(SOUTH BEND, Indiana) – Addiction is all too common. In addition to drugs and alcohol, many people use unhealthy behaviors—from binge/restrictive eating to excessive gambling and social media use—as coping mechanisms.
A new national survey from Myriad Genetics, the GeneSight Mental Health Monitor, finds while nearly all Americans (94%) agree that substance and behavioral addictions often mask underlying mental health issues, more than three in four (77%) have used one or more addictive behaviors to cope with life’s problems in the past year.
“Mental health and addiction often go hand-in-hand,” said Morgan Freas, PharmD, a senior medical science liaison with Myriad Genetics. “Yet the stigma associated with admitting mental health challenges is often greater than escaping into substance or behavioral abuse.”
Dawn Johnson, a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner at The Indiana Center for Recovery in South Bend, strives to understand each patient’s individual experience to help them find a healthier path forward.
“Typically, people are trying to self-medicate an emptiness–any way to get that dopamine response or that ‘feel good’ response from any of the neurotransmitters that we get when we’re engaging in something that may or may not be healthy for us,” said Johnson.
Johnson uses the GeneSight Test to help inform her medication selection when treating certain mental health conditions. The test is done with a simple cheek swab and is analyzed in a certified lab. The resulting report details which medications prescribed to treat depression, anxiety, ADHD, and other mental health conditions may require dose adjustment, may be less likely to work, or may have an increased risk of side effects based on the patient’s DNA.
“That gives them a lot of reassurance and comfort to know that we’re not just throwing meds at them, we’re actually customizing the plan for them based on their genetic makeup,” said Johnson.
Of those who were diagnosed with depression and/or anxiety and were told they have a problem, 58% say mental health treatment helped relieve their addiction concerns. Experts say a good first step is talking with a healthcare professional.