The field of addiction medicine falls under the umbrella of mental health. Both alcohol and substance use disorders have a home In the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V). At this point, to call addiction something other than a mental health disorder would be erroneous. Substance use disorders have a debilitating effect on people’s lives in the same ways as anxiety, depression, bipolar and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
With that in mind, it is always worth reiterating how common it is in our field to treat patients who do not only have problems with drugs and alcohol, they also have a co-occurring mental illness. What is often referred to as a dual diagnosis. While it’s important to acknowledge the occurrence of two or more disorders affecting one person, it is even more salient to treat the various disorders at the same time. Treating one, while neglecting the other, is typically a recipe for relapse.
In many cases, the symptoms of conditions like depression or PTSD lead people down an ineluctable path to addiction. Coping with untreated mental illness is trying, to be sure; and drugs and alcohol can keep some of one’s symptoms at bay—for a time. However, continued substance use for self-medication, actually makes the symptoms worse. What’s more, over time dependence develops and an alcohol or substance use disorder. It doesn’t always work out that way, but it is more prevalent than you’d might think.
At Synergy Group Services our goal is always to address both the addiction and any other form of mental illness that may be present. In many cases, clients don’t even know they meet the criteria for such disorders, which is why screening is of the utmost importance early on in treatment. For those who do know that have a mental health disorder, and are self-medicating the symptoms, it is vital that we all do our part to encourage them to seek help before the matter becomes even more dire.
PTSD Awareness Month
The paradox about mental illness is the fact that people living with it need help more than anything, yet they resist treatment for several reasons. One of the greatest obstacles to seeking help that they face is the stigma that hovers over brain diseases. Seeking help acknowledges that one has a problem, and fearing what other people will think or say can be debilitating. It is paramount that everyone working in the field, those who’ve sought treatment and are in recovery and the general public do what they can to show compassion. Making people feel comfortable when talking about their symptoms will give them the motivation to seek help.
Every June is PTSD Awareness Month, a time to encourage people to get a better understanding of the condition, including the symptoms and treatments which have proven to be effective. By doing so, more people will be inclined to reach out for help. And not just veterans, everyone who has been touched by serious trauma.
“Greater understanding and awareness of PTSD will help Veterans and others recognize symptoms, and seek and obtain needed care.” – Dr. Paula P. Schnurr, Executive Director of the National Center for PTSD.
Please take a moment to watch a short PSA:
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Co-Occurring Disorder Treatment
Our dual diagnosis treatment facility is fully equipped to help you or a loved one begin the process of recovery from both addiction and co-occurring disorders, such as PTSD. Please reach out for help today. Those who have successfully completed our program have had great outcomes, going on to live fulfilling productive lives in recovery.
Have you have ever sought help from an addiction treatment center in recent history, whether in the United States or abroad? If so, you were probably screened for other forms of mental illness. While it is important to have knowledge of any other condition(s) that could affect the quality of one’s life so that it can be treated, the reason for diagnostic screening in treatment is because co-occurring mental health disorders can complicate addiction and one’s opportunity at achieving lasting recovery.
Symptoms of anxiety, bipolar disorder, depression, et al., can be a driving force for continued use of drugs and alcohol—even when one knows that they are harmful. That is, you know that mind-altering substances are likely worsening the symptoms you are experiencing. Addiction accompanied by co-occurring mental illness is a regular occurrence. And it really does not matter which problem precipitated the other, what is vital is that both mental health disorders are treated simultaneously.
If your screening met the criteria for one or more mental illnesses, then you are probably aware that the success of your treatment leading to long-term abstinence or clean-time rested on a multifaceted treatment approach. One that addressed both issues concurrently. Treatment centers today stress the importance of not letting co-occurring disorders linger in the shadow while addiction is being treated. Just to have symptoms of depression or PTSD rear its ugly head upon discharge and trigger a relapse.
Receiving A Dual Diagnosis
Upon completion of a program in a residential treatment center, one whose program treated both your substance use disorder and co-occurring illness (commonly referred to as a dual diagnosis), you were probably referred to a psychologist or psychiatrist offsite for continued therapy and medication maintenance. People recovering from addiction understand that their condition is incurable, which is why even after treatment they continue to work a program of spiritual maintenance.
