Why Dual-Diagnosis Treatment is Important
THE CONNECTION BETWEEN CO-OCCURING MENTAL ILLNESS & ADDICTION
As you’re surely aware, there are many ways for a person to develop a substance abuse problem. There’s a tendency to portray people suffering from addiction as individuals who consciously chose to begin abusing alcohol or drugs, leading to their developing addictions; however, that’s not always how it happens. Some people develop addictions after having been exposed to trauma or substance abuse during their childhoods or adolescent years. Others turn to alcohol or drugs in order to cope, which suggests that there’s some sort of prior trauma or a set of symptoms they’re attempting to treat. Oftentimes these individuals are suffering from “comorbid,” or co-occurring, mental illnesses.
After years of research and observation, we’ve come to realize that addiction comorbidity is extremely common, and it makes a lot of sense why there are so many people who suffer from both an addiction and a mental or emotional disorder.
When a person suffers from a mental or emotional disorder — e.g., bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety disorder, etc. — he or she inevitably experiences symptoms of distress. With depression, there’s often a sense of dread, insomnia or the inability to sleep at normal times, extremely poor appetite and diet, a tendency to withdraw socially, and numerous other symptoms. Understandably, these symptoms are unpleasant to experience. When the individual isn’t receiving treatment from a professional, he or she may turn to something that’s more accessible in an effort to relieve the symptoms he or she is experiencing. In the event that alcohol or drugs are being used to relieve symptoms of mental or emotional disorders, it’s often colloquially known as self-medication.
Self-medicating for mental and emotional disorders is one of the most common causes of addiction. Although the disorder itself doesn’t directly cause addiction, the individual’s desperation for relief from the symptoms of the disorder result in him or her seeking comfort and relief from alcohol or drug use.
Alternately, there are theories among psychiatrists and treatment professionals that addiction could, in fact, cause symptoms of mental or emotional disorders. While it’s believed to be substantially less common, the idea is that the chemical changes that occur in the brain when an individual habitually abuses a mind-altering substances could cause him or her to begin to experience and exhibit certain prognoses.