The Impact of Oppression on Women’s Mental Health

impact of oppression against women

impact of oppression against women


It’s been over 100 years since women in the United States of America won the right to vote, and physical abuse against women became illegal. 

However, oppression against women is still felt strongly today. From household conversations to government decisions, the impact on mental health runs deep. 

According to national statistics, more than a century later, a third of US women have been victims of physical abuse at the hand of their partners. Meanwhile, a growing number of women are falling victim to disorders such as anxiety, depression, and addiction. 

A growing body of research suggests gender inequality and the systemized oppression of women contribute to disorders such as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress syndrome. It begs the question – are we any closer to dismantling oppression against women and its devastating effects?  


What Does Oppression Against Women Look Like Today? 

Societal sexism is woven into the fabric of our daily lives. We hear it in subtle ways; the way supervisors might speak to women in meetings, how filmmakers portray heroines in movies, and the expectation of mothers versus fathers.  

It also manifests in more obvious ways– pay discrepancies, psychological, sexual, and physical abuse. 

Decades of research show women as the more oppressed, victimized, and marginalized gender in every corner of the world. 

Sadly, mental disorder and addiction statistics increasingly reflect this. 

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), women are:

  • About twice as likely to experience a depressive episode
  • Twice as likely to suffer from generalized anxiety disorder
  • Up to 10 times more likely to have an eating disorder
  • Twice as likely to suffer from a panic disorder 
  • More than twice as likely to develop PTSD.

The facts are stark and confronting. So, how does marginalization lead to these outcomes? 


Five ways oppression against women impacts mental health 

Societal expectations 

The daily pressures placed on women have continued mounting for decades. 

These pressures span workforce, household, and family structures, all upheld and reinforced by patriarchal systems and institutions. This can cause untold stress, which studies have linked to mental disorders such as anxiety and depression. High levels of stress over a prolonged period can contribute to poorer mental health outcomes and increase the risk of a severe mental illness. 


Psychological and physical abuse

While anyone can fall victim to psychological and physical abuse, it is widely considered gendered. According to the World Health Organisation, about 30% of women suffer abuse in their lifetime. From manipulation to severe physical and sexual abuse, its psychological implications can be tragic and long-lasting. Self-medication can become an escape for women who don’t feel safe or empowered to seek support elsewhere. 


Everyday discrimination 

The Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale found that women who feel discriminated against because of their gender have higher depression scores. This supports the idea that perceived discrimination and systemized oppression against women have a powerful impact on mental health. 


Barriers to mental health 

Between the expense of treatment and its stigma, support isn’t always easy to access. In addition, past trauma means some may not be comfortable sharing their experiences around men at support groups. 


Workplace discrimination 

Gender pay inequality has plagued workplaces worldwide, with female-dominated professions more likely to pay less(teaching, nursing, etc.). 

As more women juggle the demands of being the primary caregiver while navigating full-time jobs, the stress can be profound. 


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The Addiction Cycle

The numbers paint a clear picture – psychological distress and addiction often overlap. And it can be deadly. Each year, approximately 200,000 women lose their lives due to misusing substances, according to Psychology Today. Over 4.5 million women are recorded as having a substance abuse disorder. It’s another tragic symptom of oppression against women that goes overlooked. The stigma has led millions of women to suffer in silence.

Here’s how oppression against women leads to addiction:


The brain craves relief from stressful thought patterns 

Women live in a world where they are generally less represented, safe, paid, and, ultimately, valued. From conversations to media – oppression against women is reinforced daily, impacting wellbeing. Self-medication and substance use – whether alcohol or other drugs – offer a dangerous, short-term escape from this reality. 


A lack of trust in the system 

When there is a lack of treatment available, women sometimes opt for self-medication. For example, if someone visits the doctor with declining mental health and her concerns are dismissed, she may not return if her circumstances worsen. A sense of helplessness and a lack of support can begin a pattern of self-medication that can evolve into addiction. 


Accessibility to treatment 

In 2010, a study found that women are far more likely than men to face multiple barriers when seeking treatment. From doctor’s appointments and prescription medication to therapy – it’s something not everyone can afford. Too often, self-medication poses a short-term escape for women struggling with mental health. 


