Addiction is a devastating disorder that comprehensively changes a person’s path in life. Alcohol use disorders and substance abuse disorders can occur on their own. However, it is not uncommon for individuals to develop co-occurring disorders with addiction. Dual diagnosis, as it is often called, occurs when an individual suffers from addiction as well as other mental health disorders. Individuals struggling with dual diagnosis can still recover from the condition, but it requires attention to all conditions present.
How common are co-occurring disorders? The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration provides some key information from the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. It found:
- 43.6 million American adults had some type of mental illness.
- And, 20.2 million American adults suffered from substance use disorder.
- Of those 20.2 million, 7.9 million suffered from both substance use disorder and a mental disorder of some type.
With millions of Americans diagnosed with co-occurring disorders, it is clear this is a common concern. However, many experts believe only a fraction of those with such disorders actually has a diagnosis.
Common Co-Occurring Disorders with Addiction
Is addiction a mental illness? It is, and understanding that allows you to see just how important treatment can be. Consider what substance use disorder and alcohol and drug dependency are.
Alcohol or Drug Abuse: This is a condition diagnosed when a person uses some type of substance that interferes with their ability to maintain responsibilities. They may struggle at work, school, and socially. Relationships fail. It can also be a formal diagnosis when an individual’s health begins to suffer as a result of their use.
Alcohol or Drug Dependency: Dependency is more serious than abuse, and this is where mental health truly becomes an integrated concern. Here, a person is using drugs and alcohol but can no longer stop. When a person is suffering at this level, it is essential to understand that the brain’s chemistry is different. Its changed to become dependent on the substance. It is no longer possible to simply stop using. And, psychological dependency can also occur. Here, there is an increased need to use more of the same chemical to reach the same desired high. And, many experience pain and withdrawal symptoms when they try to stop.
Co-occurring conditions can develop in several ways. The use of alcohol or drugs to the dependency level can create addictive behavior. However, those with a mental health issue can develop alcohol or drug dependency as well.
What type of mental health disorders occurs with addiction, though? Here are some of the most commonly found co-occurring disorders.
- Mood-related disorders are the most common in individuals who are alcohol or drug dependent. They include bipolar disorder, major depression, and dysthymia.
- Anxiety-related disorders include post-traumatic stress disorders, generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and panic disorder. Many have social anxiety as well.
- Several forms of mental illness include Schizoaffective disorder and schizophrenia.
The severity of any condition can range from low to severe. What’s more, the use of drugs or alcohol can sometimes make it difficult to spot the underlying cause of the concern. This makes it even harder for individuals to realize that they need help. Yet, getting help is possible and, if both are treated, individuals can improve.
Dual Diagnosis – Understanding What’s Happening
Understanding that co-occurring disorders are possible only steps one. The next step is getting help. Mental health and substance abuse specialists can help address what is occurring. It’s possible you or your loved one may believe a dual diagnosis is present. However, a formal diagnosis is imperative.
Common symptoms to look for in those who may have co-occurring disorders with addiction include:
- Individuals are often withdrawn from their family and friends.
- They engage in risky behaviors that do not seem normal for them – such as driving under the influence.
- They have experienced a sudden change in behavior.
- heir behavior changes often – sometimes significantly.
- They develop a high tolerance for the drug or alcohol of choice. And, if they do not get it, they feel physical pain from not doing so.
If you suspect this may be occurring, it is time to seek help. It is essential for dual diagnosis to occur. This ensures the proper treatment protocol is utilized. If only one condition is addressed, recovery can be very difficult. Simply, it could lead to treating just a symptom of a much larger problem. Treatment should always address alcohol, drugs and mental disorders as a whole.
Today, it is very common for doctors to access individuals for both addictions to drugs and alcohol as well as mental health. Remember, addiction is a type of disorder itself. An integrated treatment plan allows individuals to see improvement. But, that treatment must come at the same time and by the same team of professionals. If this does not happen, the other non-treated condition will not improve.
How Self-Medicating Mental Illness May Be the Root of Addiction
It’s also important to understand how this can occur. In some people, addictive tendencies are present. This does not necessarily mean the individual will develop an addiction. However, if they have a condition such as anxiety or bipolar, it can contribute to self-medicating. The anxiety becomes so hard to deal with and manage that they use drugs or alcohol to soothe their mind and feelings.
Over time, a link develops in the individual – the drugs and alcohol make life easier to deal with. And, over time, a true addiction disorder begins to emerge.
At this point, it becomes essential that they address both the drug and alcohol addiction along with the mental health issue present. If just one is treated, the other will encourage relapse to occur. However, treatment plans addressing both mental health and addiction are essential to restoring a well-balanced outcome.
Many times, self-medicating can mask the underlying cause of the addiction. Understanding the possibility of co-occurring disorders, though, creates a key opportunity to begin to see options for recovery. Many men and women can move towards recovery once they make the decision to treat all underlying causes of their mental health.
Are you or your loved one struggling with co-occurring disorders with addiction or any type of mental health complication? If so, there is help available to you. We treat mental health as well as addiction. We use cutting-edge technology to diagnose mental health disorders. We then work closely with you to create an individualized treatment plan. You can get help, and you can recover with the right treatment plan for your needs. Contact us immediately to learn more about your recovery options.