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How to Differentiate Signs of Addiction and Mental Health Disorders

A mother trying to talk to her adult daughter about her destructive behaviors.
Symptoms from addiction can sometimes look similar to mental health disorders. Find out how to tell the difference.

You know your spouse, child or parent better than the average person. After all, you’re familiar with their mannerisms, passions, work ethic and temperament. This knowledge makes it easy for you to tell something is wrong when your loved one’s behaviors or mood changes drastically.

The question is, what?

Unless you’ve caught your loved one in the act of getting high or know of a specific mental illness in your family history, it’s not always easy to tell if your loved one is struggling with an addiction or mental health disorder (or both). That’s why we’re here to help you differentiate between the two and identify the type of treatment your loved one needs.

Top Signs of Alcohol or Drug Addiction

Addiction can come in many different forms, ranging from alcohol abuse to addiction to stimulants like methamphetamines. This means that your loved one’s symptoms may vary depending on the substance they’re addicted to.

In general, though, common signs of a substance use disorder include physical, behavioral and emotional symptoms:

Physical Symptoms – If your loved one is struggling with an addiction, they’ll most likely exhibit physical symptoms like dilated pupils or red eyes, pale skin, weight loss not attributed to another illness, and sniffing or other cold-like symptoms that can’t be attributed to a cold.

Behavioral Symptoms – Behavioral changes that come with substance abuse typically include isolation and secrecy, financial struggles, missing work, school and important events, and sleep pattern disruptions.

Emotional Symptoms – Substance abuse usually triggers emotional symptoms like irritability, aggression, complete loss of interest in activities your loved one used to enjoy, diversion and impulsivity.

If you’re trying to determine if your loved one is abusing alcohol or drugs, ask yourself the following questions:

1. Has my loved one lost a noticeable amount of weight that can’t be attributed to another illness or disease?
2. Does my loved one look sick and/or frail?
3. Have I noticed increased beer or wine bottles around the house recently?
4. Is my loved one struggling at work/school or coming to me more often for money?
5. Is my loved one being impulsive and always in sour or aggressive moods?

Top Signs of a Mental Health Disorder

Similar to addiction, there are countless mental health disorders your loved one could be struggling with and they all come with their own specific symptoms. However, there are some general signs that may indicate your loved one is struggling with a mental illness like depression or anxiety:

  • Increased sadness or depressed mood
  • Trouble concentrating and being productive at work or school
  • A lack of energy to take part in activities they enjoy
  • Ignoring or avoiding responsibilities and chores at home
  • Extreme mood changes and irritability
  • Shifts in sleeping habits, eating habits and sex drive
  • Suicidal thoughts or actions

To help you better determine if your loved one is struggling with their mental health, ask yourself the following questions:

1. Has my loved one been very low energy lately?
2. Has my loved one been struggling at work or school?
3. Have I noticed unexplainable mood swings in my loved one?
4. Is my loved one struggling to sleep and eat properly?
5. Has my loved one made any comments about suicide?

Symptom Overlap and Dual Diagnosis Disorders

As you’re reviewing the above symptoms and questions, you may notice plenty of overlap. For example, both addiction and mental illness can trigger severe mood swings and irritability. Both can also lead to disrupted sleep patterns and malnutrition. And what’s more, substance abuse can actually be a symptom of a mental health disorder, too.

In fact, addiction and mental health disorders oftentimes occur together. This is what is known as a co-occurring, or dual diagnosis disorder.

In many cases, a mental health disorder may be lurking under the surface and trigger alcohol or drug abuse. And in other cases, a severe enough addiction can lead to a mental illness that then results in a vicious cycle of mental health symptoms and substance abuse.

If your loved one has exhibited some or many of the symptoms for addiction and mental health disorders, a credible treatment center like The Raleigh House can help you further identify what your loved one is struggling with and recommend next steps.

Recovery from Addiction and Mental Health Disorders is Possible at The Raleigh House

We know all you want is to have your spouse, child or parent back the way they were. At The Raleigh House, we can help make that happen. We have over 10 years of experience providing effective, evidence-based addiction and mental health treatment to clients just like your loved one.

When you call our admissions team, we’ll ask you discovery questions to help you better determine what your loved one is struggling with. If deemed appropriate for admission, our team will conduct a personalized assessment with your loved one to learn what addiction and mental health conditions they’re suffering from. We’ll then get them into a treatment program personalized to their needs and designed to help them achieve lasting recovery.

If we determine that your loved one is only suffering from a mental health disorder and not an addiction, we will talk with you about our outpatient mental health treatment and decide if that program is right for your loved one’s needs.

Contact our admissions team today to learn more about our dual diagnosis treatment approach and find out how to get your loved one started.

Call Now: 720-891-4657

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