Exploring the Meaning of a Dual Diagnosis: A Personal Experience

Willow Place on March 30, 2017
Exploring the Meaning of a Dual Diagnosis: A Personal Experience

Before Kelly went to rehab in her late twenties, she had never heard of a dual diagnosis. She had battled depression since she was a teen, taking antidepressants for varying lengths of time. Usually, she would wean herself off once she felt better, even if it was against her doctor’s wishes. She also began to abuse prescription medication like Xanax to self-medicate, without even realizing what she was doing.

Years went by before she finally admitted that she needed help and went to treatment. Once there, the doctor informed her that she would be treated for her mood disorder (depression) and addiction at the same time, yet separately. In other words, she was given a dual diagnosis. She was treated for her addiction and also received treatment for depression. In rehab, this is a common practice because mood disorders have a huge impact on recovery.

The Meaning of a Dual Diagnosis

Kelly, like many others, didn’t think her depression would be addressed so thoroughly while she was in rehab. In truth, there is such a strong correlation between mood disorders and addiction that it would be detrimental not to work on both. It is estimated by the World Health Organization that in the United States alone, 16 million people suffer from depression. Substance abuse is increasingly common among this population.

Mood disorders include depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder. All of these affect the individual’s emotions and behaviors, and all of them warrant a dual diagnosis while in treatment. When people have a mood disorder, they tend to self-medicate just like Kelly did. They take drugs or alcohol to feel normal, and keep taking them because when they don’t, they feel like their symptoms return. The mood disorder feeds into the addiction, and vice-versa. It is a tremendously difficult cycle to break on your own.

Managing a dual diagnosis requires complex treatment, and both conditions must be treated in rehab. Usually, medication is used to help the addict recover from their addiction, and at the same time their mood disorder is diagnosed and also treated with medication. Treatment centers take care to use medication that is not habit-forming. This way, they don’t treat one addiction while creating another.

Why Treat Mood Disorders Along with Addiction?

If a mood disorder isn’t properly addressed in treatment, chances are that it will resurface. When it does, the person has a much higher chance of relapse. For example, without the appropriate medication to treat her depression, Kelly would be easily tempted to go back to abusing Xanax to make herself feel better.

The effects and symptoms of mood disorders can be extremely difficult for the patient. In some cases, people are confined to their home or even their bed because their anxiety, depression, or bipolar disorder is so bad. Simple tasks like going grocery shopping, or going to school or work can become impossible. Often, these people think that the only way to resolve the situation is by taking drugs or drinking to feel normal. In truth, they are only making the situation much worse.

When a person is emotionally stable, they can more easily experience happiness and peace of mind. Achieving this stability while in treatment sets a patient up for a good chance at succeeding in long-term recovery. The client will realize what it is like to feel normal without drugs or alcohol. With the help of their treatment team, they can come up with alternative ways to channel their energy and defuse situations that could cause them to relapse. The bottom line is that when a person is feeling good mentally, they have a much lower chance of relapsing.

What To Do If You Think You Have a Dual Diagnosis 

If you think you might be self-medicating, it is time to seek professional help. While leaning on drugs and alcohol may help in the short-term, it will only make things much worse in the long run. You will end up needing more and more of your substance of choice just to feel normal. You can become trapped in a never-ending cycle where alcohol or drugs is the biggest focus of your life. This isn’t a good place to be, and the cycle can be broken with professional help. It is important to realize that mood disorders are increasingly common, and that there are plenty of harmless ways to treat them and get yourself back on a good path. If you’re looking for a treatment center that can help you address a dual diagnosis, call Willow Place for Women at 1-888-651-4212.

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If you or someone you love is battling substance use, mental health, or eating disorders, please feel free to contact one of our trained admission specialists today. All calls are free and completely confidential. While we know that suffering from a severe and life-threatening substance use disorder or a mental health issue can, at times, seem insurmountable, we sincerely believe that every woman is capable and deserving of the opportunity to recover. Reaching out is the first step – give us a call today and we will gladly walk you through the process of beginning your beautiful, fulfilling journey of recovery.

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