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dual diagnosisAddiction to alcohol and other drugs is a difficult journey to begin and can be even more intimidating if we also suffer from outside issues. This is referred to as dual diagnosis. Those of us who are in recovery and also struggle with mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, PTSD or post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, and other diagnoses essentially have two battles to fight in order to heal. It’s not an impossible feat, it just might take some extra measures to effectively work through. Many things are important to consider when addressing both substance addiction and a mental health disorder. For example, how does one affect the other before treatment? What are the ways we can treat both of these at the same time? Living with both conditions can be very frustrating and trying, but it is possible to overcome alcohol and drug addiction, as well as to manage a mental health disorder. With the correct therapy plan and a great recovery program, living a happy and healthy life can be a reality and give you the chance to find peace and balance. 


How Do Addiction and Mental Health Affect Each Other?

The classic question of which came first, the chicken or the egg, is an accurate representation of the relationship between substance addiction and mental health disorders. It’s difficult to tell which causes the other, or if they are related at all. For instance, some mental health disorders include symptoms of substance abuse. Those who are already suffering from a mental health disorder may find relief in drinking or drug use, and this can turn into the abuse of these substances. Anxiety and depression are sometimes quieted when alcohol and other drugs are involved. When it becomes repetitive, there are chances that dependency can form or a mental obsession. 


Mental health disorders can potentially predispose you to the phenomenon of craving, the mental obsession that we recognize in addiction. The common characteristic in many alcoholics and addicts is feeling incomplete, as though there is a void that you cannot fill, no matter what you do. The solution many of us find for this problem is drinking or using drugs. The void many of us feel in our mental health struggles is extremely similar. Therefore, the solution to the problem may be the same and turn into an addiction. With regard to alcoholism and addiction, sometimes we don’t experience mental health issues beforehand. We develop addictions, and sometimes, due to the damage these addictions cause us physically, emotionally, spiritually, financially, and mentally, we begin to experience depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues that have a negative effect on our lives. 


In either case, substance abuse and mental health can deeply affect each other. Drinking and using drugs can deepen depression and heighten anxiety. They can have a severe effect on our moods, both joyful and painful. As we continue to use alcohol and other drugs and become dependent, our mental health continues to decline. At that point, we may find that we can’t stop drinking or using. What forms is a vicious cycle that is incredibly difficult to break. Our bodies depend on the substances we abuse, while our minds are struggling to find balance and happiness. Some mental health disorders, such as borderline personality disorder, bipolar disorder, and PTSD may make addiction more probable and harder to overcome. Our behaviors don’t always match our values, no matter how much we want to find relief. The good news is that treatment for both addiction and mental health are readily available. We just need to find the plan that is the best for us, to help us heal most effectively. 


Treating a Dual Diagnosis 

Moving forward into treatment for dual diagnosis is a very individualized process. It is important to find a 12-step program that best suits you when it comes to substance addiction. Working the steps in Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, or other 12-step programs can be beneficial for mental health as well as addiction. While we overcome our dependency on drugs and alcohol, we also find relief in the 12-steps. We create a relationship with a Higher Power and begin to clear out the wreckage of our past so that we can move forward with a fresh start. We take inventory of the people, places, and things that we hold resentment and fear around, and make amends with the people we’ve harmed. These are all great first steps within addiction treatment, and can also be beneficial for our mental health. Additionally, we find a community of like-minded people who have similar experiences to our own and who can support us in this journey. Many of us who struggle with mental health issues have found it difficult to maintain such an intimate support system, and this is a wonderful aspect of our overall recovery. 


However, some of us require outside help beyond a 12-step program. This is not a negative thing, it just means we have access to even more support in our healing process. The best plan of action is to meet with a medical professional like a therapist or a psychiatrist and get an accurate diagnosis. From there, you can create a plan with your therapist to best treat your mental health disorder. This might mean therapy sessions, medication, or other prescribed types of treatment. If you are working a solid recovery program and taking the advice of your therapist or psychiatrist, managing a dual diagnosis is very possible. Always keep in mind that you are worthy of finding relief and living a peaceful, satisfying life. No matter how long the road to recovery might seem, remember that it will work if you work it. So work it, you’re worth it. 


The Guest House Ocala treats many different mental disorders and addictions and extends support without judgment to those who need it. Our therapy programs can help restore hope and confidence and begin to welcome the balance in your life. We aim to combat stigma around mental health and would love for you to join us to start the healing process!

To ask any questions and begin that journey today, call us at 855-483-7800.