Updated on 2/8/2023

Addiction can be caused by various factors, ranging from external circumstances to internal psychological ones. This disorder does not discriminate and can affect anyone from any background. Therefore, it is crucial to take a more in-depth look into the causes of addiction to understand if you or your loved ones are at risk. One such factor that needs to be examined is the psychology behind addiction. Understanding the role of emotional distress, including mental health disorders and trauma, can help you better understand addiction’s deeper roots and what your treatment options are. 

The Role of Emotional Distress in Substance Use Disorder (SUD)

Many people believe that addiction is solely a physical disease that must be healed through learning how to stay sober and avoiding relapse triggers. However, emotional distress plays a significant role in causing addiction. Individuals that go through a distressing or traumatic experience may turn to drugs and alcohol as a means of escape and cope with their negative emotions surrounding the event. If you have struggled or are currently struggling with depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), bipolar disorder, schizophrenia or other common mental health disorders, you could be at risk of developing an addiction. While this does not mean you are guaranteed to develop one, it is essential to understand the risk involved to ensure you protect yourself and your wellbeing.

Which Comes First, a Mental Health Disorder or SUD?

Because co-occurring disorders are common regarding addiction, the reasoning and specific details can be complicated. For example, many individuals often ask if their mental health disorder caused their addiction or if it was the other way around. The truth is that it may be a little bit of both. Many individuals with mental health disorders often turn to drugs and alcohol to self-medicate, which can eventually develop into an addiction. However, some individuals that have used drugs and alcohol for an extended time and have developed an addiction occasionally experience one or more symptoms of mental health disorders. For example, those that smoke marijuana frequently are at a higher risk of psychosis.

The Role of Trauma

Traumatic events have a significant impact on your life that can change your perception of the world, yourself and your relationships with others. Trauma has been linked to substance abuse and dependence due to individuals developing PTSD and using drugs and alcohol as a means to cope. This cycle often results in a co-occurring disorder that negatively affects the person’s life. 

Multiple types of trauma can impact a person’s life, such as sexual or physical assault, domestic violence, abuse, neglect, natural disasters, car accidents, ongoing bullying, terminal illness and more. You will often find that those who experienced trauma during childhood are more likely to develop a substance use disorder (SUD) due to PTSD and attempts to self-medicate. Left untreated, this can cause the individual to descend into a downward spiral. 

Treating Psychological Factors of Addiction

Because psychological factors play a significant role in addiction development, treatment facilities must have a treatment program for co-occurring disorders. These occur commonly, with most individuals struggling with addiction and coping with a mental health disorder. Luckily, there are numerous treatment options available to heal the pain and give you hope for the future. 

Simultaneous Treatment

Co-occurring disorders must be treated simultaneously. If only some issues regarding the addiction are addressed while others are not, the person has a higher risk of relapsing. Treating both disorders simultaneously helps manage the symptoms of a mental health disorder without the use of drugs or alcohol worsening them. It is essential to heal all aspects of one’s addiction, including the psychological factors that could have helped cause it.

Specific Treatment Options

Many facilities that treat co-occurring disorders will have several therapies, support groups and more to help you heal the underlying causes of addiction. First, you need to expel the substances from your body, which means you will start with medical detox. Once you have successfully gone through the withdrawal process, you will begin engaging in the various therapies and groups. These may involve cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), motivational interviewing, group therapy, family therapy and more. You may also take part in experiential therapies to learn real-life skills in a simulated situation that can translate to your problems with addiction. It is crucial to ensure that the facility you choose offers personalized treatment programs, as this will help address your specific needs rather than looking at you as a number.

At Pinelands, we treat the whole person, meaning we see you and your brilliance rather than who you were in addiction. Patients in our care receive highly personalized attention and regularly tell us that they felt loved and nurtured by every staff member, from the treatment and housekeeping teams to the dining staff and all other members of their Pinelands family. You can expect various therapy sessions, social activities, educational opportunities and more at our facility. Call Pinelands today at (877) 557-5372.