How To Cope With A Dual Diagnosis
Addiction and mental illness often go together. If you are addicted to drugs or alcohol, the effects of those substances in your brain can bring on symptoms of depression, anxiety or other mental health disorders. Conversely, if you have a mental illness you may medicate yourself using drugs or alcohol. If you have received a dual diagnosis and are struggling with both mental illness and addiction, there is hope and there is help.
You Are Not Alone
It may come as a surprise to you when you find out you have been struggling with a mental illness. Getting that diagnosis is never easy to face, but know that you are far from alone. Nearly half of all people with a severe mental illness also have substance abuse issues. Furthermore, half of people who abuse drugs and a third of people who abuse alcohol also struggle with mental illness. Anxiety disorders and depression are the most common mental illnesses that co-occur with addiction. Bipolar disorder and schizophrenia are also seen together with addiction.
Learn About Your Illnesses
When you get that diagnosis for depression, anxiety disorder or any other mental health issue and you also realize you have a problem with drugs or alcohol, it may feel like a light bulb went off in your head. Certain behaviors and feelings may begin to make more sense. To truly understand what is going on in your brain and to empower yourself to act, learn more about both mental health and addiction. The more you know the less mysterious and sinister it will seem. In educating yourself you will also begin to learn about treatment options.
Get Treatment For Addiction And Mental Illness
Getting treatment is important when you have a dual diagnosis. Either you have been self-medicating to treat your mental health symptoms or your symptoms have worsened because of your substance abuse. In either case, you are stuck in a harmful pattern of behaviors. Experts agree that you should treat both issues to get well. One may take precedence over the other, though. For instance, if your substance abuse is wreaking havoc on your physical health and running your life you may need to address your addiction first.
Start with your primary care doctor if you aren’t sure where to go to get help. Your doctor can recommend psychologists or therapists who can get you on the right treatment path for you. You may need to spend some time in a rehab facility. If you do, make sure you look for a program that is experienced in treating people with a dual diagnosis. You don’t want to ignore either one of your issues while treating the other.
Look For Support
Above all, when you find out that you have both an addictive disorder and a mental health disorder it is important to rely on friends and family. A strong support network is one of the most important ways that you can cope with your recovery and treatment. Getting professional help is necessary, but without the support of loved ones, you are at serious risk of relapsing after completing a treatment program.
Support groups can help too. Look for group meetings for alcohol or drug addiction, but also for meetings for people with mental health issues. If you need to join two different groups to meet your needs, that’s fine; just make sure that you have a group of people with whom you can share your feelings and experiences. It will make a big difference to your recovery. Getting a dual diagnosis is not easy to hear, but remember that you are not alone and that there are caring professionals ready to help you.