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A co-occurring disorder is where a person has a substance abuse problem or another type of addiction, as well as some type of mental health issue. Their addictive behavior is their means for dealing with their mental health issue. It serves as a “coping” mechanism, initially, but can quickly turn into an addiction.

For instance, someone might use alcohol to help numb themselves when they feel depressed. Since alcohol lowers inhibitions in many people, the individual may then seek out risky behaviors like engaging in unsafe sex or having sex with multiple partners, as a means to try to feel better.

Yet, what often occurs is they end up drinking larger and large amounts of alcohol to achieve the same effects. Plus, they discover that while they may “feel” a brief moment of happiness, it is short-lived. When the alcohol starts wearing off, the feelings of depression return.

What Is Dual Diagnosis Treatment?

Co-occurring disorders and addiction are referred to as a dual diagnosis since there are two issues occurring simultaneously. First, there is the addiction aspect that must be treated. Second, there is the mental health issue that must also be treated.

This is why treatment programs are referred to as dual diagnosis treatment. Sometimes these programs are also called co-occurring dual diagnosis rehab.

Why Do Co-Occurring Disorders Occur with Addiction So Often?

One of the primary reasons why co-occurring disorders frequently occur with addiction is because the afflicted individual is attempting to address their mental health issue on their own. They will turn to alcohol or drugs or develop other addictive behaviors like gambling, pornography, sex, shopping, or hoarding to compensation for their mental health issue.

For instance, they might have bipolar disorder. When they go through “lows,” they turn to shopping to try to make themselves feel better and happier. Since they are reinforcing shopping when they are on a “low,” the individual gradually develops an addiction to shopping.

They could also easily turn to drugs that help make them feel happy and uplift their “low.” The thing to remember with co-occurring disorders and addiction is that the addiction aspect could be one or more substances, activities, or behaviors.

Can Co-Occurring Disorders and Addiction Develop with Health Issues?

Another type of co-occurring disorder and addiction that can happen is when the person has some sort of health issue and turns to alcohol, drugs, or other substances or behaviors. Some common health issues are:

  • Muscle Pain
  • Arthritis
  • Back Pain
  • Shoulder Pain
  • Mobility Issues
  • Chronic Pain
  • Neck Pain
  • Diabetes
  • Cancer
  • HIV/Aids
  • Alzheimer’s

These health issues can trigger the person to turn to alcohol or drugs or other addictions. For example, someone suffering from chronic pain could start to overuse prescription pain meds and develop an addiction. When their healthcare provider starts to wean them off the drugs, they may turn to alcohol or illegal substances like heroin to help deal with their chronic pain.

What Are Some Common Co-Occurring Disorders and Addictions?

There are many different co-occurring disorders that can lead to dual diagnosis treatment. The first aspect is the mental health issue. Some of the more common mental health issues that could result in addiction include but may not be limited to:

  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
  • Attention-Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD)
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Eating Disorders
  • Schizophrenia
  • Borderline Personality Disorder
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder
  • Depression

Frequently, the person already has the mental health issue before the addiction. To compensate for their behavior and feelings, they turn to drugs, alcohol, or other addictive tendencies.

It is important to mention that not everyone with mental health issues will develop an addiction or co-occurring disorder. There are many people with mental health issues who have found positive methods of addressing their concerns without developing an addiction.

What Is Involved with Dual Diagnosis Rehab and Dual Diagnosis Treatment?

Just like other addiction treatment programs, the individual with the co-occurring disorder and addiction must first want help with their addiction and disorder. You cannot force someone who is not yet ready to take the first steps on the path to recovery. If you do, then their recovery will often fail, and they will relapse later.

Keeping that in mind, dual diagnosis rehab starts with developing a custom-tailored dual diagnosis treatment program. Each program must be tailored to the individual, their mental health issue, and their type of addiction or addictions.

While dual diagnosis treatment programs are customized, there are several general steps in the programs at dual diagnosis treatment centers, as follows:

1. Detox

Detox is the first step on the road to recovery. The person must first go through medically supervised withdrawal to ensure the substance and chemical imbalances in the body are removed. Detox can last several days or as long as a few weeks.

2. Dual Diagnosis

The second step is to establish the dual diagnosis and co-occurring disorder. Treatment programs must treat both the addiction and the disorder.

3. Inpatient Treatment at a Dual Diagnosis Treatment Center

After detox, treatment will begin. Many people with co-occurring disorders and addiction do well in an inpatient treatment program. Inpatient treatment provides access to medical, healthcare, and mental professionals, support, and other essential services. Many of these are available 24/7 to help support a successful recovery.

4. Start Addiction Treatment

Addiction treatment can include one-on-one counseling sessions, group support, learning healthier eating habits, exercise, and so on. There are various therapies that are also used to help the person identify addiction triggers and how to overcome those triggers to avoid relapse.

5. Start Psychotherapy Treatment

The thing with dual diagnosis treatment is you also must address the mental health issue and treat that condition too. You cannot ignore the issue and just treat addiction; otherwise, there is a high probability the person will relapse once they are released from inpatient treatment.

The purpose of psychotherapy is to help the person identify their mental health issue, the underlying causes for it, and the potential triggers and to develop various coping mechanisms that do not involve turning to addictive substances or behaviors.

6. Begin Gradual Reintegration to Daily Life

Once the person is ready to start to resume their daily life, a gradual reintegration plan is beneficial. This might involve moving into a group home or a sober living community for a period. Having others around who are also struggling with addiction recovery can provide the support one needs as they reintegrate into their daily life.

Additionally, group homes and sober living communities have access to group support, group therapy, individual therapy, and more to ensure the path to recovery continues successfully.

7. Evaluating Relationships and Rebuilding Damaged Ones

The process of evaluating relationships and rebuilding damaged relationships can begin sooner, depending on the individual. For most people, once they have better control and management over their addiction and are obtaining help with their mental health issues, they are in a better place to start this process.

Damaged relationships could be with a spouse or partner, parent, child, sibling, or best friend. This is also a good time for reflection to decide whether certain people in the individual’s life are appropriate or if they could potentially encourage a return to addictive tendencies and behaviors. The ending of certain relationships is also essential to a successful recovery.

8. Continued Recovery Management

The path to recovery is not something that is over once dual diagnosis rehab is finished. Recovery is an ongoing and lifelong process that requires continued support and therapies to avoid future relapses. Ongoing support and therapies could include:

  • Individual Counseling
  • Group Support Meetings
  • Outpatient Therapies
  • Special Weekend Retreats

When you are dealing with a mental health issue or health issue, it can be tempting to turn to alcohol, drugs, or other types of addictive behaviors. Once you begin down that path, it can be difficult getting off it without help from a dual diagnosis treatment center.

When you are ready to take the first steps to recovery for your co-occurring disorder and addiction, help is available at BriteLife Recovery. We offer detox, inpatient programs, partial hospitalization programs, residential programs, aftercare programs, IOP and more to help you be successful on your road to recovery.

To learn more about our customized dual diagnosis treatment programs, please contact us today!

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