Many people who struggle with mental health issues such as bipolar disorder, anxiety, and depression seem to have something in common, or it happens to most of them – they also struggle with substance and alcohol abuse. You may have seen such cases before; and they are referred to as dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorders.
It is not easy when someone is trying to deal with alcohol and substance abuse – but it gets even more challenging when someone is trying to deal with a mental health disorder. However, there is hope at the end of the tunnel, and you can recover from both when you are determined to seek help.
What is the exact link between mental health and substance abuse?
For people with a co-occurring disorder, both the drug and alcohol addiction as well as their mental illness will each have their specific aspects that are very different from each other, and will cause the person to fail in their ability to manage their difficulties, their home and work life, and even their ability to relate with other people.
The longer this problem goes untreated, the more their substance and alcohol abuse becomes worse. The result is a cycle of their abuse becoming worse and the deterioration of their mental health. The thing is co-occurring problems are very common, much more than what many people think, as evidenced by certain findings done by the American Medical Association.
They found that out of the population who have disorders of mental health, about 50 percent of them have problems with substance abuse. In addition, 53 [percent of drug abusers and 37 percent of alcohol abusers suffer from at least one mental illness.
What comes first between mental illness and substance abuse?
Even though there are certain substances that can lead to prolonged psychotic reactions and the development of mental illnesses, there is no clear-cut answer to this question, as you cannot conclude that the presence of one automatically leads to the other.
In spite of this, it is important to note that many people who abuse substances and alcohol often do it as a method of self-medication from their mental health issues. They may be using drugs to try and cope with the difficulty of living with their symptoms, to try and deal with the symptoms of a medical disorder that has not been properly diagnosed, or to try and change their moods. However, this soon becomes a bad habit of addiction, and their symptoms gradually become worse.
The second thing is that the abuse of drugs and alcohol actually increases your risk of getting or developing a mental disorder. It is not the sole factor in the development of these disorders, as they are caused by a complex combination of the environment you live in, your genetics, as well as other outside factors. If you are already at risk of getting a mental disorder, it can be enhanced by using alcohol or drugs. For instance, opioid abusers have a greater risk of developing depression, while marijuana abusers have an increased risk of getting psychosis.
The abuse of drugs and alcohol also makes the symptoms of mental disorders worse, as it can trigger new symptoms or increase certain symptoms. In addition, these drugs can interact with other medication you may be taking, such as antidepressants, mood stabilizers and anti-anxiety pills, and results in the medication becoming less effective at stabilizing your health.
The signs of co-occurring problems
The most difficult aspect of trying to diagnose a dual diagnosis is the fact that many people suffering from it are in denial. It is very hard for many people to admit they have a problem with substance abuse or even state how much it is affecting their lives negatively. In addition, there is a lot of stigmatization and misinformation around the subject of mental health, so many patients choose to ignore the signs and hope they will go away.
However, this problem does not disappear, so it is important to know if you are going through the signs of co-occurring disorder. They include using drugs to lessen unpleasant feelings or memories, seeing a correlation between your drug abuse and mental illness, other co-occurring disorders in your family, feeling anxious or depressed when you are sober, and unsolved history of abuse or trauma.
Most cases of co-occurring disorders happen to people struggling with anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, and depression. Occasionally, other mental disorders that accompany such cases include PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), Schizophrenia, and Borderline Personality Disorder.
Treatment for co-occurring disorders
There are plenty of treatment options one can explore when dealing with this case, but you need to make sure the method focuses on solving both your substance abuse issue as well as the mental health problem.
The main role of these therapy sessions is helping you to realize the role that the drugs and alcohol play in your life, and this should be done in a confident manner without the fear of additional negative consequences. When a person that is going through this is given an environment that helps them speak up, they will open up – so it should be a non-judgmental, confidential, and lacks ties to legal consequences.
The program you go through needs to educate you on drugs and alcohol, both on a general level and their specifics – including their interactions with other drugs, and how they affect the extent of mental illnesses.
The program needs to assist you to get support services and employment after recovery, in addition to assisting you to identify and develop your own goals for recovery. This will require the existence of special counselling to take care of both the drug abuse and mental illness aspects, which can be done individually, in groups, or with your family.
It is very common to see the problem of mental illness and drug and alcohol abuse occurring simultaneously, but the course of treatment is challenging because of stigmatization and mostly inappropriate treatment methods. However, there is hope for many patients, as the correct treatment method can assist you to recover.