Recent studies have shown that while addiction rates continue to be on the rise, a new development in the depths of the disease is becoming just as important in the fight for sobriety.
80% of people who suffer from addiction also struggle with a mental disorder. This is called a co-occurring disorder, and its prevalence among addiction sufferers has left a very clear mark on why so many people still struggle with mental disorders in sobriety.
Over the last few decades, research has shown that, with the rise of drug abuse and overdose rates, a lot more needs to be done in both the understanding and the treatment of dual diagnosis disorders.
What is a Dual Diagnosis?
In order for someone to receive a dual diagnosis, they must qualify for both a substance abuse disorder, as well as a mental health disorder. As treatment advancements are made, more and more mental health disorders have been added to the list of dual diagnosis. They can range from:
- Depression and Anxiety
- Bipolar Spectrum
- ADHD and ADD
- Eating Disorders
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
- General Social Anxieties
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
It is also very common for many people to suffer from one to multiple of the previous mental disorders, as well as their drug addiction.
The Cause and the Effect
There is often added difficulty in treating co-occurring disorders because there can be somewhat of a mirror effect that can occur between the mental disorder and the drug addiction.
This is why for so long, many substance-abuse treatment centers did not have the entire picture of recovery they needed. The tricky thing here is, many of the symptoms of a substance abuse disorder can often mirror mental disorder symptoms, and vice versa. This can lead to a missed diagnosis of a mental disorder or a missed diagnosis of a substance abuse disorder.
Similarly, many people who have a more glaring mental health disorder will often not see their drug use as the problem, especially if the drug was prescribed for the mental issue, for example,
- and even other substances such as alcohol and marijuana.
The Most Common Mental Disorders
Although the entire spectrum of mental disorders has been shown to co-occur with a substance abuse disorder, there are a few that tend to stand out from the rest and the most commonly associated dual diagnosis disorders. These are:
Bipolar Disorder: a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy and activity levels. Most people experience extreme fluctuations between manic episodes of high energy to depressive episodes of very depressive states.
- This can both increase and mirror substance abuse symptoms because of the different states that follow both the craving or withdrawal stage to the using stage.
- People who struggle with bipolar can also become initially addicted to their medications, leading to further drug dependence and addiction.
PTSD: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder occurs when a person experiences an extremely disturbing event that causes difficulty later in life.
- Many people start using drugs after their traumatic event as a method of quieting the memories, and some people actually experience these traumatic events due to their drug use and continue using to cope.
- Symptoms of PTSD can manifest in different ways – Recurring images of event, insomnia, social anxiety, avoidance behaviors, flashbacks, and nightmares.
ADHD: Attention Deficit Disorder is marked by an ongoing pattern of hyperactivity, impulsivity, and difficulty paying attention or finding motivation.
- Again, many people who are diagnosed with ADHD in early childhood can become addicted to their stimulant medication. This can lead to further substance abuse.
- In addition, some people can use other substances to help cope with their hyperactivity and racing thoughts.
Anxiety Disorder: Displayed in excessive anxiety or worry for extended periods of time that can hinder everyday life.
- Symptoms can include difficulty concentrating, extreme levels of stress, panic attacks, restlessness, irritability, increased fatigue, insomnia or other sleep disturbances.
- Many of these symptoms can identically mirror many different types of drugs and their side effects, making this extremely difficult to diagnose.
- In addition, many people who are diagnosed with anxiety disorders can become addicted to the benzodiazepines that they are prescribed by a doctor.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: characterized by uncontrollable and recurrent thoughts and behaviors that the person is highly plagued by.
- Some of the most common tell for the obsessive aspect of OCD fall under aggressive thoughts towards self or others, fear of germs or contamination, the overwhelming need to have things symmetrical or in perfect order.
- As for the compulsive aspect, they generally display themselves in relation to the obsessive thoughts, for example, excessive cleaning, constant ordering and arranging of things and items, compulsive counting, repeated and incessant checking on things, etc.
Depression: Ranging in a variety of different forms and levels, depression has been proven to be an abnormality in brain functioning that results in severe intrusions on daily life.
- Symptoms can vary with the intensity of diagnosis, but usually present extreme sadness, exhaustion, lack of motivation, loss of interests, difficulty in social situations, etc.
- Again, this can look almost identical to many different substance abuse symptoms, which can make dual diagnosis difficult.
- And again, many people can become addicted to their depression medications, or use drugs or alcohol to help cope with their depression.
Eating Disorders: When a person obsessively monitors or worries about their eating, weight, appearance, diet, etc., to the point of binging or purging.
- Many people who suffer from an eating disorder can use stimulant drugs or excessive alcohol to help limit their appetite.
- On the contrary, some people engage in the act of not eating before drinking so that they can get drunk faster. The action of excessive alcohol consumption also further inhibits appetite, resulting in malnutrition.
Dual Diagnosis Treatment
Since the diagnosis and treatment for people with dual diagnosis disorder can require a longer stay and more in-depth treatment plan, thousands of dual diagnosis specialized facilities have started to make headway in the fight against co-occurring disorders.
Due to the fact that many people who struggle with a dual diagnosis often use these substances as a result of their previous medications, or in addition to their current medications, the treatment process can often take much longer than substance abuse alone. It is common for people with a dual diagnosis to experience worsening mental symptoms before they improve. When these substances are removed, a person with a dual diagnosis will often take a long time to feel comfortable enough to work their mental and mood disorders.
There are now qualified, certified, and experienced treatment facilities and medical professionals out there that specialize in the treatment dual diagnosis disorders. Despite the length of stay, and the possible severity of the diagnosis, recovery from both substance abuse and mental disorders is possible.