Shame and stigma 

A deep-rooted sense of shame can compel women to be secretive about their substance use and become less likely to seek help. A study found that women feel a more significant stigma about substance abuse, impacting their recovery. While it differs for each person, patriarchal attitudes towards women and their household roles can exacerbate this shame and stigma. For example, a mother may not seek support if she fears being called a bad or careless mother. 


Harming to Healing – What’s the Answer? 

There’s no doubt that support and treatment are vital to those struggling with poor mental health and addiction. With more options now available to meet the growing demand, treatment is becoming more accessible. As the shame surrounding addiction reduces, more people feel comfortable reaching out for support, even if it’s through a friend or family member. 

Our facility provides state-of-the-art care to women struggling with addiction. Our experts use a detailed treatment plan that targets the needs of each individual. If you are a woman that has been abusing drugs or medication, you do not need to suffer any longer. 

Call our Anchored Tides Recovery at 866-600-7709 today to schedule a consultation and start improving the quality of your life. 

Stigmas of Mental Health and Addiction

Mental Health and Addiction

Mental Health and Addiction


The stigmas of mental health and addiction are entirely unwarranted, based on what we know scientifically about both. There was a time when we knew little about mental health disorders or addiction. Due to that lack of knowledge, there was often a misconception that you were weak or lacked morals if you were experiencing these conditions.

Unfortunately, those concepts were also associated with many mental health conditions and addiction. These misconceptions stopped society’s progress in understanding these are diseases. As with other chronic diseases, mental health disorders require evidence-based treatment.

When you learn more about substance use disorder, it can help you break down the stigmas you may personally feel still exist. Breaking down stigmas on an individual level can help you realize it’s okay to seek help. 

If you aren’t personally struggling with addiction or behavior disorders. Still, your loved one is, you can be a more effective support system for them when you learn more about the disease of addiction or a mental illness.


Why Do Stigmas Exist?

Chemical dependency or an addiction to substances is a chronic brain disease. When you have a substance abuse disorder, your brain compels you to seek out and use a substance.

  • From the early 1800s, we know there was a harmful view taken on substance abuse and mental illness, although it likely started well before then. We have more records of how people with these disorders were described in places like medical literature from later periods.
  • For example, by the early 1900s, people with alcohol addictions were described as moral inferiors. Their children were called born criminals, who couldn’t determine right from wrong.
  • In 1914, there was the passage of legislation called the Harrison Anti-Narcotic Act. Addiction was criminalized, as were physicians who worked to treat substance use disorders.
  • Even in more modern times, the stigma of addiction and mental health has been reinforced. For example, in the 1970s the so-called War on Drugs started. There wasn’t a focus on treatment or rehabilitation, nor was addiction viewed as a disease. Instead, the war on drugs led to furthering criminalization of addiction. The results weren’t favorable, with the number of people going to jail for drug-related crimes have gone up enormously in the past few decades.

Recognizing these stigmas exist is one part of moving forward and away from these damaging viewpoints.


The Effects of Drugs and Alcohol on the Brain

When you use drugs or alcohol, dopamine floods your brain. That dopamine hijacks your reward system. Because of the effects on your reward system, you want to continue seeking out the substance that initially made you feel good.  You may know there are negative consequences or that it’s not healthy, but you can’t stop.

  • Your brain adjusts to the use of the substance through the development of tolerance.
  • When your tolerance rises, you need larger doses of the substance to feel the same way.
  • Your brain’s function and structure can be profoundly affected. 
  • You’re also eventually unable to experience pleasure from healthy, everyday activities.

There are decades of research work that demonstrate the reality of substance use. When you’re addicted to drugs or have an alcohol addiction, it’s not because you’re morally weak, lack willpower, or don’t want to stop.

Many people use recreational drugs or alcohol and never become addicted. Most people don’t. When you first use a substance, you don’t think you will develop an addiction. No one does.

Researchers have identified some of the key area’s addiction effects in the brain.

  • Dopamine-containing pathways are the ones we know are most significantly affected.
  • Short-term drug or alcohol use may cause minor effects in the brain.
  • Long-term use causes significant brain changes that reinforce an alcohol or drug habit, like strengthening memory circuits associated with drug-taking. 
  • For years after someone stops taking drugs or alcohol, the brain changes can continue. That continuation is why addiction is a chronic, relapsing disease.

