Disease and disorder often have a sneaky way of showing up in life. Sometimes they appear all of the sudden like an unwarranted magic trick, and then other times sickness will gradually show itself as it creeps out the woodwork. One way or another, all too many wake up one day and find themselves being forced into such unpleasantry. Of all the unexpected surprises in life, this is in no way like winning the lottery.
However, wallowing in pity and complaining of how unfair the world is will change nothing. Dealing with co-occurring disorders is all about taking action. When there’s nothing you can do and you can’t do nothing about that, you then do what you can. Substance abuse and/or mental illness encourage the ever fearful downward spiral that many of us have seen others tumble down. In that same breath, the opposite of disease would be to climb the staircase. Health! The idea of health challenges us to become better versions of ourselves.
You see, co-occurring disorders fit together like puzzle pieces. They go together well and can create additional challenges in treating both successfully or concurrently. Nonetheless, it can be done. It is important for patients dealing with any form of dual diagnosis to get an accurate assessment in order to ensure the best possible treatment on both fronts. It can be difficult to understand the intricacies and complexities of such disorders, which is why some individuals require specialized inpatient treatment programs, therapeutic assistance, or psychiatric help for the patients that fall into this category.
Addiction and Mental illness
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, studies have found a significant percentage (around 50 percent) of individuals with a severe mental illness also have a substance abuse problem. The Journal of the American Medical Association also reported that 37 percent of alcohol abusers and 53 percent of drug abusers also have a serious mental illness. The problem is prevalent, which is why treatment programs that target a dual diagnosis are so important.
NAMI also estimates that the percentages actually go up for people battling the most severe types of mental illness. Men are more likely to have a dual diagnosis than women, particularly those in a lower socioeconomic status or those that have served in the military. Despite who’s more prone to what, substance abuse and mental illness have taken a hold on the United States more or less. Addiction is addiction regardless of the drug du jour. However, mental illness is very prevalent in multiple facades. Some of those forms include:
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorders
- Mood disorders (depression, bipolar disorder)
- Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder
- Anxiety disorders (panic attacks, obsessive-compulsive disorder)
- Personality disorders (antisocial, borderline, narcissistic)
The reality of it is those afflicted with any combination of co-occurring disorders will be put through trying times- there’s no debating that. Alcoholism, just like cancer, clinical depression, or anxiety disorder, is a sickness that latches onto the mind while manipulating all thought process’. Even worse is that most the time substance abuse and mental illness are the two that indeed come together- and not like John Lennon once sang. Blindsided is an understatement for some.
While it is relatively easy to see a connection between substance abuse or any form of mental illness, it is much more difficult to assign a cause and effect to the trend. For many that receive a dual diagnosis for any co-occurring disorders, usually the mental illness preceded the substance abuse. These individuals have done what is called “self-medicate,” which is to try to manage symptoms of mental illness with use of drugs or alcohol. Meanwhile, little does the person know is they are damaging the equilibrium upstairs by doing so. In some unfortunate cases, other diseases/disorders are manifested through this process. Despite this, it is not always the case.
In some instances, substance abuse can increase the risk for a mental illness or make a current condition worse. Substance abuse may trigger the onset of symptoms of mental illness, such as paranoia or depression. In some cases, poor decisions or traumatic events that occur while a person is under the influence of a substance can lead to a mental disorder like anxiety or post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD).
Exorcising the Illness
When we get down to the nitty-gritty of fixing the issue at hand- this is where the fun begins. Integrated intervention is the most effective way to approach an individual stuck in the throes of any combo of co-occurring disorders. This involves treating the mental disorder and alcoholic thinking at the same time. Attempting to treat one without working on the other is completely counterproductive. Being that substance abuse feeds into mental illness and vice versa, it’d be wise to try and nip both in the bud.
However, alcoholic thinking is usually the more immediate issue due to the life threatening decisions it causes most to make.
Everybody is different and everybody’s body and minds are different too, but with this being said, not everybody will get the same reaction from the healing process. Some will respond quicker to positive stimuli, others will have try and fail a few times before understanding the big picture. Rest assured that it’s just a matter of a little introspection and balance of the equilibrium. A little self awareness and being properly medicated will make the world of a difference. Then after a little perseverance, the mind will heal in ways than we could never imagine. Substance abuse and mental illness are indeed very prevalent in today’s world, but they don’t have to be.
For many patients, substance abuse must be addressed first, before treatment for mental illness can begin. Without this sequence, patients may have difficulty sticking with a medication regimen or treatment program to effectively deal with their mental disorder. Regardless, no matter how or why the co-occurring disorders have appeared, it can be challenging to treat both conditions successfully unless the necessary work is put in.