It might not come as a surprise to know that substance abuse addictions and mental illnesses often go hand in hand. You can imagine that an individual experiencing symptoms of depression or anxiety or the mood swings of Bipolar Disorder might want to quell those uncomfortable feelings with drugs or alcohol.
This is one common reason that causes an individual to have what’s known as a dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorders. That is, they have both an addiction as well as a psychological illness, such as depression or anxiety.
Individuals who are using drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism for strong emotions or to function better are sometimes known to be self-medicating; however, most individuals who self-medicate do so unintentionally.
It’s not that they are necessarily trying to treat their mental illness as a psychiatrist would – most likely there is not an awareness that a mental illness even exists – instead, they are looking for relief from challenging emotions or for a way to better function at home or work.
According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA), it’s common for those with addiction to also have a psychological illness. For this reason, at drug addiction treatment centers, they should be assessed for any psychological illnesses, depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder.
Often, it’s hard to tell whether which came first, the addiction or the mental illness. Nonetheless, when this happens, drug addiction therapy and treatment needs to address both the physical component to the addiction as well as the psychological component.
Many treatment centers are beginning to include services that address the emotional and psychological sides to recovery. Other mental illnesses that can co-exist with substance use are Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD), Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Anxiety, Major Depression, Bipolar Disorder, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Sadly, many individuals who are diagnosed with an addiction might, for one reason or another, find themselves at a substance abuse treatment center that does not also address the psychological illness. Untreated psychological illness is often a major contributor to chronic relapse. Frequently, in these cases, the primary cause for the addiction was not addressed.
Furthermore, families might feel frustrated, angry even, with a member of their family who is using drugs. Their efforts to curtail the drug use typically are not sufficient if there is in fact a dual diagnosis. Simply telling a family member, whether that’s a spouse, adolescent, or parent to stop using drugs because it’s not healthy won’t work. Nor will any confrontational efforts. This is especially true for an individual who has the complicated and difficult challenge of a mental illness in addition to an addiction.
There’s no question that both need to be treated appropriately during substance abuse treatment. Research indicates that the best form of treatment for a co-existing mental illness and an addiction is to treat both disorders at the same time. In fact, when they are treated concurrently, there is a significant decrease in suicide attempts and psychotic episodes.
Typically, treatment would include individual and family psychotherapy, medication, support groups, and strong communication among the psychiatrist, psychologist, family members, social workers, teachers, and other professionals in the individual’s life.
Ideally, there would be an integration of services between the psychiatric and the drug counseling fields in order to best treat an individual with a co-occurring disorder.
For the best drug addiction therapy help, look for a residential treatment center that treats both the addiction as well as any psychological illnesses.
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