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The Double Demons of Depression and Addiction

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It is estimated that upwards of six in every 10 individuals with a drug abuse problem also have an associated mental health condition. This is known as dual diagnosis or a co-occurring disorder. There’s always a reason people start using drugs, and oftentimes it’s a pre-existing mental condition. It may be something as simple as curiosity that gets the ball rolling, but for some, there is a deeper reason to use drugs. Interestingly, it is a two-way street, as addiction may heighten the risk of developing a mental illness as well.

Common dual diagnoses include addiction alongside anxiety, depression, schizophrenia and more, especially in women. In fact, women are twice as likely to experience depression and anxiety as men. Interestingly, women tend to develop the mood disorder first, while men start with the addiction.

The Relationship Between Addiction and Mental Illness

The combination of addiction and mental illness affects different people in different ways. Several patterns of behavior include:

  • Self-medication. People with anxiety, stress, or learning disorders often turn to alcohol or drugs to relieve their symptoms. In this case, the mental illness fuels the addiction, and both may worsen as the person develops tolerance to the drug and begins taking them more often and in higher dosages.
  • Worsening symptoms of mental illness. The powerful, brain-altering properties of substances like heroin and alcohol can worsen already intense symptoms of mental illness. For example, a person with panic disorder who overdoses on cocaine may experience intense pain and suicidal thoughts.
  • The onset of mental illness. A drug-addicted person without a co-occurring mental disorder may be at risk of developing one. Studies show that drug-induced hallucinations may promote early signs of psychosis. Individual factors including genetics and family history may increase a person’s risk of developing a drug-induced mental illness.

Knowing the Signs

The only way to be certain if you have a dual diagnosis is to be evaluated by an addiction treatment professional or mental health professional. However, a few signs point to the possibility that a psychiatric condition may be fueling addictive behavior:

  • Feelings of hopelessness or sadness that persist for two weeks or more, even when you’re not under the influence of a substance
  • Using addictive substances to block out difficult memories or to mask feelings of anxiety or depression
  • Depending on alcohol or drugs to handle stressful events
  • A history of mental health disorders such as anxiety, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder or depression
  • Personal or professional problems caused by your substance abuse
  • Continued use of substances even in the face of severe consequences including jail, loss of family and friends and more
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Consequences of Co-occurring Disorders

People who suffer from substance abuse problems and mental disorders often have difficulties forming meaningful social relationships with others. These disorders can become a barrier to normal, healthy relationships at work and at home. Many women also suffer from poor self-esteem or self-image, putting them at higher risk for relapse without dual diagnosis treatment.

Treatment Options for Depression and Addiction

Dual diagnosis treatment was developed in response to the nearly 14 million Americans that are affected by the co-occurring disorders of mental illness and substance abuse every year.

Historically, substance abuse and mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety disorders were considered to be two separate illnesses and thus were treated separately. It wasn’t until fairly recently that addiction specialists realized how frequently these two seemingly independent disorders occurred together not to mention how heavily they influenced one another.

This strong correlation then forced medical experts to examine how effective the existing rehabilitation strategies were at treating the disorders and thus dual diagnosis treatment was born. By treating both problems at once, we can lower the risk of relapse. If the mental illness is the trigger for the drug use,not treating it means this person will have the same need to fill once they leave treatment. By developing a customized plan that manages both illnesses, the treatment eliminates that need.

Destination Hope Specializes in Co-occurring Disorders

The treatment for depression and addiction involves a combined approach which treats both illnesses as a primary condition. A dual diagnosis treatment program requires a carefully coordinated plan for both the addiction and the mental illness. This helps ease symptoms of each to allow the individual a shot at a healthy, balanced life. Therapies carefully designed for each of the disorders, such as antidepressant medication, psychotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy and addiction counseling, are combined into one comprehensive, manageable treatment plan, including relapse prevention strategies.

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If you or a person you love is having problems with drug abuse, alcohol dependency or mental illness, a specialized dual diagnosis treatment program may be the answer. Remember that recovery from addiction and alcohol abuse treatment means learning how to cope with intensely emotional situations and identifying when you need help and support.

Destination Hope is a full-service addiction and behavioral health treatment facility in Florida for people who suffer from substance abuse and behavioral health issues. We are a program dedicated to clinical effectiveness in both substance abuse and mental health treatment. The first step is making the call and we look forward to helping you manage your disease.

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