Understanding a Dual Diagnosis in Addiction Treatment

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Understanding a Dual Diagnosis in Addiction Treatment

Going to treatment for addiction to drugs or alcohol can be a scary process. It is important to remember that you are there to save your life, and when you are in active addiction it is the best possible thing you can do for yourself. The days leading up to going to rehab can be a confusing whirlwind. When you get there, you will have an intense first few days as you detox and meet with a number of different therapists and doctors. You’ll learn a lot of new terms that have to do with addiction, one of the most common of those being Dual Diagnosis.

Many people who go to treatment receive a dual diagnosis, so it is important to know what it means for you and how it is treated and approached. It is super common, so here is what you need to know.

Dual Diagnosis in Addiction Treatment

A dual diagnosis is when you are diagnosed with a mood disorder along with your addiction. Mood disorders include things like anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder. Even if you have never been diagnosed with one of these by a doctor, you will go through an intense physical and psychological exam when you first enter rehab in order to diagnose and treat any and all underlying conditions. A doctor and/or therapist will be able to diagnose you with a mood disorder based on your history and symptoms.

When you get this kind of diagnosis, think of it as a positive thing. Mood disorders have a direct impact on addiction and are really bad when they are unmanaged. Anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder are single-handedly capable of making someone start to self-medicate in order to ease symptoms, which often leads to addiction. When you are diagnosed with a mood disorder, you can rest assured that it will be treated so that you will have a better chance at achieving sobriety.

The Impact Mood Disorders Have on Addiction

Mood disorders are one of the first things doctors look for when treating addiction because there is such a high percentage of people seeking treatment with unmanaged mood disorders. There is almost always a root cause of addiction, and when it is a mood disorder, at least it is something that can be managed with medication and a healthy lifestyle.

Mood disorders still carry a stigma in our society and for that reason, many people never get the treatment they need for them. Symptoms of anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorders can be extremely uncomfortable, preventing you from living a normal life. Symptoms can include:

  • A feeling of impending doom
  • Shakiness
  • Chest pain
  • Dizziness
  • Crying spells for no reason
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Lack of interest in activities or socializing
  • Extreme mood swings

To combat these symptoms, many people turn to drugs and alcohol. For example, you might find that having a glass of wine before a social event makes you less jittery, or certain pharmaceuticals bring you out of a funk and into a better mood. If used in moderation or as prescribed it is one thing, but it can quickly spiral into a much bigger problem where you literally can’t function without the substance.

Usually, using drugs or alcohol makes your mood disorder much worse, so you become more and more dependent upon your substance of choice. For that reason, addiction treatment is needed, and a dual diagnosis and the subsequent treatment can help to get you back on track.

Approach your dual diagnosis as a positive thing. Your doctors and therapists will be able to come up with a treatment plan to correctly manage your mood disorder so that you no longer have to rely on drugs or alcohol to get by. You will learn about your mood disorder and a lot about how it affects your addiction. Throughout treatment, you will be given healthy coping mechanisms for the future so that relying on drugs and alcohol for relief can be a thing of the past.