Dual diagnosis is the state of simultaneously suffering from a mental health disorder (also known as a mood disorder) and an alcohol or drug addiction. This only indicates that the two conditions occur at the same time. It does not necessarily state that one condition preceded or came before the other or that one of the conditions caused the other. An addiction can cause a mental health disorder just as much as a mental health disorder can cause an addiction.
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Any mental health disorder can occur at the same time that a person has a drug or alcohol addiction. However, some mental health disorders are less commonly linked to addiction than others. Some of those that are more common include:
Depression and Addiction
Depression is one of the most common mental health disorders in the United States today. In fact, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, more than 14 million people suffer from depression annually in the United States. When people suffer from depression, their most commonly experienced symptoms may be:
When a person suffers from depression, one of the most common substance abuse problems that they have at the same time is an alcohol addiction. Alcoholism and depression do not seem like they would make sense together. However, the effects that alcohol can have on the body, and especially the brain, can actually serve to temporarily mask or block some of the symptoms of depression.
Alcohol triggers the release of dopamine by the brain. Dopamine is a pleasure chemical that can also temporarily give the user energy as well as make them feel jovial and content for a period of time.
OCD and Addiction
People with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) have two distinct sides of their mental health disorder. They have obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors. Specifically, however, symptoms of OCD can include:
The obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors that define OCD can be quite disruptive to a person's life and make them supremely socially, mentally, and even physically uncomfortable. As such, many people with OCD have addictions to opiates.
Opiates, also known as narcotics, are powerful painkillers due to their ability to block pain receptors in the body. They also suppress the nervous system, slowing breathing and the heart rate, making a person feel deeply relaxed and calm.
When a person has a dual diagnosis, they need treatment for both their mental health disorder and their drug or alcohol addiction. As such some of the treatment options include:
Psychotherapy is a form of counseling that is collaborative and supportive. It focuses on the dialogue between the patient who is dual diagnosed and their therapist. Talking through the mental health disorder symptoms, origins, associated thoughts and feelings, as well as those related to addiction and the interactions between the mental health disorder and the addiction. This is designed to help the person heal as well as to help to develop coping mechanisms to prevent relapse and substance abuse in the future.
Psychopharmacology is the use of prescription medications to treat a mental health disorder. When a person has an existing addiction or substance abuse problem, special care is taken by the prescribing physician as well as therapists and counselors to monitor the dual diagnosed person to ensure that they do not develop another addiction or resume substance abuse.