When a person suffers from both an addiction and a mental illness, they are considered to have a dual diagnosis. Common dual diagnosis interactions include anxiety disorder and addiction, depression disorder and substance abuse, and PTSD and addiction. Specialized drug and alcohol rehab programs, which include medication therapy and psychotherapy are often needed to tackle these complex conditions.
Although the terms “dual diagnosis” and “co-occurring disorders” are often used interchangeably, they do define different points. According to the Association for Addiction Professionals (NAADAC), co-occurring disorders involve a primary substance use disorder, with this distinction not made for dual diagnosis cases.
According to a 2014 survey conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), approximately 43 million Americans had some kind of mental illness and 20 million suffered from a substance abuse disorder. Of those substance abusers, almost 8 million of them suffered from co-occurring psychological and substance abuse disorders.
Separate data found by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reveals that mental health disorders affect about 5 percent of Americans, including 7 million people who are living with a co-existing drug or alcohol addiction. However, access to treatment is still a major problem, with more than 50 percent of people not getting the treatment they need, 34 percent only receiving treatment for their mental illness, and merely 12 percent being treated for both disorders.
Anxiety disorders include generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) among others. Oftentimes, people living with anxiety tend to abuse drugs or alcohol as a form of self-medication, whereas some drug addicts develop anxiety conditions as a result of their chemical dependency or withdrawal. For example, several links have been discovered between the anxiety disorder, OCD, and drug addiction, including clear causal relationships and complex bi-directional links. OCD involves intrusive thoughts and feelings along with compulsive behavioral rituals and feelings of anxiety. People with this disorder regularly feel compelled to perform repetitive rituals as a technique for calming the mind, with some people using drugs when in this situation. Anxiety disorders and addiction can be an incredibly detrimental combination, and it is often recommended that people who are a victim of this form of dual diagnosis, seek professional treatment and therapy in order to break the cycle of mental illness and abuse.
Anxiety disorders are the leading form of mental health conditions found in the U.S. Despite the fact that anxiety is an illness that impacts the brain, it produces both psychological and physical symptoms. People who suffer from anxiety go day by day living with feelings of fear and distress. A common feature of anxiety disorders is that the people living with this illness have little or no explanation for the cause of these overpowering senses and emotions. Anxiety can strike at any time, and can last for as little as an hour to as long as the entire day. This is a debilitating illness that can consume a person’s entire life, making it almost impossible to get through each day. Anxiety disorders can impede on one’s social life, work, relationships, and even sleep schedule. Fulfilling basic or even obligatory tasks become unbearable, and in some cases, getting out of bed and facing the world can be too terrifying to do.
People who have an anxiety disorder often turn to drugs or alcohol in an attempt to lessen feelings of fear, nervousness, stress, irritation, jumpiness, and despair. Although drugs and alcohol may provide temporary relief, with time this abuse can develop into addiction. There are medications that have shown to be highly successful in helping people manage their anxiety, but only when used as prescribed by a licensed doctor. Unfortunately, in many circumstances these medications are often abused, and patients end up addicted.
Benzodiazepine drugs such as Librium, Klonopin, Valium, and Xanax are prescribed to treat sleep and anxiety disorders. There are two main groups of people who develop problems with sedative drugs: those who use them recreationally, and those who are prescribed these medications and eventually develop an addiction. Although short-term use of sedative drugs is largely understood to be safe, long-term use is known to easily lead to physical and psychological dependence. When a chemical dependence and an anxiety disorder are paired, it is considered a severe form of dual diagnosis, which requires thorough analysis professional treatment. Accredited rehabilitation facilities can offer dual diagnosis treatment to address both the mental illness and the addiction, as well as restore the patient’s mental, physical, and emotional health and well-being.
A combination of pharmacotherapy and psychotherapy is usually recommended for this condition, including cognitive behavioral therapy, motivational therapy, 12-step programs, and relapse prevention. If someone you love is living with an anxiety disorder and an addiction to drugs or alcohol, it is vital that you pick the phone and speak with an addiction specialist to learn more about the benefits of dual diagnosis treatment.
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