Both mental health disorders and addiction are vulnerable conditions, placing pressure on and causing adaptations to the brain, internal system, outlooks, and behaviours. While they are independent diagnoses, with specific signs and symptoms, impacts and necessary treatment routes, they can also amount to co-occurring disorders, causing corresponding effects.

Depression, anxiety, personality disorders and compulsive behaviours all fall under mental health concerns, caused and fuelled by a multitude of internal and external influences. While symptoms, impacts and actions may vary, such influences can also motivate addictive behaviours, showing the similarities and basis of a dual diagnosis.

Found to affect 50% of individuals with mental health symptoms, where drugs and/or alcohol are consumed to the degree of an addiction diagnosis, dual diagnosis is a prevalent effect, requiring specific intervention.

Here’s some insight into mental health and addiction – understanding the relationship, following with advice and direction surrounding the treatment of dual diagnosis. At Addiction Advocates, we can point you in the right direction to experience both addiction and mental health treatment.


There is a complex, layered relationship between both poor mental health and addiction. Many will question what comes first, between both conditions. However, they are co-occurring, where either can influence the onset of the other when a vulnerability is present.

For example, people who suffer from mental health symptoms, such as depression, are found to lean on drugs and/or alcohol as a relief and coping strategy. Due to the positive reinforcement of such addictive substances, and down to the positive emotional responses, helping to cloud mental struggles, a routine of consumption can amount. By making this connection, an addiction can develop, influenced by initial mental health vulnerabilities.

Such influence can also be found through existing addiction, where both the direct effects of substance abuse and the consequences of its presence can deter mental health. Suppressing the central nervous system, adapting transmissions, and changing responses, drugs and alcohol will offer increased levels of dopamine and serotonin while reducing organic production. Through this, ongoing consumption will be required to block out the negative feelings, thoughts and lows linked to drug withdrawal. An addiction can be mentally exhausting, which increases the risk of mental health vulnerabilities, due to the emotional exposure that is found.

Ultimately, at the initial port of call, leaning on addictive substances can reflect a positive action. Escapism, a false sense of recovery, and balance can be expected. Yet, mental health and addiction – understanding the relationship showcase how those positives can soon turn negative, amounting to a dual diagnosis.

Both conditions reside in the brain, which results in adaptations to its structure, messaging, and chemicals. Through co-occurring disorders, greater fuel to the cycle of dual diagnosis is found, making it very difficult to break away from habitual behaviours and thoughts.


Dangers of co-occurring disorders

Co-occurring disorders can be extremely tough and dangerous to live with. Independently, mental health struggles can be exhausting to digest. Addiction can also be just as challenging to manage, both known to reduce the quality of life.

Alongside such a reduction, there are common concerns of dual diagnosis on physical and psychological health, due to the weight on both poor mental health and addiction symptoms.

A dual diagnosis is even harder to break than independent conditions, as motivations and reinforcers are entwined. Greater concern for ingrained mental health weaknesses and life-long changes to the brain are found, along with the internal damages of drug and alcohol exposure.

Abusing drugs and alcohol as an escape from mental health struggles, or ignoring symptoms of depression, anxiety and further compulsive behaviours through consumption should both be avoided. Overcoming the dangers of a dual diagnosis will be possible by recognising potential signs and symptoms while experiencing suitable treatment for both conditions. Mental health and addiction – understanding the relationship will be important for future quality of life.


Recognising dual diagnosis

Separately recognising poor mental health or addiction will be possible, as symptoms are commonly clearly linked to physical changes, psychological outlooks, and social standpoints. However, due to the relationship between mental health and addiction, standing as a complex dual diagnosis, clearly recognising such development can be tough.

Common signs and symptoms of a dual diagnosis do however include:

  • The use of drugs and/or alcohol to manage mental health
  • Mental health symptoms while withdrawing from addictive substances
  • Feeling low through the cycle of addiction
  • Feelings of managing co-occurring disorders
  • The inability to reduce consumption, even throughout consequences of poor mental health
  • Ongoing desires to mask struggled with drugs and alcohol
  • Significant changes to behaviour, personality, outlooks, and actions
  • Withdrawing from everyday life due to the weight of dual diagnosis
  • Hiding away your feelings
  • Psychological symptoms of paranoia, panic, irritability, sleep disorders, anxiety, depression, compulsion, obsession
  • Physical symptoms linked to drug and alcohol abuse


Experiencing a mixture of symptoms, linked to both poor mental health and addiction may result in a dual diagnosis. Sourcing professional support will be recommended to gauge the severity of your relationship.


Dual diagnosis treatment

Depending on personal experiences and the contents of a dual diagnosis, specific treatment options will be recommended. Dual diagnosis treatment will work simultaneously, while individually targeting personal symptoms and motivators of conditions.

Addiction is commonly treated through detoxification, therapy sessions, motivational therapy, and exposure therapy, to understand and disconnect from addictive, habitual behaviours. Mental health conditions are usually treated through a range of therapies that focus on mental clarity and restoration. Such efforts combined together with dual diagnosis treatment can help to deter the relationship safely and sustainably between poor mental health and addiction.

We at Addiction Advocates can help you access high-quality treatments to work through this complex relationship, catered to your personal needs. Completing a comprehensive programme of suitable treatment will be worthwhile, helping to reduce the dangers and progressiveness of a dual diagnosis.

Contact our team for more information on mental health and addiction – understanding the relationship, to gauge your feelings, coping strategies and outlooks on this connection.

Both conditions are emotionally linked to the positive reinforcement system and the central nervous system, making them co-occur. Deter their strength by opting for specialist treatment for a dual diagnosis.



Dual Diagnosis: Substance Abuse and Mental Health


  • [1] affect 50% of individuals with mental health symptoms -