Depression for instance, like addiction, has no known cure, which means that one must stay on top of their condition, lest its symptoms lead to a return to self-medication by way of drugs or alcohol. To be clear, treating any form of mental illness does not always involve the use of medication. In some cases, talk therapy and holistic measures can mitigate the risk of one’s symptoms getting out of hand. The point is that each case is different, and people who have been touched by both addiction and a dual diagnosis should not eschew psychiatric help, due to a fear that they will just be trading one drug for another.
Your addiction counselors, therapists and treatment psychiatric support (i.e. psychiatrists and psychologists) will work with you to determine what is the best course of action for sustained, long-term recovery. It is vital that one stays the course after discharge. Untreated or unmanaged co-occurring disorders is one most common causes of relapse, but it can be avoided.
Untreated Mental Illness
May is Mental Health Month. A time to have an active role in encouraging those who have not been screened, diagnosed and treated for mental health disorders to seek help. Hundreds of millions of people around the world are living with untreated mental illness. Those of you who have risen from the ashes of untreated mental illness can play a huge role in ending the stigma that accompanies every form of mental health disorders. The nonprofit Mental Health America asks that you, “Don’t keep mental illness to yourself. There’s power in sharing.”
People around the country have taken to social media sharing what they are going through, what they have gone through using the #mentalillnessfeelslike. Sharing that help is available, and recovery is possible.
Dual Diagnosis Treatment
If you are struggling with a dual diagnosis, please contact Synergy Group Services. We utilize the benefits of traditional counseling in conjunction alternative medicine to achieve a synergistic outcome.
When a person makes the courageous decision to seek help for an alcohol or substance use disorder, they often believe that the sole focus of treatment will be their powerlessness over drugs and alcohol. Which is an accurate mindset, given that on the surface most of their problems can be traced back to an unhealthy relationship with mind-altering substances. However, upon entering a treatment center, many learn quickly that there is a lot more than just substance abuse that needs to be addressed.
Alcoholism or drug addiction is commonly associated with other forms of mental illness. People living with untreated depression or anxiety disorder typically use drugs and alcohol to dull their intense feelings and emotional pain. It a common practice, but one that is extremely complex. You see, for a time, self-medication often has the desired effect of mitigating the symptoms of mental illness. But the practice becomes less and less effective over time, resulting in the afflicted using more and more to achieve relief. Self-medication can quickly morph into full blown addiction.
On the other side of the coin, those with a predisposition to addiction often develop other forms of mental illness along the way. And while the relationship is not well understood on the molecular level, there is plenty of evidence to support the concept. Years of abusing drugs and alcohol can wreak havoc inside the brain, causing what could be called a “rewiring” of sorts. What that looks like varies from case to case, but if you talk to an addict or alcoholic, they will probably tell you that they are no strangers to depression and/or anxiety.
Whichever way a co-occurring disorder comes to be is not what’s important. What is, however, is that people struggling with both addiction and another form of mental illness like depression, get the help they need. Unfortunately, people living with any form of mental health disorder often feel disinclined to talk about their issues, the direct result of stigma. Failure to talk about such problems is always a slippery slope to something far from good.
World Health Day
On Friday, April 7, 2017, the World Health Organization (WHO) is asking everyone to have a role in putting a stop to stigma, with respect to World Health Day. They point out that encouraging people to talk about mental illness is not only good for the individual, it’s good for society. The focus of World Health Day this year is depression. In fact, WHO has launched a yearlong campaign focused on ending the stigma of depression, and educating people that recovery is possible. The campaign has been appropriately named, Depression: Let’s Talk.
In order to give you an idea of the prevalence of this chronic disease, WHO cite figures indicating that more than 300 million people around the globe suffer from depression. Only a minute fraction of such people ever receive treatment. The United States is home for 16.1 million plus depressives.
Talking About Mental Health
Recovery from both addiction and depression is possible, but it requires assistance. Nobody has ever beat either on their own. What’s more, a successful recovery requires treating the entire patient. That is, a simultaneous focus on both the addiction and co-occurring mental health disorder, commonly referred to as a “dual diagnosis.”
At Synergy Group Services, our staff is fully equipped to help you or a loved one break the cycle of addiction, and help one learn to live a life in recovery. There is no cure for mental illness, but with continued spiritual maintenance, medication and therapy one can live a productive, fulfilling life.
