarding whether a workplace change is appropriate.

Integrated treatment can also be effective at addressing underlying issues of shame or low self-worth.

These feelings can drive high-risk behavior like alcohol abuse but can also result from self-directed anger and beliefs that addiction means weakness.

But, combined with medical detoxification and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, it becomes increasingly likely that the individual will be able to remain sober by recognizing and managing emotional triggers, letting go of self-directed anger, and focusing on the life they want for themselves and their family.

Thus, integrated treatment helps to create a new healthy lifestyle by addressing needs in different areas of your life.

In addition to addressing co-occurring mental health issues, a treatment program designed to provide lasting healing must include a “big picture” understanding of your life, as well as practical strategies to foster healing in all possible areas.


Payment Options

Do you want treatment but are worried about how you can pay for it?

We have a team of financial professionals who provide insurance verification.

We will work with you to determine how to move forward with the treatment in a way that works for you and your financial situation.

Get Help at North Jersey Recovery Center

We know that substance abuse and mental health issues go hand-in-hand.

No two addiction experiences are the same, and North Jersey Recovery Center creates customized resources to help you find lasting freedom from addiction.

Call North Jersey Recovery Center today at 877-786-0572 to schedule an appointment and let us share your journey.

Dual Diagnosis

Dual Diagnosis: The Most Common Co-Occurring Disorders

Dual diagnosis refers to the formal diagnosis of simultaneous mental health and substance use disorders. Professionals also refer to this condition as comorbidity, co-occurrence, or co-occurring disorders. Either illness can develop first, but drug and alcohol use can exacerbate symptoms of mental health issues. Treating both disorders together is crucial for lasting recovery. So reach out to North Jersey Recovery Center for guidance today.

Mental Illnesses Widely Seen with Addiction

Psychiatric illnesses rarely manifest in isolation. Further, it is quite common for a person to experience more than one mental health condition in addition to a substance use disorder. People with mental illness may also struggle with addiction to more than one substance. 

Possible combinations of these disorders are innumerable, but some appear more often than others. Common mental health disorders often found co-occurring with addiction include:

Depression and Cocaine Addiction

About 10% of the US population struggles with major depression, and at least one-third of them misuse substances such as cocaine. The most common types of depression are:

  • Major depression – extreme sadness, lethargy, and irritability lasting more than two weeks.
  • Atypical depression – chronic depression that may be temporarily alleviated by good news but quickly reverts to a severely “low” state.
  • Dysthymia – a persistent “gloomy mood” lasting more than a year that can lead to major depression.
  • Seasonal affective disorder – mood changes, anxiety, and sleep problems associated with seasonal changes.

Cocaine is an extremely addictive stimulant, spiking production of the “reward” neurotransmitter dopamine to induce temporary euphoria. This artificial stimulation makes the brain produce less dopamine and alters brain chemistry, causing users to develop a tolerance and craving for more to feel normal. Cocaine use can also impair the function of brain cells by up to 20%, which may be irreversible.

Cocaine abuse and withdrawal can lead to more severe depression and fuel a cycle of increased cocaine use in an attempt to feel better. Researchers are unsure of which comes first, but these conditions clearly intensify each other. Treatment usually involves medication with antidepressants and must be carefully supervised by a physician.

Attention-Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) and Alcohol Abuse

ADHD is characterized by hyperactivity and chronic inattention. The disorder may result from a smaller or less-active frontal lobe of the brain. This region of the brain is responsible for thinking, attention, memory, organization, and problem-solving. People with ADHD also have lower levels of dopamine in their brains than people who don’t have ADHD, so they might use alcohol to make up the deficit.

Alcohol is a depressant that many ADHD sufferers use to calm down, but it often exerts the opposite effect. This substance affects the brain’s frontal lobe, too, impeding clear thinking. Thus, when a person with ADHD is impaired by alcohol consumption, they are prone to wild, uncontrollable emotions and behaviors. 

About 1 in 4 adults who seek treatment for addiction also have ADHD. Some of them have used alcohol or drugs to self-medicate. However, ADHD symptoms can arise subsequent to the onset of alcoholism. Our team of caring therapists and counselors at North Jersey Recovery Center can help you determine which illness came first and pursue healthy coping skills for long-term sobriety.

