Drug addiction and substance abuse disorders (SUDs) are a multi-faceted health issue. More and more recovery providers are building their programs around dual diagnosis treatment. The term is generally used to describe a situation where a person has both a substance abuse problem and a co-existing mental disorder.
For example, you may be struggling with alcohol abuse and depression at the same time—or have a drug addiction issue as well as diagnosed PTSD. It can be an unfortunate and dangerous combination. People who deal with co-occurring conditions have greater overall health risks and may even threaten their physical safety. It makes proper treatment even more crucial in their recovery.
Studies have shown a substantial connection between mental health disorders and alcohol or drug abuse. Addicts are more likely to have existing mental health illnesses, and people with mental illness are more likely to have abused substances at some point.
You may be fully aware that you’re struggling with both mental illness and substance abuse right now, or you might be wondering if your mental state is fueling your addiction. If you have questions about these issues or would like professional guidance with treatment, please reach out to us at 626-602-2966.
Do not suffer through your Substance Abuse Disorder alone. Keep reading for more information about dual diagnosis, and how to get the help that you deserve.
The Link Between SUDs and Mental Disorders
The overlap between substance abuse and mental health disorders is significant.
20.2 million Americans report having a SUD in 2014. In addition, 7.9 million of those also had a co-occurring mental illness. In general, around half of people suffering from a mental disorder will also abuse substances at some point in their life.
Some of these connections are obvious. People struggling with depression or anxiety often turn to alcohol or drugs to alleviate their psychological pain—also known as self-medication. Similarly, a person suffering from Bipolar Disorder (BPD) may be more inclined to abuse substances during a bout of mania or depression.
There are also plenty of people with undiagnosed mental disorders, who may not realize they are using substances to combat them. Far too frequently, chronic anxiety and depression are chalked up to “being in a funk” or having a poor temperament.
With general trauma or PTSD, victims frequently push negative feelings aside to such an extent it becomes buried in the mind. For example, a traumatic event from childhood could be willfully forgotten in order for a person to learn to function “normally”.
Stress, trauma, and even genetics factor into both substance use and mental disorders. Sometimes, substance abuse can uncover—or even create—a mental illness. Substance use affects the brain, chemically and physically, causing changes that can make it nearly impossible to stop using.
Remember, substance abuse and addiction are considered mental conditions on their own. As science progresses, SUDs have become viewed as legitimate illnesses, no different from a contracted virus or disease. And when an abuse disorder is paired with a separate psychological disorder, the result can be like pouring gasoline on a fire.
How Does Dual Diagnosis Treatment Work?
First, a person must quit using drugs and alcohol if treatment is going to be effective.
Substance use affects the brain—chemically and physically—which impacts your secondary disorder. Addiction treatment is the only way to start breaking the chain that binds the two together. This may include a detox period designed to cleanse your body of substances, as well as longer-term inpatient care.
Although they are linked, the substance abuse and the mental disorder must be treated separately—this is called “integrated intervention”.
Treatments might consist of:
- Working with support groups
Medication can help ease initial withdrawal symptoms and a one-on-one analysis by a doctor or psychiatrist aids in finding specific drugs suited to your condition. This part of the treatment targets your underlying disorder and can be a great tool for modifying challenging behavior.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
In terms of psychotherapy, a Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) approach is often used as a treatment for dual diagnosis. CBT consists of helping a person learn how to change their thinking patterns and better handle stress and emotions.
Additionally, interacting with others who share your illness is an excellent way to boost your recovery odds. Addiction and mental illness are isolating experiences, and typically treatment will feature group classes and therapy sessions. Being able to surround yourself with people who deal with the same issues as you on a daily basis is both emotionally and psychologically beneficial.
Ultimately, dual diagnosis treatment is designed to adjust the biological, psychological, and social factors that contribute to the struggles of addicts with co-occurring disorders. It can be difficult to accept that certain life situations are out of control and that you need outside help. But unless you accept this, your condition may never improve and is likely to worsen over time. Are you unsure about what type of treatment is right for you? Do you want more information? Then call us today. Our professionals will work with you to make sure you get put on the right path to sobriety for you.
Symptoms of Mood Disorders
Understanding the symptoms that might indicate a mood disorder is essential to getting your life back on track. Mood disorders can range from anxiety and depression to bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. They can fundamentally affect your substance use, and vice versa. If you’re abusing drugs concurrent with a mood disorder, dual diagnosis treatment might be necessary to restore balance to your life.
