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.