Have you been using drugs or alcohol, but suspected that something else might be going on along with your substance abuse or addiction? Have you felt overly sad or lonely, or experienced mood swings you can’t explain? Sometimes a drug or alcohol addiction occurs along with mental illness. When this happens, it is called co-occurring disorders or a dual diagnosis, and it is actually quite common. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, “one-third of all people experiencing mental illnesses and half of people living with severe mental illnesses also experience substance abuse. These statistics are mirrored in the substance abuse community, where about a third of all alcohol abusers and more than half of all drug abusers report experiencing a mental illness.” Dual diagnosis can be difficult to treat, but it is important that you get the help you need for both conditions in order to fully recover.
Cause and Effect with Co-Occurring Disorders
If you struggle with drug abuse or alcohol dependence, you should definitely also be assessed for a co-occurring disorder like depression, anxiety, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), or even schizophrenia. These conditions often go hand-in-hand.
Say you are afflicted by some form of mental illness. You’ve tried different things and nothing seems to help. You get frustrated and decide to get wasted or high one day to try to forget your pain. You find that when you are under the influence you feel better and your mental health symptoms are not so bad. So the next day, you self-medicate with substances again. What happens next? You become addicted. Now you have to deal with an addiction as well as a mental health disorder, and you realized it would have been easier to get proper help in the first place. But now it’s too late and you are hooked.
Or, sometimes it goes the other way. You may already be an addict, and your drug and alcohol use leads to secondary mental illness. Alcohol and drug use are known to cause symptoms of depression and anxiety, and to worsen symptoms of schizophrenia. Each of these conditions aggravates the other, which makes it really hard to treat co-occurring disorders.
How do you know if you have Co-occurring Disorders?
The easier condition to self-diagnose is the addiction. Ask yourself the following questions to begin thinking about your substance abuse or addiction:
- Do you use drugs or drink large amounts of alcohol?
- Have you tried to stop using and couldn’t?
- Is your substance use disrupting your life?
- Have your loved ones shown concern about your substance use?
- Do you feel guilty about your drug or alcohol use?
- Have you blacked out because of your drinking or drug use?
There are several addiction self tests that can help you determine your dependence on drugs or alcohol and if you need help or not. The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence has a test you can take online in the privacy of your own home.
Mental health disorders often look like addiction disorders. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Do you feel lethargic, moody, or unmotivated?
- Do you dread going out in public or spending time with others?
- Do you lose sleep because of worrying?
- Have you had a poor appetite in recent weeks?
- Do you have trouble concentrating?
- Have you seriously considered hurting yourself?
- Do you feel numb or detached from others?
Mental Health America has some self screening quizzes on their website that you can take to help determine if you have the symptoms of a mental health disorder.
You can answer these questions on your own and you can take a self evaluation quiz, but the best way to diagnose co-occurring disorders is an assessment with a physician or a treatment professional. These people are experienced at diagnosing and treating a variety of conditions related to mental and behavioral health issues. They know what to look for and what is in your best interest as far as treatment is concerned. Trust them. Be honest with them so they can get an accurate diagnosis and you can start getting the help you need.
So You have a Dual Diagnosis, Now What?
If you have been diagnosed with co-occurring addiction and mental health disorder, this is not the end of the world, but you do need professional help. You might think you can manage this on your own, but willpower, determination, and the support of loved ones will only go so far to help you recover from a dual diagnosis. It’s not even enough to just go to rehab and try to get control of your addiction. The right treatment facility will conduct an assessment on you, determine your needs, and put together a comprehensive program to treat both conditions at the same time. Since each disorder contributes to the other and both are so interwoven, treating both the addiction and mental health disorder in tandem is the best way to achieve complete recovery.
Your treatment program for dual diagnosis will begin with detox, followed by rehab and therapy. Along with the behavioral therapy you will take part in, you will also need to spend time talking to a mental health professional who will address the depression, anxiety, or other mental illness you are experiencing. You might need medication to help manage your symptoms, and you can expect recovery from co-occurring disorders to take longer than one disorder alone.
Help is available, and the sooner you accept that help, the better your recovery will be. Sober Helpline can connect you with treatment professionals that can handle your case and provide the care you need. Call our toll-free helpline at 800-819-2940 today.