Dealing with a substance abuse disorder or mental illness can be difficult and scary, but coping with both simultaneously can feel impossible. However, it is far from uncommon. In 2014, it was reported by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health that approximately 7.9 million Americans are affected by both substance abuse and mental illness.
What Is Dual Diagnosis?
When an individual is diagnosed with both a mental illness and a substance abuse disorder, it is referred to as a dual diagnosis. It’s common for a sufferer of mental illness to turn to drugs as a coping mechanism, while substance abuse may worsen an existing mental illness.
Many symptoms of mental illness and substance abuse overlap, so it may be difficult to recognize that there are two disorders occurring.
Some symptoms of substance abuse include the following:
- Needing to increase the dosage of the drug over time to experience the same effect.
- Feeling as though you need the drug to function.
- Consumed by thoughts of how you are going to get your next fix, or prioritizing buying the drug over every-day necessities.
- Repeatedly trying and failing to quit the drug, and experiencing physical or psychological withdrawal symptoms.
Furthermore, substance abuse can result in negative effects on different aspects of the abuser’s life, such as financial problems, issues at work or school, and being neglectful of his or her own health and wellbeing. Addiction is commonly known as a “family disease”, as these problems can also affect the user’s loved ones to a huge degree.
There are so many different mental illnesses that it is difficult to give a general overview of symptoms, but some of the most common ones include
- Prolonged or abrupt changes in mood.
- Issues or changes with sleeping or eating.
- Disorganisation and trouble handling responsibilities.
- Trouble with performance at work or school.
- Withdrawal from friends and family.
- Delusions or hallucinations.
- Suicidal thoughts or behavior.
It is also important to note that while anxiety and depression are common mental illnesses on their own, they may also indicate a more severe mental illness when accompanied by other symptoms.
When both substance abuse and mental illness occur simultaneously, it is extremely important to receive proper treatment. Professionals specializing in only one or the other may not be equipped to treat a patient experiencing both problems.
Importance of Dual Recovery
That is where dual recovery comes in. Dual recovery refers to treatment designed to treat both mental illness and substance abuse issues. Dual recovery generally includes a variety of treatment approaches, such as
- Drug detoxification.
- Medication for mental illness, abuse disorder, or both.
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.
- Support groups and talk therapy.
- Alternative medicine.
Generally, dual recovery involves a thorough assessment of the patient’s unique situation and needs in order to create a treatment plan designed specifically for that individual. While one treatment may work for someone, the opposite may be true of someone else.
Recovery Is Possible
It is extremely important for a person with a dual diagnosis to receive comprehensive treatment. Treating only the mental illness or substance abuse problem will rarely rectify the other. However, dual recovery treatment is extremely effective and can help you get back to a normal, healthy life.