Like the common cold, there is no known cure for addiction. Also, like the common cold, the condition has existed for as long as written records have been kept. There are hieroglyphics depicting alcohol addiction from ancient Egypt that go back as far as 3,000 B.C., and evidence indicates that other ancient civilizations were consuming hallucinogens, coca, and wine for far longer. Unfortunately, addiction is nothing new and is unlikely to disappear any time soon. The good news is that substance use disorder and the common cold can be treated, and emerging treatments are becoming more effective all the time. Advancements in dual-diagnosis treatment for co-occurring disorders are blazing new trails in both addiction and mental health care.
Almost half of everyone who suffers from drug or alcohol use disorder also shows symptoms of other mental disorders. That’s about eight million people in the United States alone. Study after study reveals that people with mental or mood disorders are more likely to develop substance use disorders. Still, even today, only about 14% of people with comorbid addiction and mental illness ever receive integrated treatment for both problems.
What Does Dual Diagnosis Mean?
Dual diagnosis is the practice of comprehensively examining a patient to reveal multiple mental health disorders and substance use disorders. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), as many as 45% of those who suffer from addiction also suffer mental illness. Some other research suggests that this percentage may be closer to 60%. No, matter the exact number, it is clear that many people have dual diagnoses and that the various conditions are closely linked.
Years of research indicate a clear connection between addiction and mental illness, but no direct causality has yet been proved. Research shows that addiction can cause mental illness and mental conditions cause addiction. While direct causality has not been proven between mental illness and addiction, it is evident that the two are closely intertwined and connected. For this reason, it is not ideal or effective to treat either condition on its own without taking into account the influence of other co-occurring conditions.
Why is Diagnosing a Co-Occurring Disorder Difficult?
The greatest challenge to dual diagnosis is the complex and entangled nature of comorbidity. The symptoms of mental illness and severe drug abuse are often so similar that it can seem impossible to identify which side effects are caused by mental conditions and which are caused by substance use.
Especially in cases of long-term drug use, the brain becomes so inundated with toxic substances that it ceases functioning at a normal level. Sleep deprivation, erratic eating habits, and withdrawal symptoms can all cause such changes in the psyche and behaviors of an individual that clinicians cannot identify where substance abuse ends and mental health disorders begin. The patient usually needs to complete detox before any precise dual diagnosis can be made in this situation. Once the withdrawal symptoms have passed and the brain is clear of the effects of toxic substances, medical personnel can then perform mental health examinations with more accuracy.
Treatment For Dual Diagnoses
Substance use disorders and mental health disorders can result in unhealthy, self-destructive thinking patterns and attitudes. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) seeks to identify those thoughts, attitudes, and beliefs contributing to unstable mental conditions and substance abuse. Once those destructive thought patterns have been identified, they can be analyzed and restructured into a healthier mindset. CBT is used to help each individual analyze the behaviors and views resulting in addictive patterns, self-hatred, and emotional damage. Because it addresses so many aspects of the psyche, CBT can be used to treat both drug abuse disorders and mood disorders at the same time.
Holistic solutions are also used to treat a dual diagnosis because they are simple yet effective. Relaxing, centering exercises like yoga, meditation, and acupuncture have all been proven incredibly useful for drug or alcohol-addicted patients as well as those who battle with mental illness. By focusing on whole-self healing of the mind, body, and soul, patients find new ways to feel centered and comfortable in a newly sober body. Holistic therapy addresses the body and mind as one unit and provides new mental and physical outlets for patients to refocus their energies. By learning these types of holistic outlets, patients will be more prepared to build a healthy, balanced lifestyle in recovery.
Indicators of Co-Occurring Disorders
Whether you’re reading this for yourself or to help someone else, you likely suspect someone suffering from co-occurring addiction and mental disorders. Comorbid substance abuse and mental illness can be hard to identify without a proper diagnosis. There are a few indicators to look for, including:
- Disregarding hygiene and healthy habits
- Difficulty managing money and finances
- An inability to comply with traditional drug treatment, counseling, or other therapeutic programs
- Alarming or erratic behavior
- An inability to keep up with daily responsibilities and everyday tasks
- Apparent cognitive changes or deficits
- A sudden or unexpected aversion to social situations and planned activities
- Deteriorating performance at school or work
- Extreme changes in behavior and moods
- Suicidal thoughts or tendencies
Finding Support for Dual Diagnosis in Seattle
Don’t waste any time if you suspect that you or someone you care about is suffering from comorbid addiction and mental illness. This dangerous combination of disorders will often feed off each other and compound quickly, sometimes disastrously. Especially if you’ve tried more traditional methods only to relapse or drop out of treatment, integrated dual diagnosis care may be the answer you’ve been searching for.
Don’t let co-occurring disorders plague you for another day. There are hundreds of well-equipped dual diagnosis facilities across the country, and a well-trained team of professionals is waiting to help you. Recent research shows that integrated treatment for co-occurring disorders is effective and successful, and new advanced methodologies are being developed every day. Make the call now that will change the rest of your life. Our team is standing by at 425.414.3530.