That doesn’t mean you’ll absolutely relapse with drug addiction or alcohol use disorders, but it does mean addiction requires treatment with relapse prevention in mind.


Understanding the Reasons for Stigma

Mental disorders and addiction often go hand-in-hand. These are co-occurring disorders.

People with mental illness are unlikely to get help for their condition, just like people with substance use disorders. Not getting help is very often due to the stigma or discrimination they worry they’ll experience.

There are different types of stigma that can affect you.

  • Public stigma involves other people’s negative attitudes about mental illness or addiction. 
  • Then, there’s self-stigma, which is internalized shame you may feel.
  • Institutional stigma is systemic and may mean you have limited opportunities because of your addiction or mental health issue. For example, there may be fewer treatment options for physical health conditions or less access to treatment. Even health insurance companies reinforce this stigma. Health insurance issuers can make accessing mental health benefits and addiction disorder services harder. 
  • Stigma can affect someone personally dealing with addiction or a mental illness. Stigma can also affect their families and loved ones.
  • Culturally, stigma may be a significant issue too. For example, there’s an even greater stigma about accessing addiction or mental health treatment or seeing mental health counselors in some cultures. There can also be distrust in treatment systems, including mental health & addiction services. 


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The Consequences of Stigma

In mental health and addiction, arguably the most significant consequence of stigma is barriers to substance use treatment. Addiction is a treatable disease. 

With successful treatment programs, you can manage symptoms and start your life in recovery.

You can retain your sense of control and live a self-directed life. Unfortunately, if you’re embarrassed or feel shame about your situation, you’re much less likely to seek help at treatment facilities or a mental health facility. 

  • You may worry about what people think about you, but addiction is a chronic, progressive disease. 
  • A progressive illness worsens over time, and more complications can develop.
  • Other mental health disorders like anxiety and depression can also progress without treatment. This worsening of addiction and mental health disorders can contribute to a behavioral health crisis. 
  • The effects of stigma include low self-esteem, more difficulties at school or work, and a reduced sense of hope.

Stigma can lead to social isolation, bullying or violence, or the belief that you can’t do anything to improve your situation, reinforcing the idea that you shouldn’t get behavioral health care. 


Addiction Treatment

We want to emphasize again that addiction is a disease and a treatable one. However, it’s nearly impossible to overcome a substance use disorder simply by deciding you want to stop. Treatment often includes a combination of therapy and medication.

Treatment and recovery have challenges, but you’ll find it’s worth it.

The opioid crisis has brought to our attention the effects of stigma in addiction services and mental health care more than ever. Tens of thousands of people are needlessly dying annually, in large part due to stigma. 

Our goal is always to reduce these effects. Anchored Tides Recovery helps people with addictions and their loved ones learn more about substance use and overcome it. To learn more about mental health and addiction services, please call 866-600-7709. We can provide you with information about the addiction recovery process for a substance use disorder. 

What are the Different Types of Addiction?

types of addiction

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What we often don’t think about is the fact that along with substance use disorders, there are other types of addiction as well. Addiction is a dysfunction of your brain’s reward system. When you have an addiction, it also affects your memory and motivation.

These adverse effects on your brain function that occur with an addiction can lead your body to crave a behavior or substance.  You may obsessively try and pursue whatever it is you’re addicted to. Even when negative consequences stem from the addiction, you continue anyway. Your addiction is your ultimate priority, above anything else.

Broadly, we can divide the different types of addiction into two categories—chemical and behavioral.

Chemical addiction is the misuse of substances like illicit drugs. Behavioral addictions are those compulsive behaviors that you carry out even when they aren’t beneficial and are harmful. Sometimes you’ll hear references to a shopping addiction or internet addiction, for example.

Addictive behavior often co-occurs with other mental disorders. 


Understanding Addiction

Addiction interferes with your brain’s reward system and other elements of its function. When you’re doing enjoyable things, your reward system releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter. Dopamine doesn’t necessarily cause feelings of pleasure. Instead, it reinforces the association your brain makes between certain activities and feelings of pleasure you experience.

That reinforcement leads you to want to continue to seek those things out.

If you use drugs or engage in a certain behavior, you may want to experience the feelings of euphoria they create again. This can lead to cravings for behavior or substance like prescription medications, illegal drugs, or alcohol. Cravings can be one of the first symptoms of addiction.

