The Connection Between Addiction and Mental Illness – Dual Diagnosis

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If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction, it’s important to realize that there may be other mental health issues occurring as well. It’s incredibly common for those fighting addiction to also have the added burden of a mental health or behavioral disorder.

In fact, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, roughly 45 percent of people who are affected by addiction have a co-occurring mental illness. Because this is so common, it is referred to as dual diagnosis. For those with a dual diagnosis Connecticut treatment centers that specialize in this area of treatment are ideal for anyone affected by both addiction and mental illness.

What is a Dual Diagnosis?

As mentioned above, dual diagnosis is given to those who are struggling with both addiction and another form of mental illness. The issues can start at the same time, but most often, an underlying mental health issue can contribute heavily to substance abuse. In addition, those who have already been diagnosed with a mental health disorder are more than twice as likely to have a substance abuse issue as well.

For example, someone with serious anxiety or depression may not find relief in the treatments prescribed by a doctor, so he or she may turn to other substance such as pills, alcohol or narcotics to cope.

Ultimately, receiving a dual diagnosis is nothing to be ashamed of. Almost half of those who have been diagnosed with a substance abuse disorder also have other mental health struggles to work through. This means that you’re not alone in your journey, and it also means that your diagnosis is not insurmountable.

What Are Common Mental Health Diagnoses that Co-Occur with Addiction?

There is no hard and fast list of disorders that someone with a substance abuse issue can be struggling with, but most often, those dealing with addiction are also diagnosed with one or more of the following:

  • Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Major depression
  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD
  • Schizophrenia

What’s the Connection Between Addiction and Mental Illness?

Doctors and researchers accept that mental health and addiction issues often go hand-in-hand, and they also recognize that one may lead to the other. In addition to this, there are quite a few overlapping factors that can worsen both conditions.

1. Environmental Triggers

Things like unresolved trauma, chronic stress, persistently high levels of anxiety or regular exposure to unsafe or unstable environments can act as a catalyst to both substance abuse and mental illness.

2. Brain Development

Children and young adults who are exposed to substances like drugs and alcohol at an early age are at a much higher risk for developing an addiction problem later in life. This is because developing brains are at a significantly greater risk of damage than a fully developed adult brain.

In adults, consistent drug or alcohol abuse can alter brain chemistry. This can lead to developing mental disorders or exacerbating existing mental health problems.

3. Genetics

Researchers have found that genetics make up anywhere from 40 to 60 percent of a person’s likelihood of developing an addiction problem.

How Can Dual Diagnosis Treatment Help?

Because of the strong connection between addiction and mental illness, if you are someone who has been given a dual diagnosis, it’s extremely important to receive the right treatment. Traditional programs may offer a short-term fix to the problem of addiction, but unless you are able to receive help for the co-occurring mental health issues you’re facing, it’s very difficult to stay sober.

This type of recovery recognizes that there is no hard separation between psychiatric health and substance abuse, so the doctors and therapists who participate in these programs are trained to help with both addiction and mental illness. Dual diagnosis treatment plans are generally tailored to a person’s individual psychiatric needs so that both the addiction and the mental illness are properly addressed at the same time.

Previously, treatment facilities believed that these issues were separate, so they would be treated sequentially. Typically, this has a much higher rate of relapse than treating both issues in tandem.

In addition to this, some dual diagnosis treatments allow patients to begin taking antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications in a safe and controlled environment. This can be an important step in recovery because it shows the person that he or she can take a substance without abusing it. This can build confidence and boost self-esteem.

Patients also receive education about mental illness as well as addiction counseling so that they have the tools and support necessary to continue on their sobriety journey once they’ve completed a formal treatment program. Extended care options are very beneficial for those struggling with dual diagnosis.

If You’re Struggling, It’s Okay to Ask For Help

A dual diagnosis may feel like a crushing weight if you’re already struggling with addiction, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Remember that almost half of those who are battling addiction are also dealing with a mental illness, just like you are. You’re not alone, and there are people who want to see you succeed.

If you’re stuck in the grip of addiction, call or email us today. We are part of a network of dual diagnosis Connecticut treatment centers that can help you get your life back on track.