Full sobriety is more than discontinuing substance abuse. Recovery must also take into consideration the factors that led to your addiction, helping you to heal from wounds of your past, and live a life where you can love yourself the way you are. This is especially true for dual-diagnosis, or people dealing with a mental illness or mood disorder alongside an addiction. Mental illness and addiction often have a strong symbiotic relationship, where having one can easily cause the other.
The 2011 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that 25 percent of people with mental illness had used an illegal drug in the past year, compared with only 12 percent without a diagnosis. If you are struggling with both a mental illness and an addiction, it is vitally important to find a treatment that will take both of these conditions seriously, deal with them both, and recognize the ways they may be interconnected.
The Relationship: Many people afflicted with mental illness self-medicate, or turn to alcohol or drug use in problematic ways as a way to tamper down or deal with their disorder. If therapy or medication is unaffordable or unavailable, or trauma and painful emotions are not dealt with directly, they may turn to any number of substances that can dull the pain or distract them, using substance abuse as a tool for repressing. For example, people with depression or bipolar disorder treatment may use alcohol as a way to improve their mood in the short-term. This can make them feel better in the moment, but when the substance wears off, the unwanted feelings frequently come back stronger than ever.
Furthermore, long-term drug or alcohol abuse leads to tolerance, as the body and mind adjusts to the substance-abuse, and is no longer affected in the same way. This means the user must take more and more of a drug in order to feel “normal,” in a cycle that puts them at greater and greater risk. The relationship can also go the other way, as well. Many mental health issues can be caused or worsened by substance abuse.
Drugs can distort your grasp on reality, “turning up the volume” on your brain’s internal dialogue, in a way that often intensifies anxiety, paranoia, or depression as they do lasting harm to your brain chemistry. This means that a person with co-occurring mental health and substance abuse disorders can easily get trapped in a cycle. They self-medicate to deal with unwanted thoughts or emotions, but they only end up feeling worse in the long-run, making them turn to even more and higher doses of a drug or alcohol. Treatment: For a person with a dual diagnosis, their challenges with mental health and substance abuse are intimately connected, and so should be treated together.
The main goal of Integrated Dual Diagnosis Treatment (IDDT) is to provide individualized care that places both the psychiatric disorder and the addiction on equal footing. This means that every provider should be aware of both issues, and treat them together. All areas of your unique situation are taken into consideration as we think about what treatment plan may best work for you to find both healing and sobriety.
Some of the methods used include: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, meeting one-on-one with a trained therapist to work on ways to deal with self-destructive thoughts and behaviors, recognizing and replacing them with ones that can help you thrive. Mindfulness techniques that teach you to deal with painful emotions, and increase your ability to accept yourself. Holistic therapies can help you recognize triggers for depression treatment, anxiety, or mania, and work out developing replacement coping mechanisms, more effective and more healthy than self-medicating.
Group therapy and meeting in support groups, as people struggling with related issues practice vulnerable sharing and offering support to each other. Aftercare services to ensure you can continue to get help dealing with the stresses of the “real world,” maintaining your plan to treat the mental illness and remain sober.
Hope: Untangling the knot of co-occurring disorders or dual diagnosis can be a very complicated. These deeply entrenched difficulties may take a lot of work, and deep self-examination. The good news is that you are not alone; but a highly trained staff and people struggling with related issues can help you along, as together you take things “one day at a time,” and learn the best ways of making it through life, together.