Dual diagnosis symptoms can be challenging to manage without effective treatment options. You or a loved one might have a substance or alcohol use disorder along with mental illness. Often, those with an alcohol or substance use disorder are self-medicating for an underlying mental health disorder. Additionally, prolonged misuse or abuse of alcohol and drugs can disrupt chemical processes in the brain, causing mental health issues.
When you have both substance use and mental health disorders, dual diagnosis treatment will give you or your loved one the best hope for successful treatment and continued recovery.
What Is a Dual Diagnosis?
A dual diagnosis means that you have a mental health issue along with problematic drug or alcohol use. According to MedlinePlus, “About half of people who have a mental disorder will also have a substance use disorder at some point in their lives and vice versa. The interactions of the two conditions can worsen both.”
You might not know which came first — a mental health disorder or problematic substance use when you get into treatment. However, if you have been using substances to manage mental health symptoms or have been abusing drugs and alcohol at an increasing rate to cope with stress, you most likely have a dual diagnosis.
Signs of a Dual Diagnosis
You might notice some signs that could indicate the presence of a dual diagnosis. Knowing if you have an underlying mental health concern can be challenging if you use substances to mask your symptoms. While under the influence, you might explain away certain behaviors and symptoms of mental illness as, “I was just drunk,” or “I just get a little depressed after I use drugs.”
Common signs and symptoms of a dual diagnosis
- Using alcohol or drugs to soothe any heightened emotions. If you struggle to manage your emotions without using drugs or alcohol, you might also have a mental health issue. You might have difficulty regulating intense emotions when grieving, angry, sad — or even happy and excited. Poor emotional regulation can be caused by an underlying mental health disorder like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or borderline personality disorder (BPD).
- Continuing to use drugs and alcohol when you feel depressed without the influence of substances. If you cannot handle the lows that come without substances in your system, you might be masking an underlying disorder like depression or bipolar disorder.
- You don’t feel “normal” or function well without drugs or alcohol. If you feel that you need drugs or alcohol to manage social situations or face the world, you might have an anxiety disorder or depression. Anxiety and depression are common mental health disorders present in a dual diagnosis.
- You feel defensive or angry when someone suggests that you quit using substances. When the thought of quitting makes you feel threatened, you might be masking an underlying issue. If you use alcohol or drugs to cope with a mental illness, you might get defensive if you don’t have other coping skills. If a loved one reacts defensively, show empathy — they are most likely struggling with their mental health and need support.
- You have a personal or family history of mental illness. Remember that mental health issues can go into remission and resurface later when triggered by external stressors. If you have been in mental health treatment in the past, your symptoms might be coming back due to life events and other changes. Additionally, if a mental illness runs in your family and you abuse substances, you might have inherited a mental health disorder.
If you notice these signs in yourself or a loved one, a dual diagnosis might be present. Treating both addiction and mental health at the same time is crucial to managing both.
Treating Both Addiction and Mental Health
Since mental health issues and addiction often occur together, treating both is vital for your success in recovery. When you only treat one or the other, you might find yourself relapsing from either disorder or both. You might also develop unhealthy coping mechanisms if you stop using or drinking without dealing with underlying mental health issues.
For example, if you drink alcohol to cope with a traumatic past, you might go to rehab to quit drinking. However, if you leave your trauma untreated, you might find yourself addicted to gambling, sex, or food to cope with your mental health issues. While you might be sober, you aren’t treating the underlying problems, leading to more issues.
Treating both addiction and mental health disorders might involve the following:
- Detoxing from drugs and alcohol is the first step to recovery.
- Therapy can help you find strategies to change unhealthy thought patterns and behaviors.
- Medications can help you deal with withdrawal symptoms during detox, and psychotropic medications can help treat mental illnesses.
- Aftercare services can help you maintain healthy coping skills and often involve continuing therapy and attending support groups.
Treatment For Addiction and Mental Health In South Florida
Dual diagnosis treatment is critical for you or your loved one to recover from both mental health and substance use disorder. You are more susceptible to relapse, worsening mental health symptoms, or replacement addictions if you don’t treat both conditions simultaneously. Ambrosia Treatment Center of Palm Beach County, Florida, is here to help you or your loved one get the best dual diagnosis treatment. Call us today or visit our admissions page to get started. Your life is waiting; we’ll help you get there.