If you suffer from substance use disorder and are having a hard time trying to maintain sobriety, you might have a mental health disorder at play. Mental health issues like anxiety or depression can make sobriety especially hard to achieve. Rather than blame yourself, understand that both substances and mental illnesses are powerful forces that take time and professional help to overcome. Contact Twin Lakes Recovery Center in Monroe, Georgia, near Atlanta. We can provide a comprehensive mental health assessment as well as the treatment you need to take back control of your life.
What is Dual Diagnosis?
When someone suffers from a substance use disorder as well as some type of mental health disorder, they are said to have a co-occurring disorder, or dual diagnosis. Mental illnesses that commonly co-occur with addiction include depression, anxiety, PTSD, and bipolar disorder.
When an individual suffers from a dual diagnosis, they must receive help for both components of their illness simultaneously. Treating one without the other can lead to limited benefits and create difficulties through recovery.
What Comes First: Addiction or Mental Health Disorder?
With a co-occurring disorder, either disorder can occur first. In some cases, a mental health condition can make substance abuse more likely. For example, someone with an anxiety disorder might use alcohol or drugs to help themselves relax and cope with stressful situations and, in the process, develop an addiction. In other cases, substance use can bring about mental health challenges. Someone who has been addicted to drugs may develop depression, fueled by the stress of trying to access the drug and keep people from finding out about the addiction.
Sometimes, it can be very difficult to determine which disorder came first, and in the end, it doesn’t really matter. The important thing is that both disorders are recognized and treated together. Professionals like our master’s-level clinicians at Twin Lakes work to understand what the underlying conditions are so that they can create an effective treatment plan for all involved.
How Many People Suffer from Dual Diagnosis?
It is not uncommon for individuals to suffer from co-occurring disorders. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), approximately 9.2 million adults in the United States have a co-occurring disorder.
SAMHSA also notes that people who have mental health disorders are more likely to experience substance use disorders than those who do not have them. In addition, because these conditions are very hard to diagnose, the number of people suffering from co-occurring disorders may actually be significantly higher than reported.
What Types of Mental Health Disorders Can Accompany Addiction?
Most commonly, individuals with substance use disorders suffer from anxiety and mood-related disorders. However, individuals who have a severe mental illness are also more likely to use drugs or alcohol as a tool for coping with their mental health symptoms. Commonly occurring conditions include the following:
- Major depression
- Bipolar disorder
- Panic disorder
- Social anxiety
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Generalized anxiety disorder
Severe mental health disorders, like schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder, can also create substance abuse risk factors.
How Do You Know If You Have a Co-Occurring Disorder?
Most people are aware, at least to some extent, of their own problematic drug or alcohol use. However, self-diagnosing mental health issues is harder. It’s easy to brush off sadness or stress as a temporary response to a situation. But if you start to notice that you reach for substances in certain situations or at certain times, you might start to see the connection. What are you trying to avoid? Why do you feel like you “need a break”?
The best thing you can do for yourself, even if you’re not sure of your condition or its severity, is to seek out treatment. By working with a location that provides co-occurring disorder treatment, you may be able to get significant help early on.
Be aware that individuals may have worsening symptoms of mental health disorders even when they are getting treatment. This is a common indicator that they were using substances to help “medicate” their mental health symptoms. When their body detoxes from the substance/s, the mental health issues come to the surface.
How Are Co-Occurring Disorders Treated?
Treatment for any type of co-occurring disorder has to focus on both the mental health of the person and their substance use disorder. Detox is often the first step. This can be painful, both emotionally and physically, because it forces the individual to face the underlying mental health concerns. Like alcohol and drug overuse, severe depression and other mood disorders can be life-threatening. This is why co-occurring disorder treatment is nearly always done under the supervision of a specialist.
Medications may be used to help the person detox comfortably. In addition, the medical team may prescribe medications such as antidepressants to help with the mental health disorder. As the client continues treatment, the medical team will continue to assess the effectiveness of the medication and make adjustments as needed. If the client enters with a diagnosis they are already aware of and is already taking prescription medications to manage it, the medical team will thoroughly assess the situation to ensure that the client continues to receive the proper medications for their diagnosis.
Once a person finishes detox, we strongly recommend residential treatment or an intensive outpatient program to address underlying emotional, behavioral, and mental health concerns. These programs at Twin Lakes emphasize individual and group therapy, particularly cognitive behavioral therapy to teach clients to become aware of their thought patterns and to see how those patterns affect their feelings and behaviors. As clients learn to monitor their thinking, they’ll be able to direct themselves to more positive actions.
Treatment will also include psychoeducation (education about the mental health disorder the person is dealing with), relapse prevention training, family recovery, and various holistic treatments that address body, mind, and spirit. Twin Lakes Recovery Center offers a wide range of programming (including cow therapy!) that we will individualize to meet each client’s unique needs. We also offer a specialized program for Veterans and first responders called Tactical Recovery. Because of their military and work experiences, these two populations have higher rates of dual diagnosis than the general population.