When you continue to use the substance or do the behavior, your brain keeps triggering a high release of dopamine. Then, eventually, your brain starts to produce lower amounts of dopamine naturally in response to triggers that would ordinarily bring you pleasure.

As this goes on, you need more stimulus to make up for the dopamine your brain isn’t producing anymore, which is tolerance or physical dependence. 

When an addiction develops, you might lose interest in things you previously enjoyed since you aren’t making dopamine in response to these activities.

Loss of control is a defining feature of addiction, which can lead to problems in relationships, health, and your career. Many people also experience other adverse consequences of compulsive behavior patterns or substance use, like financial issues. 

When you’re in active addiction, you no longer get the pleasurable feeling from the drug or behavior, but you can’t stop doing it without therapy, addiction treatment, or behavior modification. 


What is Chemical Addiction?

Chemical addiction is a catch-all term used to refer to substance abuse, addiction, and physical and psychological dependence.

Because of that, it’s often known as a substance use disorder. A substance use disorder or actual addiction is diagnosable and can fall into one of three categories—mild, moderate, and severe.

Symptoms of substance use disorder are:

  • Intense cravings that make it hard to think about anything else daily
  • Needing to use larger doses of the substance to get the same effects
  • Feeling uncomfortable if you can’t get the substance
  • Risky use, like driving under the influence
  • Problems managing your daily responsibilities
  • Relationship issues stemming from substance use
  • Not spending as much time doing the activities you once enjoyed
  • Unsuccessful efforts to stop using the substance 
  • Withdrawal symptoms if you cut down your usage or stop cold turkey 

Some of the most common substance addictions and addictive substances include:

  • Alcohol use disorder 
  • Nicotine
  • Opioids, including prescription drug addictions and heroin
  • Cannabis
  • Amphetamine drug addiction 
  • Methamphetamine addiction disorder 
  • Cocaine


Behavioral Addictions

Behavioral addictions can be a little harder to spot and diagnose. There are fewer evidence-based criteria for the diagnosis and treatment of behavioral addictions compared to something like alcohol addiction. 

Currently, the DSM-5 does have two behavioral addictions it recognizes.

The first is gambling addiction (compulsive gambling), and the second is internet gaming disorder which is similar to video game addiction. 

  • There’s disagreement among medical experts about when behaviors can potentially become addictions and the particular behaviors that have a predisposition to lead to addiction.
  • Currently, the American Psychological Association doesn’t include behavior patterns linked to things like exercise, shopping, and sexual behavior in the DSM, because it says there isn’t enough peer-reviewed evidence available to develop diagnostic criteria.
  • That doesn’t mean that behaviors can’t lead to symptoms of addiction. It just means that as it stands right now, more research is needed to standardize how we diagnose and understand these addictions compared to other types of addiction.

General signs of a possible behavioral addiction include:

  • Spending an excessive period of time engaging in the behavior
  • Having urges to keep engaging in the behavior despite its negative effects on your life, responsibilities like school or work, or your relationships
  • Using behaviors to manage uncomfortable emotions
  • Hiding what you’re doing or how much time you spend on a behavior
  • Trouble avoiding the behavior
  • Experience symptoms of withdrawal if you don’t engage in the behavior like anxiety, depression, restlessness, or irritability
  • Continuing to engage in the behavior even when it creates distress
  • Unsuccessful efforts to stop doing whatever the behavior is 

Common types of behavioral addiction that often lead people to get professional treatment include:

  • Exercise
  • Compulsive shopping 
  • Food addiction
  • Sex addiction
  • Social media
  • TV


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Treatment for Substance Addiction

With a substance use disorder, most people need professional treatment. There are complex physical and mental factors and potentially co-occurring disorders that play a role in addiction. If you’re dependent on a substance, you may need a supervised detox first.

  • During detox, you can receive medical treatment for the physical symptoms of chemical dependence. 
  • Then, you could go to residential or outpatient treatment.
  • During residential treatment, you stay at a treatment facility, receiving specialized care and support. 
  • Residential rehab can last for a few weeks to several months on average.
  • An outpatient program is more flexible, and you continue to live at home.

Regardless of the specific type of addiction treatment program you participate in, psychotherapy and counseling will likely be part of it. 

