What to do When Addiction is Coupled With Mental Disorders
Addiction is often viewed as a standalone disease. In reality, however, addiction is often coupled with other conditions. In particular, the combination of addiction and mental illness is common. Through dual diagnosis treatment, both conditions can be treated successfully.
Understanding Co-occurring Disorders
Co-occurring disorder is the name for any two disorders that appear at the same time among patients. In the world of addiction, this can mean two concurrent addictions, such as to alcohol and drugs. More commonly, however, a co-occurring disorder refers to having both a substance abuse disorder and a mental health disorder.
Mental health and substance abuse have a long and intertwined history. By some accounts, more than half of all those with severe mental illness also struggle with some form of addiction. Conversely, nearly half of those diagnosed with addiction also face some kind of mental health disorder.
It is impossible to know whether a person’s primary issue is mental health or addiction, because the two disorders can become so combined. In some cases, a person might use drugs or alcohol to self-medicate mental health disorders. This can be dangerous and it often leads to addiction.
On the other hand, some individuals develop the addiction first. This can create or exacerbate mental health problems. In particular, mental illness may cause things like paranoia, depression and anxiety, all of which can also be side effects of substance abuse.
The Importance of Dual Diagnosis Treatment
Dual diagnosis treatment is the treatment of both mental health disorders and addiction simultaneously. This is an important distinction, since not all rehab and addiction treatment facilities follow this approach to recovery. Without dual diagnosis, patients won’t get a comprehensive treatment of their health, bodies and minds.
In the past, dual diagnosis was not common in addiction treatment facilities. Unfortunately, mental health was often ignored altogether. Rather than identifying and diagnosing mental illness, which can become a tremendous stumbling block to sobriety, rehab centers focused only on physical health. Now that mental health and addiction are so closely related, we know that ignoring psychological wellness is clearly a mistake.
Even when mental health become something that treatment centers looked at, sequential treatment was considered the best approach. Sequential treatment, as the name suggests, focused on just one condition at a time. Typically, addiction treatment centers focused exclusively on sobriety. Then, patients were told to pursue mental health treatment on their own.
The problem with this, of course, is that mental health is often the cause of an addiction, or vice versa. It is impossible to treat addiction properly if a mental illness or disorder is left undiagnosed.
Patients who don’t receive comprehensive treatment that includes both mental and substance abuse disorders are less like to achieve sobriety in the long term. It is not enough just to go through the motions of a rehab program. The goal should be lifelong sobriety, not a short-term detox that leads to relapse.
Dual diagnosis treatment can go a long way in preventing relapse. To start, patients will understand how to treat their mental health disorders, and they will understand the connection between mental health and addiction. With the right tools, resources and support, it will be far easier to achieve health and sobriety, not to mention resist cravings, temptations and relapse.
Therapies and Methods Used in Dual Diagnosis Treatment
Dual diagnosis treatment is not one-size-fits-all. Instead, it utilizes a wide range of therapies and treatment methods to best address the needs of patients. The key is to use treatment approaches that account for both mental health and substance abuse.
One of the first things that can be used in dual diagnosis treatment is pharmacological treatment. Depending on the mental illness, medication might be necessary for patients. The right medication can lessen the impact of mental illness, which can go a long way in reducing a patient’s desire for drugs or alcohol.
Since some medications can be addictive, or can worsen a person’s substance abuse problems, it is key to have this done by someone familiar with addiction treatment. That way, patients can get treatment that helps their mental health but won’t sabotage their sobriety.
Therapy is a large part of most dual diagnosis treatment programs. Behavioral therapy, in particular, will seek to change negative behaviors to positive ones. By stabilizing emotions and focusing on positive changes, both cognitive behavioral therapy and dialectical behavioral therapy can be effective.
One-on-one therapy, also known as talk therapy, can also get to the heart of addiction. This is especially true for those patients who have a history of trauma, PTSD or relationship problems causing them pain. Talking through problems can offer the clarity and peace that addiction can’t.
Making Comprehensive Health the Priority
Dual diagnosis is so critical because it embraces the idea of comprehensive health and wellness. It is not enough to break down individual patients into a series of problems that need to be fixed independently. Health and sobriety are uniquely intertwined, and recovery has to be dealt with in a comprehensive way.
Rehab isn’t a success if patients leave sober but without the tools to treat a mental illness. Rehab isn’t a success if patients complete the program but immediately relapse without the right medication.
Rehab is only a success if patients are given every opportunity to live healthier, happier lives. Treatment that focuses on physical health, emotional fulfillment, mental health and addiction disorders will be the most effective.
A comprehensive approach to recovery can be a lot of different things depending on the patient and their conditions. The only way to know what treatment methods are needed is to analyze all new patients, assessing their health with a full evaluation. Then, it will be possible to determine how best to manage recovery.
Mental illness and mental health disorders are commonly found alongside substance abuse disorders and addiction. It is vital that they are treated simultaneously in order for patients to have the best chance of lasting success. Dual diagnosis treatment programs are designed to address multiple conditions and help patients achieve sobriety and overall health.