The National Institute of Mental Health defines depression as being a ‘common but serious mood disorder. It causes severe symptoms that affect how you feel, think, and handle daily activities, such as sleeping, eating, or working. To be diagnosed with depression, the symptoms must be present for at least two weeks.’ Caused by a combination of genetic, environmental, and psychological factors.
Millions of Americans battle with major depressive symptoms every year. Without treatment and continued therapy by way of counseling and/or medication, the future prognosis is rarely promising. While there is still much to learn about the causes, symptoms and treatments for depression, people living with depression today are generally considered to be better off than those just a couple decades ago.
What’s more, people are much more open about their struggles with mental illness today, than compared to not that long ago. A sign that efforts to chip away at the stigma of mental health disorders are working. Which has led, in turn, to more and more prominent people speaking or writing about their own struggles with the hope of helping others floating in similar boats.
Words On Depression
There are scores memoirs that have been written by people struggling with mental illness, such as addiction and depression. While some are better than others, they all have a hand in continuing the dialogue about mental health disorders. There is a lot you can learn about your own issues by reading about others’. You can read about what they have gone through, what worked for them and what didn’t.
The symptoms of mental illness can often make the affected feel as though they are alone—that nobody understands their plight. In a world where keeping your feelings to yourself is often the norm, such reservations to share can prove fatal for those suffering from depression. It shouldn’t come as a surprise to learn that the majority of people who experience symptoms of major depression, never receive any form of treatment. Depressives will often turn to drugs and alcohol to cope, and when that stops working suicide is typically the next logical step. Preventing such eventualities is of the utmost importance.
This Close to Happy
There is a new memoir on depression that you may want to take a look at, written by Daphne Merkin a former film critic for The New Yorker. In 2011, The New Yorker published an essay of Merkin’s about being diagnosed with depression and the psychiatric hospitalizations that would follow, The Washington Post reports. The essay resulted in Merkin being commissioned to write a book about her experience.
Like most memoirs, “This Close to Happy: A Reckoning With Depression” brings readers back to the beginning and then proceeds to take the reader on a journey that people living with mental illness will recognize quite well. While everyone has a different story, the similarities are often beyond refute.
Ironically, the book was almost never finished, the article reports. Being hindered by the very condition she was writing about. “The memoir earns a place among the canon of books on depression, including Andrew Solomon’s “The Noonday Demon,” William Styron’s “Darkness Visible” and Susanna Kaysen’s “Girl, Interrupted” — books that offer comfort to fellow depressives and elucidation for those lucky enough to have dodged its scourge.”
Do you know someone living with a mental illness? Perhaps you do, and is it someone close to you, i.e., family member or friend? The chances are that you probably do and, even if you do not, you can help them this May by taking part in Mental Health Month. Unfortunately, even in the enlightened times we find ourselves living, there are still stigmas surrounding mental health disorders—illnesses which include:
- Anxiety Disorder (i.e. PTSD, OCD and Phobias)
- Bipolar Disorder
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is urging people to harness the power and reach out on their social media platforms for educating others, raise awareness and end the stigma of mental illness with hope. They ask that you take the pledge to be #StigmaFree this #MentalHealthMonth. While approximately 1 in 5 American adults experience some form of mental illness in a given year, less than 41 percent of them receive any form of mental health service, according to NAMI.
Mental illness that is left unchecked by therapy and medication can quickly spiral out of control—often times ending in tragedy. We can all have a hand in encouraging the afflicted to seek help for their illness without fear of being shamed. Recovering from mental health disorders is possible—people can lead normal and productive lives free from disgrace. But, in order for that to come to fruition, it involves a societal effort.
So, What Can You Do to help?
- Take the Pledge to Be #StigmaFree
- Record your Video
- Upload it to your YouTube channel and other social media accounts.
- Include #StigmaFree in the Title
Perhaps you have a story of your own that you would like to share with others who are still severely impacted by a mental illness. What you went through may empower others to seek the help they so desperately need. Let them know that they are not alone, share your voice.
“We know that mental illness is not something that happens to other people. It touches us all. Why then is mental illness met with so much misunderstanding and fear?” – Tipper Gore