Muscles tense, senses heighten, and the thought of worry enters the mind. Feeling panicked and scared, the eyes look around the room searching for something, anything to tame this feeling. Staring at the wall, a poster of led zeppelin hangs, no that does not help. The eyes shift to an end table where a photo of one’s family sits, no that does not help either. The eyes continue to gaze around the room looking for a solution. A half bottle of rum sits on the coffee table. Without a second thought, the hand reaches out and grabs the liquor, the cap twists off with ease, and the liquor vanishes.

A dual diagnosis is when the individual suffers from both a mental illness as well as a substance abuse disorder. Close to eight million people in the United States suffer from both a mental illness and a substance use disorder. It’s not meant to be easy but overcoming both can be done, and this is where a dual diagnosis treatment center comes into play.

How Mental Illness Plays a Role in Developing an Addiction?

Mental illness causes the prefrontal cortexes (the part of the brain that is responsible for executive function) to function at a lower level causing irrational thought. Anxiety, for example, causes an imbalance in the brain that correlates with the Prefrontal Cortex, which controls impulse, executive decisions, planning, and moderating social behavior.

The individual coping with anxiety will be in a state of dysphoria and find a means to rid themselves of that state.

This can lead one to self-medication with a variety of substances. However, an addiction can easily develop when someone self-medicates for their mental illness symptoms. The most common withdrawal effect among drugs and alcohol is anxiety. Once the drugs or alcohol wears off, the individual can have even worse anxiety leading them to use even more to numb the feeling of anxiety.

Sadly, this can quickly become a vicious cycle and lead the two to feed off each other. When the substance fades anxiety goes up and when anxiety goes up the craving for the drug goes up.

Can Drug and Alcohol Abuse Cause a Mental Illness That Was Not There Before?

People who abuse drugs or alcohol will experience a spike in anxiety, depression, or some other type of mental disorder, and it all depends on the person’s genetic makeup.

The repeated use of a drug can put the individual in a state of psychosis which is where the symptoms of a mental illness can begin to show. Drinking any type of alcohol over an extended period of time can damage the brain and can lead to chronic depression.

Heavy drug abuse can cause a chemical imbalance in the brain, meaning that one day a person feels content and the next, not so much. With the use of Adderall, for example, an unnaturally high amount of dopamine is released in the brain putting one in a state of nirvana. However, after the drug wears off the user will feel drained, irritated, depressed.

With extended use, the dopamine receptors become damaged. This can create anxiety and depression for the individual since the brain became dependent on the drug producing the dopamine for them.

How Does a Dual Diagnosis Rehab Work?

Addressing both the addiction and mental illness is key to dual diagnosis treatment centers. Some people go to a dual diagnosis rehab and never realize they had a mental disorder until they are properly diagnosed.

Therapists and addiction counselors will discuss the proper methods of treating the co-occurring disorder. Medications will be used to assist with the detox and withdrawal period and the patients receive one-on-one sessions with a licensed behavioral therapist.

There are a number of different therapies used in dual diagnosis to help fit each individual’s needs. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a common practice at dual diagnosis treatment centers. Here are others:

  • Psycho education
  • DBT and mindfulness education
  • Holistic therapies
  • Trauma therapy
  • Art/music Therapy
  • Life skills (self-esteem, developing routines, accountability, setting goals etc.)
  • Coping skills (coping with addiction triggers and mental illness symptoms)

Dual diagnosis is becoming more common among people. Across the nation dual diagnosis treatment centers are becoming more available.

Life After Dual Diagnosis Rehab

Life after the rehab can feel liberating but it is important to maintain one’s routine in order to keep that liberation. Group therapy, sessions with a therapist, exercise and other practices are all good for one’s health and help maintain an overall more enjoyable and healthier lifestyle. Most dual diagnosis treatment centers will put you in contact with the proper resources in your local area before you leave their treatment center. Getting sober can be extremely difficult for some, doing it while also battling anxiety, depression, PTSD, can be even harder. For those living with a dual diagnosis, know there is an entire community out there of people who have been in your shoes. Sometimes gathering to discuss your issues with similar people can be a great help.