Mental health disorders caused by addictions are so prevalent among the nation’s population that researchers would be forgiven if, at some point in their careers, they stopped and wondered “which came first, the chicken or the egg?”

If you related that question to addicts, it might be phrased this way: Which came first, the mental health disorder or the addiction? Certainly, in many cases, that mystery is impossible to unravel.

Consider a hypothetical case of a patient who is an alcoholic and chronically depressed.

Alcohol, certainly, is considered a depressant, as it makes people feel relaxed, as opposed to methamphetamine or cocaine, which makes people feel temporarily energized.

Secondly, long term alcohol abuse is often associated with a prolonged period in which a person uses alcohol to ease some kind of emotional pain, except that pain isn’t solved by alcohol abuse, so the underlying pain continues. With long-term emotional pain untreated, patients are apt to develop depression. In so many words, alcohol is a depressant that lasts until your body burns it up, while alcoholism can lead to postponement of problem-solving, which can create long-term depression.

On top of that, alcoholics know clearly in their heart of hearts that they have developed a potentially life-threatening, relationship-hurting addiction. And that’s plenty depressing, too.

Which started first, the depression or the addiction? Certainly, in many cases, the answer to that question is a blurred and murky one.

Depression is, of course, just one form of mental health disorder that contributes to addictions and it is not the only one that can begin during childhood years or provide forensic psychologists with puzzles they cannot solve.

Physical disabilities and learning disabilities, for example, including dyslexia, dyscalculia, dysgraphia, auditory disorders, Asperger’s Syndrom and autism, can all contribute to feelings of low self-esteem, which can be readily numbed by abusing recreational drugs or alcohol.

That said, the murkiness of an addiction’s origins is probably one reason why addiction recovery systems tackle the entire patient, hoping to cover all the bases to seek a solid recovery process and a minimal risk of relapse. Providing 30 days of detox, for example, doesn’t cover it, which is why inpatient drug rehab Arizona is so important. Patients at these types of facilities often receive physical, mental, emotional and spiritual treatment.

It appears more and more clinics that concern themselves with learning disabilities understand the difficulty of answering the same question on what came first, the illness or the underlying condition that may have triggered it. Here at Think Inclusive, we use the term “emotional behavioral disorders” to cover a wide range of issues that impact early childhood learning, noting that many cases of EBD are left undiagnosed, while many cases are labeled ED, which stands for “emotional disturbance.” This tells you that even among professional ranks, there are disagreements on diagnosing conditions in youngsters, leading to the certainty that there are also disagreements about treatment strategies.

Meanwhile, the National Bureau of Economic Research is charting the numbers that underlie the blurry and murky diagnostic trail. “When other factors are held constant, mental health does increase use of addictive goods – relative to use by the overall population,” the agency says. Those factors add up to increases of 20 percent for alcohol, 27 percent for cocaine and 86 percent for cigarettes.

From a professional point of view, the numbers of persons with mental health conditions either currently or at some point in their lives are considered “staggering,” the bureau says. That includes 24 percent of the U.S. population in any given year experiencing a diagnosable mental health condition, while 43 percent of the population experiencing mental health conditions at some point in their lives.

Yes, that lets you know that a great many diagnosable conditions are temporary, but the numbers still factor heavily into the nation’s primary addictions. “Individuals with an existing mental illness consume roughly 38 percent of all alcohol, 44 percent of all cocaine and 40 percent of all cigarettes,” the bureau says.