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Dual Diagnosis: The Importance of Dealing with Trauma and Addiction

One in four individuals dealing with addiction also received a diagnosis of an underlying mental health condition. The medical community refers to this situation as a dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorder. For one-fourth of the patients trying to recover from an addiction to alcohol or drugs, a recovery treatment that addresses both the addiction and the underlying mental health diagnosis provides the greatest efficacy.

Dual Diagnosis In-Depth

Any mental health issue can qualify an individual as experiencing a dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorder. About 50 percent of people who receive a diagnosis of a severe mental health disorder also experience substance abuse issues. These mental health conditions vary, ranging from bipolar disorder (BPD) to depression. Conditions like anxiety also fall into this category.

These examples and other neurological conditions result from brain chemical imbalances. Still, other types of mental health issues also qualify an individual as experiencing a co-occurring disorder, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), complex PTSD (CPTSD), and acute stress disorder (ASD). Whether the individual diagnosed with these conditions experienced a short-term or long-term traumatic event, they develop a stress disorder from it, which requires medical treatment.

Abuse Often Stems From Attempts to Self-Medicate

Abusing drugs or alcohol often stems from an attempt on the part of the person experiencing an addiction to self-medicate their underlying mental health condition. Instead of treating the condition, the substance abuse backfires, creating a dual diagnosis. Self-medication can lead to compiling problems. For example, if an individual uses methamphetamines or marijuana long-term, it can cause psychotic reactions. In the cases of depression and anxiety, using alcohol or drugs increases the symptoms of the underlying condition.

Signs of Common Dual Diagnosis Situations

A person who abuses drugs or alcohol and experiences an underlying mental health problem may reveal this through their symptoms. Common symptoms of this situation include losing interest in day-to-day activities they previously enjoyed and a general loss of energy. These individuals may find little pleasure in life and have issues finding pleasure in activities they previously did. They may feel or express feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, guilt, or worthlessness. An attitude of “Why should I try? It won’t work out anyway” proves common. Along with these feelings, changes in sleep patterns and eating occur. They may drop or gain weight and sleep little or a lot.

Many individuals find it challenging to concentrate on tasks. They may feel anger, experience physical pain, or behave recklessly. Those who present with an anxiety diagnosis may worry a lot, feel restless, and experience nausea, dizziness, or muscle tension. Headaches also prove common. When an individual with a BPD diagnosis enters a manic phase, they may feel euphoric or excessively irritable. Their increased energy can mean they accomplish a lot but may center around unrealistic goals or beliefs. Those with trauma-induced disorders might avoid situations that remind them of the traumatic event, such as a former military serviceperson who avoids attending Memorial Day celebrations. Their flashbacks and nightmares provide constant reminders of the underlying events, and some individuals with trauma-induced conditions experience suicidal thoughts.

Treating Both Conditions in Tandem

When entering a recovery center to treat addiction, for this one-third of individuals, a center that provides a dual diagnosis treatment program proves the most effective. Denial of mental health issues commonly occurs, though, because the person who abuses alcohol or drugs may want to ignore the symptoms, hoping they just go away. Unwarranted shame over their neurological or trauma-induced condition can also lead to a person avoiding treatment.

According to Psychology Today, choosing trauma-informed addiction care explores the underlying cause by investigating the question of what happened to the individual that led to them wanting to self-medicate. Although these addiction centers treat dual diagnosis, they don’t use the same approach with each patient.

At Inner Voyage Recovery Center, the process of recovery begins with an in-depth analysis of the patient’s addiction and mental health. This needs assessment provides the basis for individualized treatment. Working together, the doctor and patient develop treatment goals and a treatment plan, including scheduling treatment sessions. This process enables the physician to discover the one-third of patients with evidence of a dual diagnosis and to provide appropriate treatment.

Types of Treatment for Trauma-induced Dual Diagnosis

Treating a dual diagnosis situation requires that customized approach. A patient’s treatment plan might include any or all of ten types of treatment or therapy, in some cases, in addition to medications, such as serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). These therapy options include:

  • Medically assisted care
  • Individual therapy
  • Dialectical behavior therapy
  • Cognitive behavior therapy
  • Trauma therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Health and wellness therapy
  • Adventure therapy

Getting an individual started in the addiction recovery process can sometimes require intervention services, which Inner Voyage Recovery Center offers.

In trauma-related treatment programs, single-gender group therapy tends to work better. These group addiction therapy sessions may encourage the individual to relax and share more information. Hearing other people’s experiences can help them realize similar situations in their own lives could have an impact on their own substance abuse issues.

Effects of Dual Diagnosis Treatments

The one-third of individuals experiencing both an addiction and an underlying mental health issue present a unique problem for the medical community, but one for which it has developed effective therapeutic mechanisms. Undergoing simultaneous treatment for an addiction and an underlying mental illness can result in improved mental health and improved overall health.

Trauma-informed care (TIC) examines a person’s life experiences and how they may affect them. Not every person who experiences trauma deals with it in the same way, and not every individual who experiences trauma develops a trauma-related disorder like PTSD. When both a trauma-related condition and an addiction are present in the same person, though, approaching their recovery from a dual diagnosis standpoint provides the best results. This differs from the approach used as recently as in 2010 and before, in which experts told individuals dealing with substance abuse and mental health issues to tackle sobriety first and then work on the underlying issues.

Reaching Out for Treatment

Although you can find a lot of information online about dual diagnosis treatments, just as self-medicating with alcohol or drugs doesn’t provide a solution, neither does attempting advanced treatments on your own. Let the medical community help you to help yourself. Whether you deal with an addiction by itself or a dual diagnosis situation, Inner Voyage Recovery Center can help you on your road to recovery. Call us today at (470) 523-4606 for more information on treating addiction and getting started with your recovery. We can schedule a consultation with you at our Woodstock, GA, office to get started.

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