If you or a loved one are new to addiction treatment, there are probably many words and phrases being tossed around that you are unfamiliar with. One common one is “dual diagnosis”, a phrase used to describe someone who is admitted to treatment with both a mood disorder and addiction problem. Rehab facilities treat both at the same time because they are deeply related.
What Does My Dual Diagnosis Mean?
When you get to rehab, you will undergo a thorough evaluation so that the doctors and therapists can diagnose and address any underlying mental or physical conditions. Many people who struggle with addiction also struggle with mood disorders, which include anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder. Mood disorders have a direct effect on addiction. Lots of people end up self-medicating with drugs and alcohol to ease the symptoms of their mood disorder, when in fact they are only making it worse. A dual diagnosis ensures that your mood disorder is treated at the same time, but separately, as your addiction.
It is important to realize just how common mood disorders are, and they are absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. Anxiety alone is said to affect over 40 million American adults, which equals to 18% of the population. Of those people, only a fraction even get treated for anxiety, and their symptoms continue to go unmanaged. Anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder symptoms can be drastic – greatly reducing a person’s quality of life, and making things like going to work, school, or social events impossible. As a result, many people turn to drugs or alcohol as a crutch so that they can function “normally”.
When you receive a dual diagnosis in addiction treatment, it means that your mood disorder will be treated in conjunction with your addiction. You’d be surprised that properly managing conditions like anxiety and depression can be more than half the battle of staying sober. The more managed they are, the better your symptoms will be, so you will no longer feel the need to self-medicate and continue down the road of addiction.
Why Self Medicating Always Backfires
If you have a mood disorder, you may find yourself addicted to drugs or alcohol just to feel normal. This can start off innocently enough. After all, alcohol is well-known as a “social lubricant” and it is completely acceptable to drink in almost any social setting. This makes the line between innocent fun and having a problem very blurry. For example, you may suffer from social anxiety and have the need for a glass of wine while you get ready for a night out in order to boost your self-confidence and make you feel at ease. This can easily escalate until eventually, you need a drink just to get up and function in the morning.
The same goes with drugs. Someone with depression may look to an upper like cocaine to boost their mood and make them more outgoing and sociable. If a person is anxious, they may abuse opioids or benzos to feel more at ease. It is an incredibly slippery slope because as the body gets used to the drug or alcohol, it will need more and more to feel the effect. Also, depression and anxiety will come roaring back worse than ever once the alcohol or drugs run out. In the end, the only thing that happens with self-medicating is that the addiction gets worse, and so does the mood disorder.
Managing a Dual Diagnosis
Getting a dual diagnosis is a good thing. It means that your mood disorder will finally be properly managed, and that is a huge chunk of the battle to getting away from addiction. It is important to be completely honest with your doctors and therapists so that you can modify your course of treatment as necessary.
At the same time, it is also important to keep a heavy focus on treating the addiction itself. Your doctors and therapists will help you to identify other factors that may be contributing to your addiction so that you can work on them at the same time. Addiction treatment requires complete attention to making what was wrong, right. It requires effort, care, and consistency. Your dual diagnosis can help you learn a lot about yourself, and how to keep improving to live a healthy and happy life.