It is all too common for people with a mental condition to turn to alcohol or drugs as a form of self-medication. The result many times is for them to become addicted to the substance. When someone suffers from a mental illness and an addiction, it is referred to as a dual diagnosis or co-existing disorder.
A person with a dual diagnosis may suffer from a variety of mental conditions. They may be the result of a trauma such as PTSD or hereditary or a combination of both. They may only be noticed in certain situations such as social anxiety or all of the time, such as with obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Dual diagnosis patients may abuse or be addicted to prescription medications, illicit drugs or alcohol. The intention is not usually to abuse the substance, but rather an effort to find relief for the symptoms of the mental condition.
It is more complicated to diagnose and treat two disorders for several reasons. For one thing, someone with a mental condition is often well-accustomed to hiding the symptoms of this diagnosis because of the stigma attached or the fear of what treatment would mean. He or she also is just as skilled at hiding the addiction.
In many cases, the individual never uses drugs or alcohol in public, but waits for the privacy of home. It is not known by even the closest of family and friends until the addiction has progressed. In fact, the substance often hides the symptoms of the mental condition, making the person seem normal and happy.
Another complexity of these two disorders is the fact that when the addiction becomes severe, it can increase the severity of the symptoms of the mental illness. When someone is addicted, they may exhibit withdrawal symptoms as the substance leaves the system. These symptoms may be the same as what the person experiences with the mental condition.
For example, someone with clinical depression may turn to alcohol to help them feel “happy.” When the person experiences withdrawal from the alcohol, he or she becomes depressed again. The depression may even be greater than it was before.
Treatment for people with both a mental condition and addiction is possible. Many treatment centers focus on this aspect of addiction. The person is often diagnosed with the addiction and the mental condition and given two separate treatment programs. These programs work together to ensure that the person recovers successfully.
Many times, the patient must continue with ongoing therapy even after initial treatment is complete. He or she may need medications to control the mental condition and therapy for one of both conditions. While ongoing therapy is important to all addicts, it becomes essential to the person with two diagnoses to prevent relapse.
Many mental illnesses are not curable, only treatable. Addiction is also a chronic condition with no cure. Because of this fact, relapse is a possibility at any time. Addicts and their loved ones need to be aware of this issue and stay involved in treatment for as long as necessary.
If you have a loved one that you believe suffers from an addiction and a mental illness, call the dual diagnosis treatment specialists at Alcohol Treatment Centers Brooklyn at (718) 749-0909. Help your loved one see the need for treatment so that he or she can enjoy a productive, happy life.