Mental illness doesn’t cause substance abuse disorders, but the two things often occur together. Fifty percent of people with diagnosable psychiatric disorders also suffer from a substance abuse disorder. If you suffer from both a mental health issue and a substance abuse problem, it’s known as a dual diagnosis or a co-occurring disorder.
The causes of mental illness are complex and include hereditary and environmental factors. If you already have a high risk of mental illness, substance abuse can trigger the onset of symptoms or make existing symptoms worse. Many people with untreated, or poorly treated, mental illnesses may use drugs or alcohol in order to self-medicate for their symptoms. In the long run, self-medicating mental illness symptoms with drugs and alcohol typically makes them worse and can lead to addiction. If you are suffering from a dual diagnosis, substance abuse treatment cannot be successful unless it is accompanied by mental illness treatment.
Could You Have a Co-Occurring Disorder?
It’s normal to feel some symptoms of anxiety or depression when you’re recovering from a substance abuse disorder. Mental health symptoms are often a sign of post-acute withdrawal syndrome, which can last for several months after you quit drinking or taking drugs. However, if your mental health symptoms continue after you stop abusing substances, there’s a chance you may be suffering from a co-occurring mental health disorder. Some signs that you may have a dual diagnosis include:
- You have a family history of mental illness. Mental disorders tend to run in families. You’re at a higher risk of developing a mental illness if someone else in your immediate family also has one.
- You have been diagnosed with or treated for a mental illness before. Mental illnesses don’t just go away on their own without treatment. They are often chronic and require long-term care. If you have been diagnosed with a mental illness in the past, there’s a chance you may be experiencing a recurrence of symptoms.
- You have noticed a relationship between your substance abuse and your state of mental health. If you notice changes in your mental health when you abuse substances, or if you’re very sensitive to the effects of substances, it could be a sign that you are suffering from a co-occurring disorder.
Integrated Dual Diagnosis Treatment
Addiction experts agree that, for people suffering from mental illness, addiction treatment alone isn’t enough to bring about a full recovery from both illnesses. A recovering addict who suffers from an untreated mental illness will relapse into addiction when his or her mental illness symptoms become too much to bear. Even when a dual-diagnosis patient receives mental illness treatment, continued heavy substance abuse can worsen mental illness symptoms and interfere with treatment — active addicts are unlikely to fully comply with a psychiatric treatment plan. Fortunately, it’s easy to find a drug rehab in AZ or elsewhere that specializes in dual diagnosis treatment.
For many dual-diagnosis patients, psychiatric medication can be helpful. Medications used to treat conditions like depression, anxiety, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are not addictive; and in any case, there’s a world of difference between using medication to treat a psychiatric disorder and abusing drugs to get high. Medication can relieve many mental illness symptoms and make it easier for people to adhere to an addiction treatment program.
Nutrition, fitness and psychotherapy are also used to treat people with co-occurring disorders. The same psychotherapeutic treatments that are useful for treating addiction, like cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT, can also be beneficial for relieving psychiatric symptoms. Healthy lifestyle habits, like eating a healthy diet, getting enough sleep and exercising regularly,can both relieve mental illness symptoms and combat the long-term effects of addiction withdrawal. Ongoing mental illness treatment is a vital part of relapse prevention for recovering addicts suffering from co-occurring disorders.
When an addict also suffers from a mental health condition, addiction treatment cannot be successful unless psychiatric treatment is also administered. Treating a substance abuse disorder in someone who also suffers from a mental health condition can be more challenging, since mental health symptoms and substance abuse often feed on and exacerbate one another. However, with appropriate psychiatric care and comprehensive addiction treatment, dual-diagnosis recovery is possible. Even with a mental illness, a recovering addict can live a full and happy life.