It started innocently enough. I was constantly experiencing the crippling effects of my anxiety. I overthought every interaction. Whenever a negative thought popped up in my mind, it stayed there.
I would ruminate on this thought for days, sometimes weeks, until it would finally resolve seemingly on its own. That was until the next negative idea came along, which turned into a vicious cycle of obsession.
And I liked going out with my friends. It was casual. The drinks helped me loosen up, and the intrusive thoughts would start to fade. I could have fun. I could feel normal.
I found myself numbing my thoughts more regularly. Just enough to stop fixating. That was until my use became heavier and heavier.
I didn’t think anything of it until my family started making comments. How I was always sloppy, always buzzed. It was easier than confronting the problem until it became destructive in my life.
I lost friends. I was struggling at work, not being able to have a drink. The people in my life grew more and more concerned.
I knew something needed to change. I sought treatment. As it turns out, I was experiencing OCD in combination with alcoholism.
I felt less alone, knowing there were other people with similar situations, going through the same things.
We regularly hear stories just like this from our patients at Denver Recovery Services.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 19.55 percent of those in Colorado have some type of mental illness. And, sometimes, that coincides with a substance use disorder.
So You Have a Dual Diagnosis… What Does That Mean?
If you are in the recovery community, you may have heard of the term “dual diagnosis.” A dual diagnosis, also known as a co-occurring disorder, is when you have a substance use disorder and a mental illness simultaneously.
Commonly, substances are used to deal with symptoms of mental illness. This is often known as self-medicating, which can turn into an addiction.
In 2018, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health estimates that 9.2 million American adults had both a mental illness and a substance use disorder.
Half of those with a mental illness develop a substance use disorder in their lives. The reverse is also true. But that doesn’t mean that mental illnesses cause substance use disorders or that substance use disorders cause mental illness.
So, why do they occur together? One reason may be because both conditions have similar risk factors (such as trauma).
Another reason could be the self-medication that sometimes occurs to combat the symptoms of mental illness. Finally, substance use disorders can be a contributing factor to developing mental illnesses.
Some of the typical dual diagnoses include clinical depression in combination with cocaine addiction, alcoholism coinciding with panic disorders, prescription drug addiction with anxiety, and opioid dependency with PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder).
However, it’s important to note that there are many different possible combinations of mental illnesses and substance abuse disorders.
Is My Dual Diagnosis Treatable?
The short answer is yes. Dual diagnoses are completely treatable. For successful recovery, both the mental illness and the addiction need treatment.
This is because both conditions impact each other in some way. So, treatment needs to integrate both issues. This is why it is also crucial for treatment centers to have an individualized treatment plan for all of their patients. Addiction isn’t one size fits all, and treatment shouldn’t be either.
Treatment for dual diagnosis depends on the individual. However, some of the standard methods used for dual diagnosis are:
- Detoxification: This is usually done when you enter inpatient treatment. It involves monitoring the individual and sometimes weaning the patient off of the substance to ease the process.
- Inpatient Rehab: This allows the patient to receive constant treatment for substance use and mental health disorders. The patient is given medical attention and therapy.
- Medication: is used for treating many mental health conditions. Other medicines help with the detoxification process.
- Housing/Sober Living: There are different housing options for someone with a dual diagnosis. People in treatment can benefit from group or sober homes by being around others with similar situations in a supportive environment.
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT can help patients change their thought processes to reduce substance seeking behaviors and to improve coping mechanisms.
- Support Groups: groups give people resources, community, accountability, friendship, support, and the reassurance that they aren’t alone.
Frequently Asked Questions
What does it mean to have a dual diagnosis?
Having a dual diagnosis means that you have a mental illness as well as a substance use disorder.
What is the difference between comorbidity and dual diagnosis?
Comorbidity refers to when a person experiences a medical condition or disease (such as HIV) and a substance use disorder simultaneously. A dual diagnosis, on the other hand, is when someone has both a mental illness and a substance use disorder.
What percent of substance abusers have a co-occurring mental disorder?Around half of those with a substance use disorder have a co-occurring mental disorder.
If you or a loved one is struggling with a mental health condition and a substance abuse disorder, known as a dual diagnosis, it’s time to seek treatment. Here at Denver Recovery Center, we offer a variety of individualized programs for your specific situation and needs. From inpatient residential to outpatient programs, we will help you get the treatment you need. Call us at 480-360-6001 to start your path to recovery.