Mental Illness and Addiction Often Go Hand in Hand

Posted by | Co-Occurring Disorders & Mental Health | May 28, 2015

Often, those who have mental illness turn to drugs and alcohol as a means for coping with their symptoms. At the same time, those who struggle with addiction can sometimes develop mental illness, such as depression or anxiety. In fact, when an individual enters treatment and has both a mental illness and an addiction, it’s hard to tell which came first. However, research indicates that the best form of treatment for a co-existing mental illness and an addiction is to treat both disorders at the same time. In fact, when they are treated concurrently, there is a significant decrease in suicide attempts and psychotic episodes. When left untreated, the mental illness can worsen the addiction and the addiction can worsen the mental illness.

Someone who has both an addiction and a mental illness is known as having a dual diagnosis. This means that they have two diagnoses – two illnesses that need to be treated. In these cases, treatment needs to be thorough. In fact, when mental illness accompanies addiction, there many aspects of treatment that are important to include:

  • -Alcohol or Drug Detox
  • -Addiction Treatment
  • -Drug Counseling
  • -Psycho-education (for instance, education on the components of addiction)
  • -Psychiatric Medication
  • -Psychiatric Services
  • -Medical Attention
  • -Family Therapy
  • -Vocational Rehabilitation
  • -Case Management
  • -Self Help Programs
  • -Support Groups
  • -Other Social Services, such as Community Integration
  • -Well Being Modalities like Meditation or Yoga

In addition to the above, it would be of great help to have strong communication among the psychiatrist, psychologist, family members, social workers (if any), and other professionals in the individual’s life. Ideally, there would be an integration of services between the psychiatric and the drug counseling fields in order to best treat an individual with a dual diagnosis.

To start, detox and addiction treatment services are required to alleviate the physical and psychological dependence on the drug. Depending on the type of addiction, you might require medication to assist in the withdrawal process. For instance, benzodiazepines are often given to those struggling with alcohol withdrawal, while methadone is frequently given to those struggling with opiate withdrawal. You may require medical attention if your addiction was harmful to the health of your body.

As the dependence upon the substance is removed, the mental illness might reveal more symptoms and treatment might require psychiatric care. This might mean taking psychotropic drugs to treat depression or to help stabilize your mood. If you’re taking psychotropic medication, you’re likely going to see your psychiatrist at least once per month in order to ensure your medication is working for you.

In order for recovery to be effective, it needs to be thorough and complete, especially if there is a mental illness present.  If you want to restore your life, ensure that the components to your recovery addresses all the areas of your life, including psychiatric care. Once treatment is addressing all the factors contributing to psychological illness, full recovery can take place.

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