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Opioid Addiction

PTSD is a severe anxiety disorder brought on by trauma such as sexual abuse, military combat, catastrophe, or accident. Most people who experience sudden, shocking or frightening events develop short-term symptoms, but PTSD lasts more than a month and becomes debilitating with recurrent flashbacks, scary thoughts or dreams, and being easily startled. People with PTSD often battle depression or other anxiety disorders along with substance abuse.

Studies link PTSD with opioid use and chronic pain conditions. Some researchers believe that PTSD patients may have lower pain thresholds and endogenous opioid levels due to a disruption in the endogenous opioid system. Other experts posit that pain and PTSD could influence each other, aggravating the symptoms of each other.

PTSD patients have higher rates of opioid prescriptions. This exposure to opioid analgesics increases the risk of developing an addiction. Easy access presents temptations for diversion and misuse, and the proliferation of cheaper illicit opioids make these drugs difficult to resist. Mounting evidence associates opioid abusers with high rates of PTSD; people diagnosed with this illness are three times more likely to suffer from opioid use disorder.

Bipolar Disorder and Alcohol

People with bipolar disorder typically experience a mixture of manic and depressive episodes. They often feel out of control of their lives and turn to alcohol to escape their uneasiness. Individuals who were mentally stable before addiction can develop this condition as excessive alcohol or drug abuse changes the brain reward system and other parts of the brain that regulate mood and behavior.

Research suggests that people with bipolar disorder are up to seven times more likely to have an addiction. Almost half of individuals with bipolar disorder also misuse alcohol. This inadvertently intensifies the symptoms of bipolar disorder. Alcohol makes manic episodes more severe, which feels pleasurable to many people with this illness. It can also induce a seductively sedative effect.

Schizophrenia and Marijuana Addiction

Marijuana abuse is common in individuals with schizophrenia. This drug appears to produce many symptoms similar to a schizophrenic episode. Studies indicate that people who smoke high-potency marijuana daily are at five times the risk of developing psychosis as people who have never smoked. Those with pre-existing genetic or other vulnerabilities are even more susceptible to psychiatric illness connected with marijuana use.

Researchers have discovered that individuals who use marijuana and carry a variant of a gene that affects dopamine signaling are at a greater risk of developing schizophrenia. Marijuana use also worsens psychotic symptoms in those who already have the mental disease. The age at first use and the amount consumed affect the onset or progression of schizophrenia as well. 

Eating Disorders and Appetite Suppressants

About 24 million people suffer from an eating disorder such as anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating disorder. About 64% of them misuse over-the-counter and prescription weight loss pills. Many people do not think that appetite suppressants are addictive. However, these substances are widely abused for their hunger-reducing and fat-burning properties. People with food-related mental illness also frequently abuse laxatives, diuretics, emetics, amphetamines, cocaine, and heroin.

Certain personality traits such as perfectionism and impulsiveness have been linked to both eating and substance use disorders. Disordered eating may develop as a symptom of depression or another mental illness as well. Eating issues and addiction share common risk factors such as low self-image, family history, social pressures, and brain chemistry disruptions.

The Prevalence of Dual Diagnosis 

Since the 1980s, multiple studies have documented the prevalence of co-occurring disorders. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported that over 9 million Americans aged 18 and older struggled with concurrent mental and substance use disorders in 2018. In that year, substance use was more widespread among individuals who experienced mental health issues such as mood, anxiety, or social disorders. 

Unfortunately, less than half of these people received treatment of any kind. Only about 7% were able to access treatment for both concurrent conditions. Untreated, a person with dual diagnosis is especially vulnerable to serious consequences such as:

  • Aggression
  • Increase risky sexual activity
  • Low quality of self-care
  • Physical health problems
  • Suicide

Addiction Is a Mental Illness, Too

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, addiction is a mental illness in itself. Substance use disorder is a complex disease marked by behaviors that arise from drug-induced alterations in brain structure and function, such as compulsive craving and using despite the consequences. These changes happen in some of the same areas of the brain that are impacted by psychiatric conditions such as anxiety or depression.

Diagnosis and treatment for co-occurrence can be complicated because it is difficult to assess the overlapping symptoms of addiction and mental illness. Nevertheless, it is essential, as failure to treat both conditions places a person at a greater risk of relapse.

Gender May Play a Role

Research suggests that gender is a factor in some patterns of co-occurrences. For instance, males tend to struggle with antisocial personality disorder along with drug dependence and misuse substances more than females. On the other hand, females experience mood and anxiety disorders more, putting them at a higher risk of developing an addiction.

