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Dual Diagnosis: Treating Addiction and Mental Illness

Mental Illness and Addiction

Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders

Mental illness and addiction are diseases that affect people of all ages, backgrounds, and ethnicities. Unfortunately, they often combine to create a complicated mix of issues. In 2014, over 20 million American adults had a substance use disorder – of these, roughly half also had a mental illness. Experiencing these two issues at the same time is referred to as dual diagnosis or a co-occurring disorder. This can make treating addiction more difficult, but if handled correctly, addressing both of these concerns simultaneously will result in better quality of life and improved outcomes over time.  

The Role of Mental Illness in Addiction

Mental illness is a major risk factor in future addiction. Estimates indicate that those who are diagnosed with anxiety or mood disorders are about twice as likely to also have a substance use disorder. Studies also indicate that people with severe mental illnesses are not immune – individuals with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder also have a higher risk of substance use. Either the substance use disorder or mental illness can develop first. Those experiencing a flood of emotions or complex feelings may turn to alcohol or other drugs as a form of self-medication to improve their symptoms. However, studies show that these substances actually have a negative effect on the symptoms of mental illness over time. In co-occurring disorders, the addiction and mental health issues will have their own individual symptoms that impact your ability to function. To complicate things further, they also affect each other. This means that as mental health issues worsen or go untreated, the substance use problem can also deepen over time. The converse of this is also true: as tolerance builds and substance use increases, mental illness can begin to feel more overwhelming. This affects every aspect of your life, from work performance to how you respond to obstacles and difficulties.  

Symptoms of Dual Diagnosis

According to the survey mentioned earlier, over 7.9 million people in the U.S. have both a mental health issue and a substance use disorder. Because these disorders can vary so widely, the symptoms are also highly differentiated. We recommend that you contact BRC Recovery for a professional diagnosis in order to receive optimum care. Behavioral signs of a substance use disorder can include:

  • Sudden changes in behavior; acting uncharacteristically, erratically
  • Finding paraphernalia associated with drug use
  • Withdrawal from family, friends, and once-important activities
  • Failing to meet obligations at work, home, or school
  • Engaging in risky behaviors, using substances in dangerous settings or circumstances
  • Seeming to develop a high tolerance or exhibiting withdrawal symptoms


Integrated Intervention: Treating Both Mental Illness and Addiction

Because these issues are so inextricably linked, it’s very important to treat both of them at the same time. This treatment method is called integrated intervention and has shown much better results than approaches used in years past. Treatment planning will differ for each client, depending on their unique concerns and substances of choice. By working one-on-one with a provider, you will be able to outline all of your specific concerns, symptoms, and experiences. This allows you to address the root cause of your issues, creating a path to lasting healing and sobriety. Various types of psychotherapy will be used to address substance use and mental health issues, as well as the relationship established between the two. BRC Recovery offers an incredible array of clinical support options, all of which can be used to uncover which therapeutic model works best for you. These treatments include:

  • Individual therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Family counseling
  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
  • Motivational Interviewing (MI)
  • Eye Movement Desensitizing and Reprocessing (EMDR)
  • Psychiatric evaluation

Medication can also be incorporated into treatment plans as needed. Our experienced, educated staff make careful choices regarding the pharmacological treatment of depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders. By receiving medication in a treatment facility, you ensure that responsible choices are made with your recovery in mind, and avoid the prescription of addictive or problematic drugs. Certain medications can also alleviate the symptoms of withdrawal during the detoxification process. Finally, it’s vital to create a supportive environment while addressing co-occurring disorders. You should seek a treatment center that prioritizes collaborative group living, preferably incorporating group therapy into the recovery process. After inpatient treatment has concluded, look for support groups that are tailored to those with dual diagnoses and keep up with therapy appointments.  

Comprehensive Dual Diagnosis Treatment

If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction and mental illness, you’re not alone. There is hope. BRC Recovery’s sophisticated curriculum and experienced staff work to establish an individualized therapy plan to meet your unique needs. We specialize in difficult cases. Contact our recovery specialists at 1-866-461-1759 to learn more.