If you suffer from substance use disorder and are having a hard time trying to stay sober, you might have a mental health disorder at play. Mental health issues can make sobriety especially hard to achieve. It’s not your fault. Contact The Ranch at Dove Tree in Lubbock, TX. We can provide a comprehensive mental health assessment as well as the treatment you need to take back control of your life.
What is Dual Diagnosis?
When someone suffers from a substance use disorder as well as some type of mental health disorder, they are said to have a co-occurring disorder, or dual diagnosis. Mental health disorders that commonly co-occur with addiction include depression, anxiety, PTSD, and bipolar disorder.
When an individual suffers from a dual diagnosis, it is very important that they receive help for both components of their illness simultaneously. Treating one without the other can lead to limited benefits and create difficulties through recovery.
Dual Diagnosis: Which Disorder Comes First?
With a co-occurring disorder, either disorder can occur first. In some cases, a mental health condition can make substance abuse more likely. For example, someone with depression might use alcohol or drugs to self-medicate their symptoms and, in the process, develop an addiction. In other cases, substance use can bring about mental health challenges. Someone who has been addicted to drugs may develop an anxiety disorder, fueled by the stress of trying to access the drug and keep people from finding out about the addiction.
Sometimes, it can be very difficult to determine which disorder came first, and in the end, it doesn’t really matter. The important thing is that both disorders are recognized and treated together. Professionals like our master’s-level clinicians at The Ranch at Dove Tree work to understand what the underlying conditions are so that they can create an effective treatment plan for all involved.
How Many People Suffer from Co-Occurring Conditions?
It is not uncommon for individuals to suffer from co-occurring disorders. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), approximately 9.2 million adults in the United States have a co-occurring disorder.
SAMHSA also notes that people who have mental health disorders are more likely to experience substance use disorders than those who do not have them. What’s more, because these conditions are very hard to diagnose, the number of people suffering from co-occurring disorders may actually be significantly higher than reported.
What Types of Mental Health Disorders Can Accompany Addiction?
Most commonly, individuals with substance use disorders suffer from anxiety and mood-related disorders. However, individuals who have a severe mental illness are also more likely to use drugs or alcohol as a tool for coping with their mental health symptoms. Commonly occurring conditions include the following:
- Major depression
- Bipolar disorder
- Panic disorder
- Social anxiety
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Generalized anxiety disorder
Other various forms of severe mental health disorders can create substance abuse risk factors, most commonly schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder.
How Do You Know If You Have a Co-Occurring Disorder?
The most important step is to seek out treatment for any mental health disorder or substance use disorder you may have. By working with a location that provides co-occurring disorder treatment, you may be able to get significant help early on. It can be very difficult to self-diagnose these conditions.
Individuals may have worsening symptoms of mental health disorders even when they are getting treatment. This is a common indicator that they were using substances to help “medicate” their mental health symptoms. When their body detoxes from the substance/s, the mental health issues come to the surface. For example, individuals who are anxious may use some type of substance to help them calm down. Those who may be suffering from severe depression may seek out a substance to help them to feel alive.
The opposite is also a sign of co-occurring disorders. An individual may be getting help for substance use but continue to struggle with behavioral issues and be prone to relapse. This is because abstaining from alcohol or drugs does not resolve any underlying mental health problem. Such a person would have a much higher chance of staying sober if they had help dealing with their mental illness.
How Are Co-Occurring Disorders Treated?
Treatment for any type of co-occurring disorder has to focus on both the mental health and the substance use disorder. Detox is often the first step. This can be painful, both emotionally and physically, because it forces the individual to face the underlying mental health concerns. Like alcohol and drug overuse, severe depression and other mood disorders can be life-threatening. This is why co-occurring disorder treatment is nearly always done under the supervision of a specialist.
Medications may be used to help the person detox comfortably. In addition, the medical team may prescribe medications such as antidepressants to help with the mental health disorder. As the client continues treatment, the medical team will continue to assess the effectiveness of the medication and make adjustments as needed. If the client enters with a diagnosis they are already aware of and is already taking prescription medications to manage it, the medical team will do a thorough assessment to ensure that the client continues to receive the proper medications for their diagnosis.
Once a person finishes detox, residential treatment or an intensive partial care program are required to address underlying emotional, behavioral, and mental health concerns. Such programs will heavily emphasize individual and group therapy. Cognitive behavioral therapy is especially helpful in teaching clients to become aware of their thought patterns and to see how those patterns affect their feelings and behaviors. As clients learn to monitor their thinking, they’ll be able to direct themselves to more positive actions.
Treatment will also include psychoeducation (education about the mental health disorder the person is dealing with), relapse prevention training, family therapy, and various holistic treatments that address body, mind, and spirit. The Ranch at Dove Tree offers a wide range of programming, including equine therapy and other forms of experiential therapy, that we will individualize to meet each client’s unique needs. We also offer a specialized program for Veterans and first responders called Tactical Recovery. Because of their military and work experiences, these two populations have higher rates of co-occurring disorders than the general population. For example, many Veterans and first responders find themselves battling both substance use disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).