To say that your mental wellbeing is “important” during continued recovery from a substance addiction is a massive understatement.
It is far more than that; it is critical.
If you are now wondering exactly how critical it is – well, sadly, you only need to look at the U.S. statistics for fatal drug overdoses or the number of alcohol-related deaths during 2021 to see exactly how critical it truly is.
For many people, tragically, it really does become a matter of life or death.
According to the Oxford Dictionary, “wellbeing” can be defined as your:
“General health and happiness; a state of emotional, physical, and psychological well-being.”
Wellbeing, however, should not be confused with “wellness” which, according to the same dictionary, is defined as “the state of being healthy, especially when you actively try to achieve this.”
The Connection Between Mental Health & Addiction
Addiction recovery is not a straightforward disease to diagnose, as it can arise from a range of diverse attributing factors and even be attributable to other medical conditions.
For example, someone with constant and severe pain could become addicted to their prescription opioids.
Alternatively, someone who has experienced a dramatic, traumatic experience in their lives may become addicted to other equally powerful substances that allow them to become totally unattached to their feelings and emotions, such as heroin or methamphetamine.
What is important though is that around half of those diagnosed with a substance use disorder (often abbreviated to SUD) also are diagnosed, at some point, with a mental health disorder ((often abbreviated to MHD), such as major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), or a wide range of anxiety-related disorders.
The co-occurrence of these two disorders – around substance use and mental health – is known medically as “co-occurring disorder” or “dual diagnosis.”
According to Liz Wetmore, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, from Utah: “Addiction and mental health often go hand in hand because using a substance is a way to self-medicate difficult aspects of mental health. It’s common to see participants struggling with depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder. Treatment for these is just as important as addiction treatment.”
Here are a couple more questions you may be wondering about:
What is Mental Health?
Mental health refers to the state of our emotional, psychological and social make-up. It involves our thoughts, feelings and behaviors. These directly influence and so decide our life choices and experiences, how our relationships with others develop, and the way in which we deal with stress.
This is critical because the most powerful potential trigger to suffering a relapse is stress, and how we react to it – particularly whether it makes us anxious, or makes us depressed because we feel overwhelmed.
How Can I Actively Improve My Mental Health?
There are a number of ways we can improve our mental health on a daily basis, and anyone in addiction recovery should follow this advice to the letter. These are:
- Maintaining a Healthy Lifestyle: This involves getting enough sleep and establishing a good routine for sleeping (it is advised to get at least 7-8 hours of sleep each night), a healthy and nutritious diet, and regular cardiovascular exercise.
- Taking Medications (as Prescribed) & Attending Regular Doctor Checkups: Any medication that has been prescribed for your SUD and any other medical condition needs to be taken exactly as directed. Additionally, seeing your doctor regularly can ensure your state of health is on track.
- Staying Connected to Yourself, Your Family & Friends, & Your Support: You need to prioritize the relationships you have with the important people in your life – including YOU.
One of the ways you can ensure your mental health is in good shape for your continued recovery is to use the services of a professional recovery coach.
Mental Health, Substance Use & “Self-Medication”
The two most common mental health illnesses in the U.S. are, undoubtedly, depression and anxiety. The recent coronavirus pandemic highlighted the ways in which the state of our mental health can be seriously undermined by constant worry and stress.
It’s also no surprise to learn that alcohol sales during 2020 and the first half of 2021 in the U.S. literally went through the roof, as more and more people began to drink more to control their feelings and emotions. This is known as “self-medication.”
Self-medication is believed to be the most common reason people begin to use (and later abuse) substances, like drugs and alcohol, and so end up becoming addicted to these powerful, mood-altering and highly addictive chemical mixtures.
And why do so many people continue to self-medicate? Because of an undiagnosed mental health disorder or other mental illness. People with mental health issues who are trying to feel normal and exercise some control over their conditions will often turn to addictive substances – again and again.
This is the reason why it can be so difficult to break the endless cycle of substance use and poor mental health.
Let’s return to the question in our title – “How Important is Your Mental Wellbeing During Addiction Recovery?”
As you can see, it is clearly critical.
Mental health issues during recovery from substance addiction often leads to an attempt to self-medicate, and then to a relapse – a return to previous levels of substance use and abuse.
Looking after your mental health during recovery is clearly the possible difference between success and failure.
Whatever you do, stay safe.