  • Working with a therapist or counselor can help you understand why you started using substances and develop new coping mechanisms.
  • An FDA-approved medication can also be used for substance addiction. 
  • There are medication-assisted treatments for alcohol, opioid and nicotine addictions in particular. 
  • Medications reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms.
  • Support groups like a 12-step program can help people get sober or stay in addiction recovery. Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous are two of the more well-known 12-step programs.


Treatment for Behavioral Addiction

The most common approach to treating different types of addiction involving a behavior is therapy, as with other mental health disorders. For example, cognitive behavioral therapy is an evidence-based way to treat behavioral addictions.

When you participate in CBT, you’re focused on paying attention to your distressing thoughts and emotions. You work with a therapist to learn how to reframe those thoughts. You can work on the goal of developing better-coping skills.

Depending on your symptoms, an SSRI antidepressant might be part of the treatment. Participation in self-help groups can be valuable for behavioral addictions. 

Often, as is the case with treating chemical addictions, behavioral addiction treatment requires a combination of approaches.


Get Help to Avoid Complications

Different types of addiction can vary, but the one underlying concept is that they are treatable. Without treatment, both substance addictions and behavioral addictions can worsen and complications can develop. 

Over time without treatment, the effects on your life become more damaging. Reach out to us to learn more about getting the treatment you need for mental health issues or substance abuse disorder. 

What is a Spiritual Awakening in Recovery?

what is a spiritual awakening in recovery

what is a spiritual awakening in recovery


What is a spiritual awakening in recovery? Spirituality is one of the more misunderstood elements of addiction treatment and recovery, but often one of the most important. We encourage everyone to explore spirituality in a way that works for them, both during treatment and throughout their life. 

Your spiritual journey and spiritual practice are likely to become something you rely on throughout your life, well after you go to addiction treatment. Active addiction affects your spirit in so many ways, and you might not even see those effects right away. You’re never truly present or in the moment because you always feel the influence of drugs or alcohol. You might feel like you have no worth because of your addiction and like your only purpose is using drugs or alcohol.

You get lost in your addiction without the chance to experience your emotions. The process of recovery often goes hand-in-hand with the spiritual awakening process. Learning how to start your spiritual awakening can be so challenging because it looks different for everyone.

We’ll explore below what we mean when we talk about a spiritual awakening in recovery and how that can happen for different people regardless of differences in their belief systems. 


What is a Spiritual Awakening?

A spiritual awakening isn’t something you experience exclusive to addiction recovery. Awakening can happen at any time in your life, regardless of your circumstances.

You often experience something profound or on a deeper level that leads to a breakdown of your ego. You may feel a tug or call toward deeper mental awareness. The result tends to be a personal transformation along with a shift in how you see yourself and the world around you. For many of us, a spiritual awakening comes after a catalyst in our life.

If you’re going to addiction treatment or struggling with a substance use disorder, the realization that you’ve hit rock bottom or are not in control of your drug use can be that triggering event. It’s usually that initial realization about the true depths of your substance abuse that many people say is the hardest part of recovery. You have to see for yourself the impacts of your addiction on every area of your life before you reach any kind of deeper spiritual awareness. Awakening doesn’t always stem from addiction.

For some people, it’s a traumatic experience such as surviving an assault or abuse, or maybe the loss of a loved one. When you go through something traumatic, it affects you physically, mentally, and emotionally. You may go through an extended period of healing but emerge on the other side of that in a more vital place spiritually. If you have depression or a mental health disorder, it can lead you to what we call an existential crisis. You start to look more at the purpose of your life, and you may want a shift due to that assessment.

You can engage in practices through your daily life that might also activate an awareness or awakening. For example, mindfulness and meditation can be a way to transform yourself on a spiritual level, even without a major life event happening. According to Deepak Chopra, when you experience an awakening, you’re not in a dream world anymore. 

Instead, based on Chopra’s framework, you are aware of yourself but only in a way that puts you within the context and connection of everything else. This period is also sometimes called enlightenment or nirvana.


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How to Start Your Spiritual Awakening

The process of how to start your spiritual awakening is deeply personal, so below are only suggestions, but you may find a path that’s entirely your own.

