Dual Diagnosis & Addiction
Suffering from a mental health disorder and a substance abuse problem can make recovery even more challenging—but not impossible. Dealing with substance abuse such as alcoholism or a drug addiction, though never an easy task, becomes even more of a challenges when mental illness such as depression or bi-polar disorder is also evident. Fortunately, with treatment, dual diagnosis and addiction can be effectively overcome leading to recovery and a healthy lifestyle.
What’s the Link Between Dual Diagnosis and Substance Abuse?
It’s often a question of which came first: was it the mental illness that lead to self-medication and subsequent addiction; or was it the substance abuse that came first and caused the addiction? Regardless of which came first, the end result is a situation in which both co-occurring disorders must be treated. Leaving a mental illness untreated, whether the result of addiction or whether the addiction results from the mental illness, can lead to even bigger problems as the illness becomes more difficult to manage.
Studies show that an estimated 50% of those who suffer from serious mental health conditions such as bi-polar disorder also abuse substances such as drugs or alcohol. Many of these individuals use the substances to self-medicate in an honest, but improper effort to feel better. The National Association on Mental Illness states that an estimated 37% of alcohol abusers and 53% of drug users suffer from at least one serious mental illness that requires professional treatment.
Recognizing the Signs of Co-Occurring Disorders
Diagnosing a co-occurring disorder can be challenging at best. Often times, the symptoms of one condition, such as the addiction, replicate the symptoms of another—the mental health disorder. As such, certain mental health conditions can present symptoms that are common in addiction. Denial is a common denominator for both mental health disorders and for addiction. Often times the individual suffering from the condition will feel ashamed, afraid or otherwise inadequate as a result of the conditions that he or she is suffering from—this only escalates the perceived need to deny the problem.
Here are a few ways that you can recognize the signs and symptoms of a possible co-occurring disorder in which there is presence of both an addiction and a mental health related problem:
- Consider past health. Often times mental illness is recognized early on and this can lead to substance abuse.
- Consider family history of both addiction and mental health conditions to determine whether an individual may be at an increased risk of suffering from a dual diagnosis.
- Consider past treatment history. Were you or someone you love treated for mental illness in the past? Was there past treatment for addiction? These signs may signify a need for further discovery and diagnosis.
Treatment can Help
If you or someone you love suffers from dual diagnosis, consider seeking professional treatment to get well. It’s easy to deny that there’s a problem. In fact, most people who suffer from conditions such as addiction and mental illness quickly deny that there’s anything wrong. This isn’t a sign of weakness or shame, it’s a sign that a real problem is evident that requires the specialized treatment of a facility equipped to handle dual diagnosis and co-occurring health disorders.
Keep in mind that peer support, from friends and family as well as from those of a support groups such as a 12-step recovery program can also help. Many different programs are available that focus on individual mental health conditions as well as on niche specific addictions such as Alcoholics Anonymous which focuses on alcoholism and Narcotics Anonymous which focuses on drug addiction.
If you’re not sure what to do, or if you suspect that a co-occurring disorders is interrupting your life and your ability to make a full recovery from addiction, call our helpline toll-free for assistance. We can help you find the support and the treatment that is necessary to make a full, lasting recovery from co-occurring disorders.