Getting to rehab can be pretty confusing. There are a hundred new terms being thrown your way, and on top of it, you are in a brand new environment, meeting your new care team and your peers. It can be overwhelming, to say the least! One term you may hear get thrown around is a dual diagnosis.
Dual Diagnosis Defined
A dual diagnosis in addiction treatment means that you have a co-occurring mood disorder along with your addiction. For example, you might be diagnosed with anxiety, depression, or bipolar disorder when you come in and get evaluated for treatment.
Mood disorders are extremely common in people who suffer from addiction. Anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder have a direct impact on addictive behavior, so when you come to treatment, it is necessary to treat your mood disorder alongside your addiction treatment. This will be done separately but at the same times so that the overall treatment is effective at giving you a foundation for recovery.
What To Expect from a Dual Diagnosis
First of all, look at getting a dual diagnosis like a positive thing. Getting your mood disorder treated will give you a major head start in being able to get rid of your addiction to drugs or alcohol. When people have an unmanaged mood disorder, they often self-medicate, which leads to addiction. You may have found yourself doing the same thing – using drugs or alcohol to manage your moods and any kind of unpleasant symptoms associated with your disorder. If you felt ill and had no idea why, it can be really confusing and alarming, hence the reason many people turn to drugs or alcohol. Your diagnosis should put your mind at ease somewhat, knowing that there is a reason behind the way you were feeling.
When you are being treated for a dual diagnosis, you will take part of all the standards of rehab – counseling, therapy, group therapy, and doctor’s visits. However, you will also be treated separately for your mood disorder. There are many lifestyle modifications that can help manage your anxiety, depression, or bipolar disorder. Simple activities like drawing or writing can help you to distract your mind and find creative outlets for your energy. Also, eating well and exercising is known to be a huge contributor to keeping symptoms at bay. Depending on your particular case, you may also be treated with non-habit-forming medication to help your symptoms even more.
You’ll learn during treatment that self-medicating with drugs and alcohol only make your mood disorder worse. You easily become dependent on the substance because your body grows accustomed to functioning with chemicals in it. Then, when they are taken away, your disorder will feel a hundred times worse and you will not be strong enough to withstand them without going back to your substance of choice. It is a vicious cycle that takes treatment to break.
Managing Your Dual Diagnosis
During treatment, you will be given plenty of tools to move forward in life, manage your mood disorder, and not relapse with alcohol or drugs. After your treatment is over, it is up to you to implement these practices so that you continue to improve and get stronger day by day. If you are on medication, make sure that you set up a doctor for follow up after treatment so that they can continue to treat you. It is essential not to stop any medication management cold turkey, and to only make changes under a doctor’s supervision.
Look at your mood disorder as an added reason to never go back to using drugs and alcohol. For those of us with these kinds of mood disorders, it makes it even more difficult to quit. Also, while substances may seem to ease symptoms in the short-term, they only make things worse in the long run. With proper management of your anxiety, depression, or bipolar disorder you can learn to live a healthy lifestyle, and you will probably be surprised at how good you feel just from being treated. In this sense, a dual diagnosis is a truly positive thing that can be the door to a better, sober life!