According to a recent survey in 2010, over 45% of individuals struggling with addiction, have also been diagnosed with a co-occurring disorder. Co-occurring disorders, also known as dual diagnosis, refer to the combination of substance abuse and the presence of a mental health disorder. Over 16% of individuals receiving treatment for substance abuse have also been diagnosed with a co-occurring mental health disorder. More often than not, these disorders are diagnosed as two completely separate issues, one not relating to the other. If left untreated, the symptoms of both disorders can increase in severity and be almost impossible to manage.
Walking into a dual-diagnosis treatment center three years ago, I was introduced to the concept of integrated treatment for multiple disorders. I thought for sure this rehab would be like a stereotypical psychiatric hospital, but my assumptions couldn’t have been more inaccurate. Not only did the treatment center educate me and provide resources on recovery from long-term substance abuse, but the therapists also diagnosed me with anxiety and complex PTSD. At first, I assumed my drug use was to blame for these untreated mental health disorders. In truth, the underlying mental health disorders were only “adding fuel to the fire,” and ultimately inflaming my dormant substance abuse issues.
Self-medicating with drugs and alcohol, I was never treating either disorder. For as long as I can remember, I exemplified characteristics of both types of disorders. It wasn’t until I was forced into solitude and digging through the wreckage of my past, that I was able to work with professionals in identifying the reality of what I was up against. Avoiding the remnants of trauma from my childhood had become normality for me. Addiction was prevalent on both sides of my genetic lineage and my ignorance made me the perfect candidate for crossing over the threshold into full-blown substance abuse.
I was fortunate enough to find myself in a rehab that diligently and relentlessly educated and provided treatment that would help combat my dual diagnoses. Initially, I spent three days a week with a psychologist, one day with a psychiatrist, and daily caseload sessions (group therapy). The non-judgmental ambiance was pivotal in my full-disclosure attitude and ultimate eagerness to pursue long-term sobriety. I was surrounded by other addicts suffering from co-occurring mental health disorders as well. It was impossible to feel isolated and alone in this type of atmosphere. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety, major depression, and bipolar disorder: at the center, I rarely encountered other addicts not suffering from one of these mental health disorders. All of these people were just like me, walking through life unaware of what was going on internally.
Integrated treatment for co-occurring disorders requires an individualized recovery plan. An onsite psychiatrist is crucial for success. A psychiatrist can aid in diagnosis, medication, and any necessary psychiatric therapy. Incorporating the psychiatric resources along with group, educational, and creative therapy proves to be the most effective remedy for dual diagnosis individuals. The stigma of mental health disorders has been smashed when merging dual diagnosis treatment into the recovery process.
If you or someone you know experiences mental health issues, it is important to seek help from a qualified professional. Our Resource Specialist can help you find expert mental health resources to recover in your community. Contact us now for more information on this free service to our users.
Author Bio: Tricia Moceo. 28. Single mom. 2 years Sober. “I work for Recovery Local, a digital marketing company that advocates spreading awareness on the disease of addiction. Our company was founded by and staffed with recovering addicts cultivating recovery resources through sharing our own experience, strength, and hope.”
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