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.
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.”
At Synergy Group Services we would like to show our support for National Recovery Month. Over the last 27 years, September has been a time for raising awareness about addiction recovery. The disease of addiction is a mental health disorder which affects millions of people around the globe. Left untreated, the condition can both ruin and cut lives short. Fortunately, there are services available to help those afflicted by the insidious disease, today more than ever.
Addiction counselors have the skills and tools to effectively treat addiction, and show people how to live a life free from drugs and alcohol. The use of medication and cognitive behavioral therapies in sheltered environments can help people break the cycle of addiction and live productive, fulfilling lives. It is paramount that everyone who is need of treatment, can access it.
Making the decision to seek treatment is not always easy. Even when people are in the grips of despair, it can be hard for many to acknowledge that they have a problem and surrender. Encouraging the millions of Americans who are still active in their addiction to enter treatment is one of the goals of National Recovery Month. This year, people in recovery and their families are invited to share their story of hope online. By doing so, you may help some make the decision to seek recovery, potentially saving a life—or many lives for that matter.
Sadly, many Americans living in addiction believe that they are beyond help, that they will die with a bottle or drug in their hand. Despair begets despair, and the cycle of addiction continues. Sharing about your own experience with addiction, how bad it was and how good life is now, could be a catalyst for countless individuals to seek change. In the midst of an unprecedented epidemic involving opioid narcotics, everyone in recovery can have a hand in stemming the tide.
The National Recovery Month theme this year is: Join The Voices for Recovery: Our Families, Our Stories, Our Recovery. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA) states that:
“Across the country, people in recovery are celebrating their successes and sharing them with others in an effort to educate the public about treatment, how it works, for whom, and why. Because these successes often go unnoticed by the broader population, these personal stories, or Voices for Recovery, provide a vehicle for people to share their recovery stories.”