Schizophrenia and Addiction

June 14, 2023 Rebecca Chamaa

Schizophrenia and addiction seem intertwined for me. I don't know if I am more prone to addiction because of my mental illnesses, but it seems like it. For years I smoked cigarettes, and I believe they were masking my more problematic symptoms and emotions or that smoking was a coping mechanism for the symptoms, which were increasing the older I got. I didn't have my first episode of psychosis until my late twenties. Still, before that, I dealt with anxiety, often staying up late into the night, going over every detail of every conversation I had earlier in the day -- constantly worrying that I said or did the wrong thing. 

Switching One Addiction for Another to Deal with the Symptoms of Schizophrenia

I quit smoking over 15 years ago, but when things got stressful, I started to go to casinos and play slot machines. During a year when I was going through multiple tests for cancer, I played slot machines every chance I got. I played so much that I received many gifts, hotel stays, and meals as a part of a player's club. It never got so bad that we couldn't pay our bills. Still, it was an expensive way to deal with unpleasant emotions (fear and anxiety), wasting money that could fund our retirement, pay for a vacation, or any other healthier choice. 

During the pandemic, I was afraid to go to casinos because I worried about getting COVID, so I ultimately gave up gambling. However, the desire and inclination to use something as a distraction from my symptoms were still there. That is when I started spending most of my day checking my smartphone. I entered therapy to try and find healthier coping mechanisms for my symptoms and to discover the underlying causes of some of my most difficult feelings. I used up all of the allowed sessions of therapy covered by my insurance. Now, I'm back on a list for therapy to try to dig even deeper at what causes me to use unhealthy behaviors to avoid dealing with the symptoms of schizophrenia and anxiety.

Managing My Schizophrenia and Addiction Is More Than Taking Medication

I once heard someone say that they wouldn't mind getting schizophrenia because all they would have to do is take medication to avoid the symptoms. I would laugh at that statement it if weren't so painfully untrue. I'm learning each day, the older I get, that medication is one part of treatment (an essential part for me), but there are many lifestyle choices I have to make to live a comfortable life that has meaning and makes my time seem valuable. I can't imagine there will ever be a time when I am completely symptom-free, but every step taken to reduce mental illness's hard parts are steps I'm willing to take. 

APA Reference
Chamaa, R. (2023, June 14). Schizophrenia and Addiction, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, May 24 from

Author: Rebecca Chamaa

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