It’s very common to uncover a mental health diagnosis after you decide to get sober. You might find out that underneath the drinking or drug use was depression or anxiety or both. Having both a mental illness and an addiction is what’s often referred to as a co-occurring disorder.
If you feel as though this might be the case for you, it might be helpful to learn a little about the various diagnoses that are common to underlie a substance abuse disorder. Not everyone, whether they suffer from an addiction or not, will have a mental illness. There are certain criteria outlined by the American Psychological Association for each mental disorder. In order to make a diagnosis, a clinician reviews the symptoms you’re experiencing and compares those with the criteria listed for all possible diagnoses.
To find the criteria for each diagnosis, clinicians use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-V). This manual also categorizes disorders into certain major groups. Mental illnesses are grouped as Anxiety Disorders, Depressive Disorders, Dissociative Disorders, Trauma- and Stressor-Related Disorders, Obsessive Compulsive and Related Disorders, Substance-Related Disorders, and more.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is a diagnosis given to those who experience excessive and irrational worry for at least six months. The excessive anxiety interferes with the ability to function and usually consists of extreme anxiety for everyday matters.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental illness experienced by someone who has experienced a traumatic event, and who is experiencing symptoms of anxiety as a result. These symptoms may include flashbacks, bad dreams, and frightening thoughts. An individual might also exhibit symptoms of avoidance, such as staying away from certain places to avoid reliving the traumatic experience or forgetting the experience entirely.
Obsessive Compulsive and Related Disorders
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is characterized by repeating thoughts and images that might cause an individual to perform the same rituals over and over again, such as washing hands, locking and unlocking doors, or counting money. The individual typically cannot control the unwanted thoughts but get relief from the anxiety they experience as a result of repeating thoughts.
Bipolar I – Bipolar is classified in two ways. An individual with Bipolar Disorder will be diagnosed as having either Type 1 or Type 2. This first type of Bipolar, also known as Bipolar I, includes one or more distinct periods of mania, and could also include a mixed period. For instance, if there is a period of mania, there might also be features of depression and if there is a period of depression, there might also be features of mania.
Bipolar II is characterized by at least one episode of hypomania and at least one episode of depression. This diagnosis can be made only if the individual has not ever experienced a period of mania. Hypomania is an episode of that is less severe than a full episode of mania. Treatment for Bipolar Disorder might include medication and psychotherapy, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, life skills training, psycho-education, and hospitalization, if necessary.
Major Depressive Disorder is considered to be a medical illness that includes symptoms of persistent sadness, loss of interest in daily activities, occupational and educational impairment, along with eventual emotional and physical problems. Major Depressive Disorder usually requires long-term treatment, including psychotherapy and medication.
The above list is not comprehensive. Each of the groups listed above have other diagnoses in its category in addition to those presented here. However, these are common diagnoses among the American population. Furthermore, these are common diagnoses that can accompany an addiction.
Having an addiction is also a mental illness that is defined by the American Psychological Association. There are eleven different criteria listed in the DSM-V that a clinician uses to determine the severity of an addiction:
- Taking the substance in larger amounts or for longer than the you meant to
- Wanting to cut down or stop using the substance but not managing to
- Spending a lot of time getting, using, or recovering from use of the substance
- Cravings and urges to use the substance
- Not managing to do what you should at work, home or school, because of substance use
- Continuing to use, even when it causes problems in relationships
- Giving up important social, occupational or recreational activities because of substance use
- Using substances again and again, even when it puts the you in danger
- Continuing to use, even when the you know you have a physical or psychological problem that could have been caused or made worse by the substance
- Needing more of the substance to get the effect you want (tolerance)
- Development of withdrawal symptoms, which can be relieved by taking more of the substance.
Although it is not advised for a layperson to diagnose him or herself, the above information can indicate whether assistance from a mental health professional is necessary. Of course, if there is any suspicion that you or someone you know has an addiction, don’t hesitate, seek a psychologist today.
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