You may have heard the terms “dual diagnosis” or “comorbidity” when it comes to talking about alcohol use disorder. These are phrases commonly used to describe co-occurring mental health conditions for people who also have an alcohol addiction.
The link between alcohol dependence and mental health is complex because both conditions can cause, play off of, and worsen the other. People with alcohol dependence are more likely to develop mental health disorders due to the negative health effects of addiction. Similarly, people with mental health disorders are more likely to develop alcohol dependence as a way to self-medicate.
In any case, if you or a loved one experiences addiction co-occurring with a mental health disorder, it is critical to seek help from medical professionals because dual diagnoses need to be treated simultaneously for a higher likelihood of recovery. This often requires specialized treatment.
Common Dual Diagnosis Situations
The most common mental health conditions that co-occur with alcohol dependence are depression and anxiety. People who suffer depressive episodes may turn to alcohol to help alleviate the sadness and hopelessness. Since alcohol itself is a depressant, this often makes their depression symptoms worse.
The same is true with anxiety. Many people consider drinking a way to temporarily relax and push away their anxious thoughts. This is especially true for people who suffer from social anxiety. They might become more confident socializing after a few drinks. Over time, though, alcohol use usually makes anxiety worse, not better.
Alcohol use disorder is also found to be related to obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). People with OCD abuse alcohol for much the same reason as those with depression or anxiety—to get rid of unwanted thoughts and feelings. Like with other conditions, long-term drinking can make OCD symptoms worse.
The Difficulty of Dual Diagnosis
Although dual diagnoses are very common, it often makes treatment more challenging. Because the symptoms of alcohol addiction frequently overlap with common mental health conditions, it is difficult to properly diagnose co-occurring conditions until one has stopped drinking. Additionally, a person may suffer from multiple mental health conditions alongside alcohol use disorder. Despite these challenges, proper dual diagnosis is still necessary and achievable.
If you suspect yourself or a loved one needs a dual diagnosis for proper recovery, look into treatment facilities that have both mental health and addiction experts working together. While going through diagnosis and treatment, be patient with the process because dual diagnosis is, by nature, more complex than just treating alcoholism or a single mental health issue. Treatment plans and recovery steps should address both conditions simultaneously. This way, one condition won’t stand in the way of the other as you or your loved one work through both to experience true, lasting recovery.
Overcoming Dual Stigma
The main barrier to getting dual diagnosis treatment is stigma-induced denial. When co-occurring disorders are present, some individuals may be under the burden of dual sources of stigma—one related to their alcohol addiction, the other to mental health issues. Both conditions can be sensitive subjects. The sooner these co-occurring symptoms are recognized and treated, the greater their chance for lifelong recovery.
If you or a loved one is struggling with dual stigma, it may be a good idea to discuss it with an addiction counselor or treatment provider. Most treatment facilities have ways to protect your privacy or work around your schedule for treatment. This way you can maintain privacy by avoiding letting many people know you’re in treatment while still ensuring you’re getting the help you need to heal.
Treating a Dual Diagnosis
Treatment centers that can treat the complexities of dual diagnosis often have addiction experts and mental health specialists working together. Your treatment plan is likely to include various therapies, medications, and aftercare programs. Usually, the first step is detoxification. Alcohol needs to be removed entirely from your system with the help of a dedicated and monitored detox program.
After detox, you have several options. Inpatient treatment means you live at a treatment facility for a time as you learn ways to cope with your mental health challenges and normal daily functions without relying on alcohol. This is usually the best option for severe cases of addiction, especially with a dual diagnosis. There are also varying levels of outpatient treatment, meaning you live outside of the treatment center but have a daily or weekly requirement for hours completed at the facility to gain skills for managing triggers and coping with your mental health disorder.
If you want to best utilize a comprehensive treatment plan to recover from a dual diagnosis condition, you can also consider sober living houses as a stepping stone between treatment and everyday life. There you will receive quality aftercare programs and stay connected to peer support groups. Because recovering from dual diagnosis conditions can be more challenging, support groups allow members to share frustrations and celebrate successes.
Though a dual diagnosis can be scary, frustrating, and difficult, there are options available for anyone and everyone to get sober and learn to manage the challenges of mental health issues.
If you struggle with both alcohol dependence and mental health issues, you may have dual diagnosis conditions which require specialized treatment. The earlier you seek treatment, the better your chance of recovery. At Laguna Shores Recovery, our staff and therapists offer diagnosis and treatment for addiction and mental health issues. We believe in evidence-based treatment plans and our clients enjoy tailor-made plans which give them the necessary tools to avoid triggers and relapse. Laguna Shores Recovery offers treatment plans such as detox, medication, 12-Step groups, and relationship skills coaching. Our staff walks alongside you during treatment. We also offer outpatient programs you can use after finishing residential treatment. Schedule an appointment with us today at Laguna Shores Recovery. Call us at (866) 229-9923, and we will be happy to talk with you about how to properly diagnose and treat your conditions.