  • Start to observe and notice. Many of us go through our lives on autopilot. We don’t think about what we truly want, who we are at our core, or why we’re at a particular point in our lives. When you become aware and observant, you’re better able to make changes then. For example, this might be when you question your drinking or drug use and start to delve more into why you’re doing it.
  • Develop a sense of connection. Specifically, as it relates to addiction and recovery, that sense of connection can come from participation in a support group, like a 12-step program.
  • Let go of attachments. We all have extensions that aren’t relevant to our true selves. You can begin to eliminate whatever those are through your awakening.
  • Find inner peace. When you cultivate inner peace, things still go wrong in your life, but it doesn’t lead you down dark paths. Instead, you learn how to cope with things as they go wrong effectively. When you’re experiencing things that aren’t pleasant, you recognize them as a fleeting moment in time.
  • Feel more compassion and empathy. When you’re participating in an addiction treatment program, you’ll start to learn more about how your substance abuse affected the people around you. This is an excellent starting point as you begin to become more empathetic and compassionate in all areas of your life.
  • More authenticity. You’ll start to grow into someone who feels your self-worth on a deep level. That will allow you to be more authentic in who you are.

The final step in an awakening of your spirit is that you’ll be happier and healthier. You’ll be able to thrive in your life rather than just surviving in your recovery process. 


Spirituality in Recovery 

In many ways, having a successful long-term recovery from addiction relies on spiritual growth taking place. You have to change your perspective to be in recovery. As part of treatment for substance abuse, you can begin to identify and reconnect with the aspects of your life that are most important to you.

Spiritual power can become your most incredible tool for healing, personal growth, and having a thriving life. You can develop a sense of purpose, and at the same time, learn that you’re not alone.


Spirituality Is Not Religion

We often hear from people who worry spirituality is about God or religion. However, it’s important to note that you do not need religion or a belief in God to have a spiritual experience, although you certainly can get your spiritual power from God. A true awakening in the spiritual sense is about having your own beliefs and developing your sense of self that connects you to everything else in the world in your everyday life. You can give credit to whatever force or power you choose.

Are you ready to begin learning how to start your spiritual journey? We encourage you to reach out and learn more about our addiction treatment programs. We prioritize spirituality in whatever terms work for you. Your spiritual life is very personal, which is how Anchored Tides Recovery develops our addiction treatment programs as well, call 866-600-7709 to learn more. 

Support starts here. 

The Relationship Between ADHD and Substance Abuse



There is commonly a relationship between Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) with substance abuse disorder. According to the National Institutes of Mental Illness, when someone has a mental health disorder along with a substance use disorder, it’s called a co-occurring disorder. Co-occurring disorders can begin simultaneously, but more commonly, one might appear before the other.

In the case of ADD/ADHD, it’s usually present before someone develops a substance use disorder.


What Are ADD and ADHD?

ADD stands for Attention Deficit Disorder, and ADHD stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder; both disorders are considered subtypes of one condition. 

The term ADD is somewhat outdated, and you’ll most often hear these conditions referred to generally as ADHD.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are around 6.4 million children with ADHD diagnosed with it in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), making this condition one of the most common childhood mental disorders. 


Types of ADHD

Some variations of the disorder are:

  • Inattentive 
  • Hyperactive
  • Impulsive
  • Combined
  • Adult



With the inattentive type, a child may specifically have problems focusing; symptoms for this particular subtype include:

  • Distracted easily
  • Forgetful
  • Not able to pay attention to details
  • Trouble staying on-task
  • Doesn’t follow instructions
  • Disorganized



Symptoms of this type of ADHD can include:

  • Excessive talking
  • Squirms or fidgets
  • Moves around in inappropriate situations
  • Has a hard time staying quiet
  • Interrupts others
  • Experiences difficulties waiting their turn

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The combined subtype of ADHD symptoms includes both inattention as well as hyperactivity/impulsivity.


Most adults who have ADHD had it since childhood, but it might not have been diagnosed until they were older. Symptoms of ADHD in adults can include:

  • Being easily distracted
  • Not paying attention to details
  • Some may have hyperfocus, meaning they delve so much into a project that they lose awareness of what’s happening around them
  • Disorganization
  • Problems with time management, such as often showing up late
  • Forgetfulness
  • Impulsivity
  • Shifts in mood
  • Negative self-image
  • Lack of motivation
  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Fatigue
  • Problems in relationships

Along with the symptoms above, adults with attention deficit disorder are also more likely to experience substance abuse, including alcohol and tobacco, and other illegal drugs.


