You’ve probably heard of dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorders when you were getting assessed for an addiction treatment program. If not, you’ve probably heard it online when learning more about the different types of treatment plans and options that are available.
If you haven’t completely wrapped your head around what a co-occurring disorder is, and how mental health conditions and trauma relate to addiction, you’ll want to read this article. We’ll delve into some of the basics and give you a better understanding of why it is important to consider these two factors when it comes to creating an effective addiction treatment plan.
What Is a Dual Diagnosis or Co-Occurring Disorder?
A dual diagnosis and a co-occurring disorder are two terminologies that describe the same thing. These terms are used to describe a situation where a patient struggles with both a mental health condition and a substance use condition (SUD). Both conditions will affect the patient’s brain chemistry and will tie into the type of treatments that they need.
“More patients than you’d think struggle with a co-occurring disorder. In 2014, 20.2 million Americans were diagnosed with a SUD. Of these individuals, 7.4 million, or 36.6%, were also diagnosed with a mental health disorder.”
Any mental health disorder that happens at the same time as an addiction will turn the diagnosis into a co-occurring disorder. It shows that the rehab facilities may have more difficulties in treating the patient, as the patient is more unstable than the average addict that walks in through the door.
Both disorders need to be treated for the patient to enjoy a healthy and sober life. This means that addiction experts must take the symptoms and the causes of both disorders into consideration when creating a customized dual diagnosis treatment plan.
Common Types of Mental Health Disorders Associated with Addiction
Many people have reservations as to what is considered as a co-occurring disorder. Can any mental health disorder turn addiction into a co-occurring disorder? The answer to this question is yes.
Any diagnosable mental health disorder will automatically transform a typical SUD into a dual diagnosis, and these patients will need extra care and medical supervision. Some of the most common types of mental health disorders that are often associated with addiction include:
- Anxiety disorder
- Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder
- Bipolar disorder
- Borderline personality disorder
- Eating disorder
- Major depression
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Panic disorder
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Social anxiety
The different types of mental health disorders will change brain chemistry and an individual’s ability to cope with stress and cravings. It’s important to acknowledge these issues first.
It’s also a good idea to note that those who struggle with a more severe mental health disorder will also usually struggle with a more serious addiction. This is also true the other way around. Those with a more serious addiction will also tend to have a more serious mental health condition that needs to be treated as well.
So, Why Is It Important to Consider Previous Trauma or Mental Health Conditions?
During intake, many addiction experts will want to know everything about you. This will include whether you have experienced any past trauma. It could be anything from a physical assault to a sexual one. It could also be due to one’s occupation. For example, 12% of Gulf War Veterans will struggle with PTSD. These individuals are much more likely to turn to drugs and alcohol when they return home.
The addiction specialists will also ask you intensive questions about your mental health condition and whether you have ever been diagnosed with a mental illness.
Why is this so important?
Those with a mental health condition will have a different brain chemistry than those who do not have a mental health condition. Mental illnesses, like schizophrenia and depression, may lead to abnormal dopamine and serotonin fluctuations. These fluctuations may cause the individual’s body to turn to alcohol or drugs.
If only the addiction is treated, then the mental health disorder will still be an issue. Over time, the symptoms of the mental health disorder will emerge back onto the surface, and this instability may encourage recovering addicts to relapse.
Mental illnesses often drive addiction.
With that said, addiction can also lead to a mental illness. When both conditions play off of one another, everything worsens. Symptoms become more severe, and there are more uncertainties when it comes to treatment.
Case Study #1: How Depression Can Exacerbate Addiction
It can be difficult to understand why it’s important to diagnose an underlying mental health disorder, so let’s take a look at a patient with both an addiction and depression.
These two disorders are extremely common, and they often happen simultaneously of one another. An addiction can lead to the development of depression, and depression can lead to addiction.
Depression causes a dopamine system dysregulation. Dopamine is a “feel-good” chemical. Depressed patients may not have enough dopamine in their body. As a result, they may rely on an artificial boost of dopamine from drugs and alcohol. By doing drugs or drinking, these individuals will feel happy or, at the very least, less depressed. This encourages them to continue to drink and abuse drugs.
“In 2017, approximately 7.1% of American adults suffered from at least one major depressive episode.”
Unfortunately, once the substances leave their system, these individuals will feel even more depressed. This is because the body stopped making the little dopamine that it did once it received an artificial influx. The body believed that it no longer needed to make more dopamine.
The end result is that the patient becomes even more depressed. To deal with this, he or she will often take more and more drugs or drink more and more. This will give them the high or the happiness that they are seeking.
Eventually, this individual will develop a tolerance to the drugs and alcohol, and their body will also stop making as much dopamine. This is problematic because:
- The individual will now need to do more drugs or drink more in order to achieve the high that they desire. This can easily lead to an overdose.
- The body now becomes reliant on the artificial influx of drugs or alcohol. It is chemically dependent on it.
- Withdrawal symptoms will begin to kick in if the individual fails to drink more or do more drugs. The body is now physically dependent on the substances.
If the addiction treatment program fails to see that the patient is depressed, the treatment will not account for the lowered dopamine levels. Even if the patient is able to become physically independent from the substances, his or her body still does not produce enough dopamine. As a result, this individual will feel restless and depressed. This will encourage him or her to relapse.
The depression must be treated simultaneously as the addiction for patients to recover successfully. With that said, it can be difficult to diagnose a mental health disorder. Often times, the mental health disorder will have similar symptoms to the SUD.
How Is a Dual Diagnosis Treated?
Dual diagnosis treatment can treat a co-occurring disorder. This type of treatment is a bit more intense. It involves prescribing patients medications that can stabilize the neurochemical levels in their body. It also involves treating the mental health disorder through behavioral therapies.
Depending on the type of mental health condition that a patient is struggling with, the dual diagnosis treatment will be different. Each patient may need something different in order to finally become mentally stable and healthy. Some people would say that dual diagnosis treatment is even more personalized than regular addiction treatment programs.
Patients will need to work intimately with addiction physicians, counselors and therapists in order to recover from both disorders. They may also need to continue to seek treatment for their mental health disorders even after leaving the rehab facility.
Get Dual Diagnosis Treatment from Amethyst Recovery Center
Do you suspect that you have a co-occurring disorder? Were you diagnosed with a mental health disorder before you started to turn to drugs and alcohol? Do you use alcohol and drugs to self-medicate?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, Amethyst Recovery Center can help. Our dual diagnosis treatment is known for its effectiveness and success. We’ve helped hundreds upon hundreds of substance abusers turn their lives around with our dual diagnosis treatment. Not only are we able to help patients overcome their addictions, but we also treat the underlying mental health conditions, so that patients are in a better headspace. They are more likely to achieve their long-term recovery goals.
Do you have any experiences with co-occurring disorders? Or, do you have any unanswered questions? Leave a comment below to join in on our discussion.