Dual Diagnosis: The Heartbreaking Toll of Addiction and Mental Illness

Written By: Molly Groo

Molly is Lighthouse Recovery Institute’s Case Manager and Vocational Services. She has a Bachelor’s in International Relations, is a Certified Addiction Counselor, and it’s currently working towards her Master’s in Social Work. Molly’s experience allows her to provide expert knowledge about solution-based methods to help people in recovery maintain long-term sobriety.

Published on Jan 9, 2020 | Drug & Alcohol Recovery, Rehab Treatment Options

What Are Dual Diagnosis Disorders?

dual diagnosis disorders

“Dual diagnosis disorders” may sound like a complicated medical term. But for some, it is an everyday reality. These disorders occur when someone suffers from addiction and mental health issues, such as depression.

For some individuals, these disorders can fuel one another and result in tragedy.

In fact, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, over nine million Americans suffer from these conditions. When someone suffers from addiction alongside a mental health condition, such as depression or anxiety, they face a hard, long road to recovery. Struggling with mental illness alongside substance abuse can increase the risk of overdose, suicide, self-harm, and relapse.

Thus, addressing both conditions is a core part of recovery for those who suffer from dual diagnosis disorders.

Why Dual Diagnosis Disorders Are Dangerous

Unfortunately, typical treatment approaches are not always effective in treating dual diagnosis disorders. Part of the reason for this is that many treatment programs focus solely on addiction and neglect co-occurring illnesses. While addiction treatment is vital, people who struggle with dual diagnosis are at a highly increased risk of relapse, especially with untreated mental health issues. For example, someone suffering from alcoholism and depression may receive care for their alcohol dependence.

However, if they don’t access therapy, medication, and support in managing depression, a depressive episode may derail their recovery. For many addicts and alcoholics, coping with depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues without using substances is new, scary, and seemingly impossible. Thus, to enhance recovery outcomes for these individuals, addiction treatment must also target improving mental health.

Core Elements of Effective Treatment

Providing help for individuals struggling with dual diagnosis disorders starts with understanding the link between mental health issues and addiction. Many addicts and alcoholics become dependent on substances as a result of self-medicating their symptoms. One example of this is the connection between addiction and anxiety.

For people suffering from panic attacks and generalized anxiety disorder, substances can initially seem like the “cure” for their symptoms. This behavior can start via abuse of alcohol or illicit drugs, or as innocently as taking a prescription from a doctor. Generally, many people who struggle with dependence on benzodiazepines become addicted to medicines initially given to them by a doctor to manage anxiety.

Hence why medication management and appropriate psychiatric care are a large part of dual diagnosis treatment. In our dual diagnosis programming, patients receive addiction therapy alongside psychiatric assessments and medication management. Treatment involves identifying appropriate, non-narcotic medications that effectively treat anxiety, depression, or other mental health conditions. Dual diagnosis treatment also involves intensive individual and group therapy.

This approach additionally consists of helping the individual develop self-care routines, identifying triggers, and coping skills. Also, in developing life skills to work towards independence, and addressing underlying causes like trauma, family dysfunction, and grief. Moreover, therapy, medication and psychiatric services, and auxiliary, holistic approaches are often combined in dual diagnosis treatment. For example, this can include yoga, nutrition, exercise, participation in community support groups, exploring spiritual practices, and developing mindfulness to better understand one’s individual needs.

Finding the Right Treatment Approach

For individuals suffering from dual diagnosis disorders, appropriate and comprehensive treatment is vital. Unfortunately, managing addiction and mental health is challenging and, at times, impossible for individuals to achieve on their own. Traditional treatment models are excellent sources of care for addicts and alcoholics. However, dual diagnosis treatment is necessary for those struggling with conditions alongside substance abuse.

At Lighthouse Recovery Institute, we offer a comprehensive dual diagnosis program specializing in caring for individuals with co-occurring disorders. As a result, the programs we offer include individual therapy with providers trained in treating mental illness. Also providing group therapy, medication management, psychiatric care, holistic services, and family therapy. To live a healthy, happy life free of the symptoms of mental illness and addiction, finding quality dual diagnosis care is the first step. If you are ready to begin your journey of recovery, please reach out today.

Cite This Article
Molly Groo. "Dual Diagnosis: The Heartbreaking Toll of Addiction and Mental Illness." Lighthouse Recovery Institute., Published on Jan 9, 2020, https://lighthouserecoveryinstitute.com/dual-diagnosis-addiction-and-mental-illness/.

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