At the same time, make sure you get a professional opinion on your situation—try to avoid the temptation of diagnosing yourself, unless you’ve already been identified as having a medical condition.
However, there are some common signs that you might have an underlying mood disorder and may need to consult someone. Signs of depression include:
- Frequent feelings of sadness or bouts of crying
- Sudden changes in appetite or sleep patterns
- Constant anxiety
- Loss of energy
- Feelings of hopelessness or indifference
- Inability to focus or carry out tasks
- Thoughts of suicide or self-harm
On the other hand, you may be experiencing mania—a possible sign of BPD or another disorder. This might consist of:
- Unexplained bouts of physical and mental energy
- Extreme self-confidence or grandiose thoughts about yourself
- Irritability and aggressive behavior
- Racing thoughts
- Reckless actions or poor judgment
- Delusional thinking or hallucinations
Obviously, symptoms of a mental or mood disorder vary greatly. But the symptoms highlighted can all be greatly aggravated by alcohol and drug use. People with developmental disorders are also likely to be on medication, which can have adverse effects if taken along with alcohol or other substances. If you are exhibiting more than a few of these warning signs, consider contacting a healthcare professional.
One illness can make another worse. Therefore, it’s important to find out if you might qualify for dual diagnosis treatment.
Symptoms of Substance Abuse Disorder
Just as it’s helpful to recognize a mental health disorder, acknowledging your relationship with substances is crucial to your overall health. Unfortunately, many people with substance abuse disorders either don’t understand they have a problem or are unwilling to accept it.
For example, some of the signs you may be dependent on alcohol or drugs include:
- Daily or regular use of a substance (even in smaller quantities)
- Tendency to plan your activities around alcohol or drug use
- Tendency to drink or use until you pass out or black out
- Having unsuccessfully tried to quit—or cut back—before
- Spending money on substances, even when you can’t afford it
- Engaging in risky activities while intoxicated (like drunk driving or unprotected sex)
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you don’t have the drug (headaches, nausea, cravings, irritability)
It’s also important to recognize if substances are having a negative effect on other areas of your life.
Are you struggling at work, showing up late, or drinking/using on the job? Have your finances taken a hit because of your use? Do you find yourself increasingly isolated or withdrawing from social situations or communication with family and friends?
If you’re able to check any number of these boxes, it might be time to address the situation. Tackling a substance abuse issue early can help you avoid catastrophic results. Some people are tempted to ignore their use issues because they haven’t lost a job yet, or gotten in an accident, or damaged a relationship.
But simply waiting for these events to happen is a recipe for disaster. Don’t delay the issue until something bad happens—because it may be something you cannot undo. Try to take a step back and objectively assess your situation. Are alcohol and drugs a normal part of your life, or are they affecting who you are as a person? Contact our professionals today to get additional help that you may need. Do not hesitate. We are here to help you however we can.
Where Do I Go From Here?
The first thing to know is that there is support for people who are juggling substance abuse and a mental health issue. Dual diagnosis treatment can address both problems individually while focusing on how they tie together.
You definitely are not alone if you suffer from multiple conditions. It’s proven that one condition is easily capable of bringing about—or exaggerating—the other. Many Americans get stuck in the cycle of self-medicating for emotional or mental issues, only to make the root causes worse. And it works the other way around just as easily.
But keep in mind there is a difference between an emotional problem and a psychiatric disorder.
Emotional issues can be temporary, but their effect on your life can lead to a legitimate condition. Similarly, isolated bouts of alcohol or drug abuse, while unhealthy, may not be the sign of an SUD. Substance addiction rarely reveals itself immediately, and typically comes from long-term misuse of drugs and alcohol. Therefore, it’s important to consult a doctor or addiction professional before making any judgments on your own.
If diagnosed with a dual condition, a controlled environment offers the best available tools. Each individual form of treatment may not be successful for you, which is why multiple approaches are taken.
One of the hardest things to do in life is admitting you have a problem. When it comes to addiction and mental disorders, sometimes people feel too embarrassed to properly address them. And unfortunately, there are plenty of unfair social stigmas surrounding both.
But there is hope and there is help available. To summarize, if you think you might be showing signs of having a substance use problem as well as another disorder, please reach out to us at the number below. We can answer any questions about dual diagnosis treatment and point you in the right direction for the care you need to get your life back on track.
Written by Christopher Dorsey
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