Why Does Addiction Often Accompany Other Mental Illnesses?

In many instances, people resort to alcohol and/or drugs to cope with symptoms of mental illness. For instance, someone struggling with depression turns to illicit drug use to suppress their emotional turmoil. Another person with anxiety may try an opiate as a sedative, and they may quickly develop a dependence on the drug.

In other cases, an individual develops mental health problems as a result of substance use. Since drugs alter brain chemistry and function, so a person could begin struggling with depression as their body increasingly craves alcohol or a drug. Since addiction and many mental health disorders present similar symptoms, an addict could be unaware of a concurrent psychiatric condition.

Why Is Dual Diagnosis Treatment Important?

Mental disorders can largely affect how a person receives addiction treatment. Also, many people who have co-occurrences tend to deny or downplay their substance use. Sequential treatment, attempting to address one issue at a time, is often ineffective for long-term sobriety. For example, if a person receives treatment for heroin addiction but doesn’t get treatment for an underlying anxiety disorder, they might turn back to heroin when they feel anxious again.

Dual diagnoses call for integrated care to get to the root of both conditions and work through them. However, finding help that addresses comorbidities can be a challenge because few rehab facilities have established dual diagnosis treatment programs. At North Jersey Recovery Center, you can be assured that you’ll get a customized treatment plan to help you achieve sobriety and mental wholeness.

Treatment for Dual Diagnosis in New Jersey

Mental health disorders, including addiction, are complex diseases requiring comprehensive treatment. Since the illnesses often trigger one another in an individual, just dealing with one allows the other to fester and make it harder for a person to stay mentally stable and clean. The most effective rehab programs address the patients’ medical, nutritional, and psychological needs to increase the chances of a more complete recovery.

Inpatient Treatment

If you or your loved one is battling addiction and mental illness, please ask us about inpatient care at North Jersey Recovery Center. Attempting to wean yourself from drugs or alcohol without professional help can be extremely dangerous, even fatal. You may need to undergo detox under medical supervision. We monitor you and provide the care necessary for safe withdrawal.

At North Jersey Recovery Center, we provide a secure facility that removes you from the normal triggers and temptations you wrestle that drag you into deeper mental anguish and substance use. In our structured environment, you participate in intensive substance abuse education. You will learn valuable coping and relationship skills that will benefit you for the rest of your life.

As we create your custom recovery plan, we include a variety of individual and group therapies. We offer psychiatric sessions, family counseling, vocational training, and self-care lessons as well. Along with therapy, your treatment professional may prescribe medications to manage your mental health issue. These might include antidepressants, antipsychotics, or anxiolytics.

Questions to Ask Your Treatment Provider

The care a person receives at an addiction rehabilitation center has an enormous influence on recovery and lasting sobriety. Finding a reputable, capable provider is essential, yet many people don’t know what to look for in a treatment facility. In your search, ask a potential provider these questions to ensure that you or your loved one gets the services they need:

  • Does the facility have experience with dual diagnosis?
  • Does the facility provide detox?
  • What types of treatment modalities are available, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy or medication-assisted treatment?
  • Does the facility create individualized plans?
  • What is the staff-to-patient ratio?
  • What are the staff credentials?
  • Who supervises the therapists and workers?
  • How many individual and group therapy sessions will there be?
  • Will the facility accept my insurance?
  • Would there be any additional costs not covered by my insurance plan?
  • How does a person transition after completing treatment?
  • How are families involved in treatment?
  • What support is there for families?
  • Does the facility have empirical data showing the program’s effectiveness?

Get Help for Dual Diagnosis in New Jersey

All too often, people seeking help with concurrent mental illness and addiction have been advised to complete an addiction rehab program before going into a separate mental health facility. However, research increasingly supports implementing a simultaneous, coordinated effort for both conditions to improve adherence to treatment. At North Jersey Recovery Center, we tailor our innovative addiction recovery programs to address your dual diagnosis and facilitate healing.

A one-size-fits-all program simply won’t work for someone with a dual diagnosis. Your story is your own, and your recovery process should be as well. We at North Jersey Recovery Center would be honored to help you write a new chapter of victory and freedom for your life.

The types, lengths, and severity of mental illness and addictions differ with every person facing these issues, so effective rehabilitation must account for all these factors. Contact us to learn more.