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Dual Diagnosis
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Dual Diagnosis

Dual diagnosis is when a person has a mental health disorder and a drug or alcohol addiction at the same time. In order to successfully treat an addiction in a person with dual diagnosis, it’s important that the treatment plan integrates therapies designed to treat both conditions simultaneously.

Researchers are uncertain whether mental health issues trigger a cycle of addictive substance abuse, or whether symptoms of mental illness emerge as a result of abusing drugs or alcohol. For example, abusing alcohol can trigger symptoms of depression, which people who abuse marijuana over an extended time can develop symptoms of psychosis.

Commonly Linked Mental Illnesses and Addiction

People struggling with untreated mental health disorders may statistically have a higher likelihood of self-medicating with drugs or alcohol. Some mental health disorders that are commonly linked to addiction include:

Depression and addiction: the link between alcohol and depression is well-established. People struggling with depression may turn to alcohol to temporarily elevate mood and numb painful feelings. However, alcohol is a strong central nervous system depressant that can make existing depression symptoms worse.

Anxiety and addiction: anxiety is commonly linked with addictive drug or alcohol abuse. Anxiety and panic disorders cause emotional distress, which leads some people to turn to drugs or alcohol to find temporary relief. However, addictive substances can cause anxiety and panic attacks, making symptoms worse.

OCD and addiction: ¬†obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a severe form of anxiety disorder that causes people to engage in compulsive rituals that cause severe distress when they aren’t completed.

PTSD and addiction: people struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are highly likely to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol to escape from traumatic memories, painful emotions, or nightmares.

What Treatments are Available for Dual Diagnosis?

In order to successfully treat dual diagnosis, it’s crucial that the treatment plan integrates therapies and treatments that address both conditions at the same time. Prescription medications may be given to treat the co-existing mental health disorder, while a specific type of behavioral therapy works to address self-destructive behaviors associated with addictive drug use.

Each person’s addiction triggers are different, so an effective treatment plan needs to be tailored to suit the person’s unique characteristics, the underlying mental health disorder, the type of drug being taken, and the severity of the addiction.

Throughout the course of treatment, the person is taught to identify and recognize their personal addiction triggers, before developing a personalized relapse prevention plan. Therapy continues work to replace dysfunctional behaviors with healthy coping skills for living a drug-free life while managing the symptoms of the mental illness in more positive ways than self-medicating.

Importance of Aftercare Services after Dual Diagnosis Treatment

Completing an intensive treatment program for dual diagnosis is a major achievement. However, once the person leaves structured treatment programs it’s important they make a successful transition back to independent living as a sober person. Rather than be released to complete the journey to recovery alone, it’s important a strong level of support is available to people in recovery at all times.

The majority of rehab treatment centers in Alaska offer a diverse range of aftercare services intended to provide ongoing support and guidance for people in recovery. Aftercare services may include referrals to counselors, dual diagnosis specialists, and a range of other recovery resources designed to help the person maintain sobriety over the long term.

Specialized group support meetings for people recovering from dual diagnosis are also available across Alaska. Regular attendance at group meetings provides a positive way to develop new social networks with people facing the same challenges and obstacles. Group meetings are also excellent for reducing feelings of isolation and for maintaining motivation levels to remain sober.

Choose a path that leads to a safe recovery. Pick up the phone and make contact with an addition specialist now.