When you suffer from both a substance abuse problem, or an addiction, and a mental health disorder it is called a dual diagnosis. Addiction and mental health go hand-in-hand. Substance abuse or an addiction is extremely hard to deal with. Add the struggle of a mental health disorder makes it even more difficult.
What Is Dual Diagnosis
Dual Diagnoses have their own unique symptoms that make it even more important to treat patients case by case. Mental health issues can lead to an addiction by self-medicating. For example, a drink may help you feel less anxious in social situations. That then can turn into the need to have a drink in social situations. Therefore possibly leading into substance abuse.
Self-medicating can actually prevent people from getting the help or therapy that they need. Using drugs or alcohol to deal with negative feelings or emotions is only masking a possible underlying problem. Mental illnesses can lead people to substance abuse or addictions as well. Left untreated mental illnesses and addictions can only worsen, whether you are dealing with one of them or both.
4 Things You Should Know
According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 9.2 million US adults in 2018 experienced both a mental illness and substance abuse.
- Dual Diagnoses are common. Some studies show that more than half of people with drug or alcohol addiction also suffer from a co-occurring condition like bipolar depression, an anxiety disorder, or OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder).
- It can be harder to identify a dual diagnosis. This is because addictions and certain mental health illnesses may show some of the same symptoms, symptoms like withdrawal from family and friends. For example, a meth user may show the same symptoms as someone with OCD. Another symptom to look out for is sudden changes in behavior or moods for both addictions and mental illnesses.
- Dual diagnosis treatments may take longer to treat. First, identifying if the root cause of the problems patients may experience takes time. If it is one or the other treatment can begin. Patients with both a mental illness and an addiction, treatment will look different than just treating one or the other. One thing treatments have in common is they are both life long journeys. Allow yourself time to deal with these conditions.
- Patients with dual diagnosis are high-risk patients and are more susceptible to addiction. Coping with mental illness or an addiction are hard enough on their own. Those with mental illnesses may see their drug use or drinking escalate quicker into an addiction. There is also a higher suicide rate and violent tendencies among those dealing with a dual diagnosis.
How to Treat a Dual Diagnoses
There is no one “cure all” treatment for dual diagnosis patients. Treatment has to be individualized. It is imperative to find the right type of treatment. This kind of treatment is relatively new in the field of addiction treatment. Until about the 1990s, patients that were experiencing symptoms of mental illness and an addiction were treated separately. Some patients were even denied treatment for a mental illness until they got sober. Patients were not receiving the help they truly needed.
Getting a dual diagnosis may actually come as a relief to those that suffer from them. Some people live for years with an undiagnosed mental illness. Putting a name to severe mood swings, suicidal thoughts, flashbacks to traumatic events may give you a sense of hope. Sometimes, addiction can kick-start the process of receiving the treatment that is actually needed.
The relationships between mental illnesses and addictions can be complicated, however when it is finally identified it can be treated. For someone suffering from depression and an addiction, treating the depression can help with overall recovery. Mental illnesses cause symptoms that can weigh heavily on a person. Self-medicating can feel like relief in the moment, but it is not the permanent solution. Therapy or counseling and patience are key to the treatment for both mental illness and addiction. Treating the addiction is also, in some ways, the beginning of treating a mental illness.
The Best Treatment For A Dual Diagnosis
The best treatment for a dual diagnosis is an integrated approach. That means that both the addiction and mental illness are treated simultaneously. No matter which came first, the mental illness or the addiction, long-term sobriety or a healthy and stable lifestyle depends on treating both disorders by a collective team.
A recovery specialist may recommend a therapist or a counselor and they may work together to make sure that a patient is getting the help they need. Treatment for mental illness and addictions may include medication, therapy, counseling, group therapy, or support groups. No one deserves to suffer either of these disorders. It takes work to maintain sobriety and a healthy lifestyle, but it is worth it.
You deserve to be happy and if that may mean you need help getting there- that is ok. There will always be someone there to help you. All you have to do is reach out.