What Are the Symptoms of Substance Abuse?

Some of the symptoms of substance abuse can overlap with ADHD symptoms. That can make a diagnosis of one or both conditions more challenging. Symptoms of addiction can include:

  • Urges or cravings to use a substance
  • A single-minded focus on getting and using the substance
  • Developing a tolerance and needing higher doses to get the same effects
  • Regularly taking more of a substance than intended
  • Financial difficulties that arise because of spending on drugs or alcohol
  • Continual use of the substance despite adverse side effects and outcomes
  • Engaging in risky behaviors while on the drug, or to get more of it
  • Not being able to stop using the substance
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms if cutting back or trying to quit


If someone is dealing with addiction, the people around them may see more outward manifestations. These can include:

  • Problems at work or school
  • Failing to meet obligations in daily life
  • Physical health issues such as weight loss
  • Not caring about grooming or physical appearance
  • Changes in behavior
  • Being secretive
  • Problems with money


Why Are People with ADHD At Higher Risk of Substance Abuse and Addiction?

It’s estimated that more than 25% of adolescents with substance use disorders also fit the criteria for ADHD. Around the same percentage of adults who seek treatment for drug or alcohol abuse also have ADHD.

There are so many factors that can play a role in the links between ADHD and substance abuse, some of which are explored below.


Underlying Vulnerability

One theory as to why people with ADHD are more likely to develop substance use disorders is because both conditions are considered disinhibition disorders; when someone doesn’t have inhibitions, they are more likely to be impulsive in their behaviors. Impulsivity leads to risky behaviors, and that can include using substances.

Children, throughout their lifetime, are significantly more likely to try different substances than people without ADHD.

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The brain of someone with ADHD can be wired to seek out new experiences because of their impulsivity. That means that not only could they be more likely to use substances, but their brain could move toward full-blown addiction more quickly.


Dealing with the Effects of ADHD

When a child or adult struggles with ADHD, it can have profound effects on their life, including overall quality of life. Someone with ADHD may struggle with relationships and in situations like school or work. It may be overwhelming for them to keep up with the demands of their daily responsibilities.

They may feel like they’re different from other people, or they may feel like they aren’t achieving what they’d like to because of ADHD. These negative feelings can impact self-esteem and can make someone more likely to use substances.



In some ways, self-medication was touched on above, but it can also be talked about on its own. When someone is dealing with ADHD symptoms, they may find that it’s hard for them to calm down or relax, which can lead to self-medication with substances.

For example, if someone with ADHD often feels restless or as if their mind is racing, they might use a depressant like marijuana or alcohol to deal with the symptoms.  Someone with ADHD could also self-medicate to improve anxiety, sleep, focus, or depression.


Do ADHD Medicines Contribute to Substance Abuse Problems?

There are some theories that the use of ADHD medicines like Adderall and Ritalin could themselves create an addiction risk. While amphetamine and methylphenidate are potentially addictive, most people with ADHD who take these drugs as prescribed are less likely to abuse them than people without ADHD.

When someone has ADHD symptoms and takes their medicine as prescribed, it doesn’t create that same high as it does in someone who’s recreationally abusing the drug. Research is increasingly showing that it may lower their risk of substance abuse when someone takes their ADHD medicine as prescribed.


Substance Abuse Treatment with Co-Occurring Disorders

For someone who has both ADHD and a substance abuse disorder, they may require long term treatment for both co-occurring disorders. When someone has a co-occurring disorder, dual diagnosis treatment is critical. If a person isn’t treated for both conditions, then there’s a higher likelihood of relapse. Once a dual diagnosis has been established, co-occurring disorders require specialized treatment that tends to be more in-depth.

Dual diagnosis treatment addresses the mental, physical and social factors of addiction and the mental health disorder. Dual diagnosis treatment may include a combination of behavioral therapies in both individual and group settings. The therapist might use medication as well.

The big takeaway is that while people with ADHD are more likely to have substance use disorders, treatment can work when it deals with both issues separately and their relationship to one another.

Anchored Tides Recovery is a safe place for women with co-occurring mental health issues, along with addiction issues, can heal. Call us today, find comfort and start to build your support group, one woman at a time.