It's very common for someone to use drugs or alcohol as a way to deal with emotional problems. They may not even be aware that drinking or getting high helps numb or block out the overwhelming feelings they are having until it's too late.
This link between substance abuse and mental disorders is called dual diagnosis, and it will require a specific type of treatment in order for a person to successfully beat their addiction.
Self medication may seem harmless at first. If you're feeling sad or hopeless, drinking or getting high may provide temporary relief and get your mind off of things.
Having a few drinks can also help slow down an anxious mind or minimize the effects of a manic episode. As the effects of the drugs or alcohol wear off, the symptoms of a mental disorder became even stronger leading to heavier drinking or higher dosages of drugs.
This is how self medication can quickly spiral from a seemingly harmless way to take the edge off, into a full blown addiction. It also keeps you from finding out what your true issues are and being able to get the right treatment for them.
To begin effectively treating both a substance abuse problem and a mental health disorder, you must give equal attention to both issues. The process should begin with a medical detox, which helps you overcome the physical dependence you have on drugs or alcohol in a safe, medically supervised setting.
A detox can last a week or longer, depending on what kind of substance is being abused and how severe the addiction is. This is also when a doctor has the opportunity to assess your psychiatric symptoms and determine if there is a mental disorder present.
A doctor will also help you plan out the next steps for getting the appropriate psychological treatment.
Next comes a stay in a rehab facility, where you begin working on your psychological dependence on drugs or alcohol through individual and group counseling, support groups, and medication. Dual diagnosis treatment will also include treatment for an existing mental disorder, such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or others.
As you work on your substance abuse problem, you will also spend time with a therapist or counselor who specializes in your specific mood disorder. You may also start taking medication to manage symptoms. It sounds like a lot of work, and it is!
But with continued focus, support, and the right kind of treatment plans, you can conquer an addiction and find a healthier way to live with a mental disorder.
After leaving rehab, it's important to stay focused on recovery by finding support. Many choose to join a 12 step group like Alcoholics or Narcotics Anonymous.
There are also support groups for people with mental disorders to talk about their issues and help each other out. This is especially important if you find yourself feeling alienated from friends and family.
You may also want to continue going to regular individual therapy sessions and checking in with your doctor from time to time. This will help them determine whether your treatment is progressing as it should, or if any adjustments are needed.
Continued use of medication to treat the symptoms of your particular mood disorder is also recommended. And of course, staying sober really helps too.