Addiction and mental health issues are two struggles that often occur together. There is constant debate about which comes first or causes the other. The answer isn’t a simple one.
In the United States, 9.2 million people have a co-occurring disorder. This number has more than doubled in the past twenty years. 1
Unfortunately, there’s much stigma surrounding what someone with substance abuse or mental health problems looks like. This makes certain groups unlikely to seek or receive help. Working professionals, first responders, college students, and many other demographics grapple with dual-diagnosis-related problems. No one group is immune.
If you or someone you love is battling addiction and having symptoms of mental health or behavioral health struggles, there is hope and help to be found. Options for dual diagnosis rehab in Arizona and in surrounding areas exist.
Reaching out today is a good first step.
So is learning more about how addiction can impact your mental and behavioral health and how diagnosis and treatment work.
Addiction-Related Symptoms of Mental Health
Most people see substance abuse disorders (SUD) and mental health issues as two separate problems. However, a substance abuse disorder can actually be classified as a type of mental disorder.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), substance use disorders also co-occur at high prevalence with mental disorders.
If you struggle with depression, bipolar disorder, ADHD, or BPD, you’re much more likely to grapple with addiction as well. Post-traumatic stress disorder and certain types of anxiety diagnoses are also considered co-occurring disorders too.
Dual diagnosis rehab Arizona experts find that overlapping addiction and mental health issues often look like this:
- Self-medicating by using drugs or alcohol
- Using alcohol or drugs to deal with complex emotional triggers or memories
- Seeing a link between mental health issues and SUD (e.g., Getting depressed when one drinks)
The impact of addiction on mental health can also appear in the following ways.
- Alcohol or drug use that is causing new mental health issues
- Behavioral health problems that arise after using drugs or drinking
- SUD treatment failing because of improperly treated mental health issues
Many people battling addiction also deal with high amounts of shame, guilt, and other negative emotions. The same is true for those with mental health issues.
When you suffer from both, daily life can be overwhelming.
Identifying Co-Occurring Disorders
Co-occurring illness exists when someone who struggles with misuse of one of these substances (alcohol, tobacco, opioids, stimulants, marijuana, hallucinogens, or prescription drugs) also suffers from one of these disorders: 2
- Anxiety and mood disorders
- Bipolar disorder
- Major depressive disorder
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Conduct disorders
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
Any other mental health disorder can also be a qualifier. Screening is an essential next step if you’re unsure if you fit the diagnosis criteria.
Diagnosis of Co-Occurring Disorders
There are many different ways that diagnosis can happen. Providers often start with mental health screening forms like Screening Form III.3 These diagnosis tools ask the following types of questions:
- Have you ever…
- felt you needed help with your emotional problems?
- been depressed for weeks at a time?
- heard voices no one else could hear?
- seen objects or things that others could not see?
- attempted to kill yourself?
- had nightmares or flashbacks from past trauma or abuse?
- experienced any intense fears (e.g., being alone, fear of certain social situations)
- given in to an aggressive urge or impulse that led to harm to yourself or others?
- felt that people had something against you or were trying to influence your behavior without actual proof?
They also ask things like:
- Have you ever spent much time thinking and worrying about gaining weight or controlling your eating?
- Have you ever experienced periods when you were so full of energy, and your ideas came very rapidly, when you talked nonstop, and when you moved quickly from one activity to another?
- Have you ever suddenly felt anxious, frightened, or uneasy to the extent that you began sweating, your heart began to beat rapidly, and you felt sick to your stomach?
- Have you ever had a persistent, lasting thought or impulse to do something over and over that caused you considerable distress and interfered with everyday routines, work, or social relations?
- Have you ever lost considerable sums of money through gambling?
Answering yes to one of the questions above doesn’t mean you have a diagnosable mental health disorder. However, it does suggest that you could be struggling with symptoms of mental health problems like post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders, and more.
Help with Dual Diagnosis
SAMHSA research shows that as scary as a diagnosis can be, a proper one can help people do the following:
- Discontinue their substance abuse
- Improve their psychiatric symptoms
- Decrease hospitalization and arrest risk
- Reduce interactions with medication
- Achieve financial stability
- Improve overall quality of life
Recovery is possible. However, this almost always requires a serious commitment to a personalized treatment plan.
Dual Diagnosis Treatment
What researchers now know that they did not is that treating addiction and mental health issues separately don’t work well.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)4 recommends, “Integrating screening and treatment for mental and substance use disorders leads to a better quality of care and health outcomes for those living with co-occurring disorders by treating the whole person.”
Integrated care is recommended for those diagnosed with co-occurring disorders, and holistic approaches focusing on treating the whole person and not just their SUD have much better results.
Whether or not treatment is likely to be successful depends on several factors. Recent research on this issue shows that factors contributing to (or taking away from) recovery should be acknowledged early on. If you are in treatment or ready to commit to it, you can discuss these with your care providers.
· Acuity of Symptoms
- Are severe withdrawal symptoms present?
- Is active suicidal ideation present?
- Is there a lifetime history of these disorders?
· Severity of Illness
- How severe is each co-occurring disorder?
· Chronicity of Symptoms
- How recent is the onset of symptoms?
- How long were any periods of recovery?
· Substances Used and Methods
- Substances associated with psychiatric symptoms
- Injection drug use
· Physical Health
- Are there any physical disabilities?
- Are there cognitive issues?
- Is malnutrition present?
- Is liver disease present?
- Is HIV or Hepatitis C present?
Not Sure Where to Begin?
Reach out to Silver Sands Recovery for a confidential consultation and immediately begin dual diagnosis treatment. Silver Sands develops a personalized treatment plan that addresses multiple issues at once.
About the author:
Lisa Waknin is the Founder and Director of Silver Sands Recovery, located in Prescott, Arizona. Lisa started Silver Sands Recovery after immersing herself in the addiction treatment world for several years to figure out what could be done differently to help her daughter and others like her to overcome addiction and stay sober. She believes in a hands-on treatment approach, which includes taking someone out of their environment, providing a 90-day program in a structured environment. During treatment, clients not only recover physically but also learn to live their life again. Lisa is a sought-after expert speaker for recovery support groups, charities, schools, communities, and companies wanting to educate themselves on the explosion of opiate and heroin abuse in our country and the best way to understand, treat, and beat it.