Substance addiction and mental health can, and often do, go hand in hand. In fact, there were 9.5 million U.S. adults that suffered from both mental illness and a substance use disorder in 2019, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. A mental health disorder such as anxiety, depression, or other social or personality disorders, together with a substance abuse disorder, which refers to the repeated misuse of drugs or alcohol, can egg each other and create the perfect storm for a bigger problem. Learn why these problems emerge together in the first place, what a dual diagnosis entails, and what type of mental health and addiction treatment programs can help to combat the issue.

What is Dual Diagnosis?

In the context of substance use, a dual diagnosis, also known as a co-occurring disorder, refers to any combination of mental illness and addiction. This covers a whole slew of possibilities and detrimental conditions for a person. Mental illness or psychological disorders can encompass anxiety disorder, depression, bipolar disorder, and more, while addition can include a physical or emotional need for alcohol, drugs, or anything that, in excess, can be harmful to a person’s health and well-being.

Those who receive a dual diagnosis frequently experience their addiction and mental disorder together at the same time, which can worsen each condition. It is difficult to pinpoint which condition comes first, the substance use disorder or the psychological disorder, because both conditions have many of the same common risk factors. Many of these issues can tie back to the way the brain has been wired or rewired due to certain factors both direct and indirect, which can cause it to not function at its optimal capacity. Therefore, signals that are supposed to be sent or received to the brain may be missed and continue to amplify this need for substances or the inability to handle certain social situations and life scenarios.

The risk factors for dual diagnosis are common and further progress mental health disorders and substance abuse. Stress, trauma, and genetics can all play a factor. Being able to identify unnecessary stressors in an environment may help to prevent these issues from starting, however, usually, when a dual diagnosis has been made, the condition has passed this point. Rather than figuring out what started the issues in the first place, understanding how to manage both addiction and mental disorder at the same time is the key to getting better.

The benefits of getting treatment for addiction and mental illness are invaluable. After treatment, you can begin to re-establish communication and honesty in your relationships with others. The mending process can include rebuilding trust within your family and social circle and being able to forgive on both ends and let go of the past in order to overcome the co-occurring condition. Once you’ve recovered, you may be able to help others who are suffering from the same issues and work as an inspiration and success story of recovery for them. At the end of the day, treatment is a step towards taking back control of your life and be able to successfully carry out daily tasks and job performance, and find self-motivation to live the best life you can without being held back by substances or a mental illness.

Why Does Substance Abuse Coincide with Mental Disorders?

The relationship between substance abuse and mental disorders can be a one- or two-way path. Mental disorders can instigate substance use disorders and substance use and addiction can play a role in the development of a mental health disorder.

One way a person with a mental disorder can perpetuate a substance use disorder is by using drugs or alcohol to make them feel better. Those with psychological disorders or those who may just be suffering from some sort of mental and emotional void or pain, may try to self-medicate and escape from their issues via their substances of choice. The feeling that these substances may give them can cause a temporary euphoria or high that takes them out of their reality, so much so that it can fuel addiction to them. Additionally, if there is already a pre-existing mental disorder, the brain already may be primed, programmed, and more prone to addictive behaviors.

A substance abuse disorder or addiction can be a starting point for the development of a mental disorder. Substances work to change the brain to either slow down or speed up, and ultimately can rewire it. This reprogramming of the brain and how it signals how to process social, emotional, and physical cues can definitely make it more susceptible to develop a mental disorder. The different parts that are in charge of decision making and emotions and navigating happiness are all impacted when substance addiction has taken over. This can create an ideal environment for an already existing mental condition to thrive and become more severe, or even bring about the development of a new mental health disorder.

What a Dual Diagnosis Entails

It should be stated that because of the multiplicative effects of both substance addiction and mental disorder have, dual diagnoses are not easy to treat. This is because of the nature the co-occurring condition brings and the fact that the two issues may be feeding off one another. If a person is struggling with depression and addiction, for example, it may be hard to know if that person is depressed due to drug addiction or if they had the mental illness first. Many psychological disorders can be the manifestation of multiple conditions, so finding the root cause cannot always be pinpointed and immediately addressed.

If you are dealing with a loved one who is experiencing both a mental disorder and substance addiction, it is crucial to understand that they are at high risk of both harming themselves or others. Coping with both an addiction and a mental illness can compile an enormous amount of burden and emotions that can result in violent tendencies or even suicidal thoughts and actions.

The development of a dual diagnosis can lead to a vicious cycle of self-destruction. For example, the mental illness may fuel the substance abuse which may worsen the mental illness, which could increase dependence on the substance which will continue to move along a cyclical path until it completely destroys a person.

Some physical and behavioral signs to look out for in someone who may be experiencing both mental and substance uses disorders include withdrawal symptoms, changes in sleeping patterns, weight fluctuation, decline in personal hygiene, red/dilated eyes, lack of motivation, feelings of paranoia or anxiety, isolation, legal or financial problems, and self-centered behavior. When these signs arise, it’s time to get help—and you don’t have to do it alone. Trained professionals who deal with a dual diagnosis can work with you or a loved one to begin to treat the issue.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment Options

While a dual diagnosis may be a complicated condition to treat, it is 100% possible to recover from, with the right treatment options. One of the most effective treatment approaches is to treat both mental illness and addiction at the same time. For those looking into addiction center locations, it is important to check if rehabilitation facilities have psychiatric staff that can address both substance abuse disorders and mental illness. Your healthcare provider should understand how each condition individually affects the other in order to properly guide you in addressing a dual diagnosis. This will lead to an ideal recovery from both.

Some parts to expect in the treatment of a dual diagnosis may include detoxification, inpatient rehabilitation, psychotherapy, medications, supportive housing, and self-help/support groups. Any combination of these components of treatment will put you or a loved one suffering from a dual diagnosis of addiction and mental illness on the right path.

Contact Aion Health Group for Dual Diagnosis Treatment

At Aion Health Group we have experts ready to help with substance use disorders and addiction along with psychological disorders—both at the same time. Call for help at 888-912-2454 or contact us online. A member of our admissions department will guide you through the process of seeking treatment for a dual diagnosis of mental health disorder and addiction. The experts at Aion Health understand the importance of addressing both a mental health issue and substance use disorder simultaneously. This provides the most effective care for our clients. We’ll get you or a loved one on track towards a better future, free from the burdens of mental illness and addiction.

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