More than 7 million people have a dual diagnosis of a substance abuse disorder and another mental health condition. But the substance abuse disorder can cloud the signs of the dual diagnosis. When you’re in the throes of addiction, the substance abuse problem can seem like the most pressing issue to address. While it’s important to treat the addiction, it’s also essential to address other mental health conditions. Treating the dual diagnosis simultaneously allows you to develop coping skills for all of your struggles, manage your triggers and reduce relapse rates.
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Issues Feed Off Each Other
Symptoms of a mental illness often overlap with signs of a substance abuse disorder. For example, someone who experiences major depression may isolate themselves and lose motivation for the activities that used to bring them pleasure. At the same time, someone with a substance abuse disorder may isolate themselves to hide their drug use or avoid doing the things that bring them joy because they’re focused on satisfying their drug cravings.
Moreover, people who struggle with a dual diagnosis often use drugs to self-medicate. If your depression makes it difficult to get out of bed in the morning, you may reach for stimulants to rev yourself up. If anxiety causes you to avoid social situations, you might drink heavily to reduce your inhibitions and get out of the house.
When you have a dual diagnosis, treating the substance abuse disorder alone can help you eliminate drugs from your system. But if your mental illness is feeding your drug-seeking behavior, you may have trouble limiting your drug use after treatment.
Burning Tree Ranch Offers the Best Long Term Dual Diagnosis Treatment for the Chronic Relapser
Common Examples of a Dual Diagnosis
Some dual diagnoses commonly occur together because of the nature of the mental illness or the particular drug. For example, benzodiazepines may help calm you down. You might seek them out when you’re feeling panicky or anxious. If you take these medications recreationally to feel better, you might be struggling with an anxiety disorder.
Alcohol addiction and depression are also closely connected. Depression may contribute to alcohol use disorder. Heavy alcohol use can also lead to depression.
There is also a high correlation between opioid abuse and PTSD. Many people with PTSD are also struggling with pain, and physical discomfort can exacerbate signs of PTSD. Individuals with this dual diagnosis may take opioids to minimize their pain, which in turn reduces the symptoms of PTSD.
There is evidence linking marijuana abuse with an elevated risk for mental illnesses. It’s difficult to determine whether marijuana use causes psychological conditions or the presence of a mental illness leads people to use marijuana. However, an individual’s genetic makeup can increase the risk of developing psychosis from using marijuana.
What Are Some Signs That You Might Have a Dual Diagnosis?
The following signs that you need dual diagnosis treatment can help you set up a dual diagnosis treatment plan that encompasses all of your mental health issues and elicits holistic healing and a lasting recovery.
1. You Keep Relapsing
Relapse is part of the recovery journey. If you break your leg and get a cast, you can’t run around and play soccer the next day. Your bones need time to heal. When you get the cast off, you may even experience weakness and reduced mobility. You will likely need to adjust your lifestyle to allow for this healing.
The same thing happens when you seek substance abuse treatment. Progress takes time, and it’s not always linear. Just as a toddler falls down hundreds of times as they learn to walk, you will experience celebrations and setbacks during your recovery journey.
But if you don’t feel like substance abuse treatment is working, you may need a more holistic approach. You may be dealing with a dual diagnosis, which means that you have to peel off some of the layers that lie beneath the substance use disorder. Learning more about your dual diagnosis, such as PTSD, anxiety, bipolar disorder or depression, can shed light on the reasons that you keep returning to drugs or alcohol.
2. You Have Confusing Thoughts
In many cases, addiction can make it difficult to think clearly. Even though you know that your substance use disorder is negatively affecting your life, you may have trouble gaining the clarity to seek support or stop using. But when you do go through detox and participate in substance abuse treatment, the hazy thinking often goes away. Without the drugs in your system, you can think more clearly and follow your path to recovery.
But if you have a dual diagnosis, the intrusive, confusing, distressing and disconcerting thoughts may not disappear after undergoing substance abuse treatment. The symptoms that you assumed were linked to your substance use disorder may still be present. This is a strong sign that you’re dealing with another mental health disorder and could benefit from dual diagnosis treatment.
3. You Use Drugs and Alcohol as an Escape
If you use substances as an escape, you might want to ask what you’re trying to escape from. For some people, drugs and alcohol simply reduce the stressors of daily life. But someone with a dual diagnosis may feel as though substances are the only avenue for relieving their mental and emotional distress.
You may be dealing with a dual diagnosis if you’re experiencing worrisome thoughts and emotions that don’t get better with basic lifestyle or behavior changes. The inability to cope with your life is often an indicator that something is going on psychologically beyond your substance use disorder. You may have a dual diagnosis, which can be assessed and treated by a professional.
4. You Have a History of Mental Health Conditions
Undergoing treatment for mental illness in the past can increase your risk of developing a dual diagnosis in the future. Treatment for substance abuse disorders and mental illnesses is an ongoing process. You may need to remain in therapy for a long-term basis to prevent signs of a dual diagnosis from returning. If you have a family history of mental health problems, you may also be at an increased risk of developing a dual diagnosis.
The best way to determine whether you need dual diagnosis treatment is to get a professional assessment. At Burning Tree Ranch, we recognize the importance of dual diagnosis treatment for reducing relapse rates, improving mental health and helping clients access a fulfilling life in recovery.