Substance Abuse and Mental Health

Also known as dual diagnosis, co-occurring disorders describes an individual who has more than one medical issue. Oftentimes the conditions are simultaneous or one comes after the other. Both mental health issues and drug and alcohol addiction have their own symptoms and may get in the way of daily life functioning.

Why does this happen?

Many underlying mental health issues lead to the abuse of drugs and alcohol. Individuals use these substances to cope with( or mask) a wide variety of emotions and feelings, including anxiety, shame, pain, depression, and guilt. Unfortunately, self-medicating with drugs and alcohol causes side effects which can be harmful and oftentimes life-threatening.

Why does this happen? Which came first? It is hard to be certain if the two conditions are related or if one caused the other, or if the condition that’s diagnosed first isn’t necessarily responsible for additional conditions that arise.

Mental health disorders that commonly co-occur with addiction include:

  • Major depressive disorder
  • Anxiety and mood disorders
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Conduct disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • PTSD
  • ADHD

What is Integrated Treatment?

Approaches to treating co-occurring disorders involve the integration of treatment modalities. Integrated treatment considers both substance abuse and mental health disorders primary concerns. It treats both simultaneously.

Integrating treatment combines mental health and substance counseling and care. It begins with a comprehensive screening and assessments. A care plan is created that focuses on each individuals specific needs and this plan is modified throughout treatment to address changing recovery needs.

Talk therapy

Talk therapy is an important aspect of both disorders. Cognitive Behavior Therapy addresses emotional and environmental contributors to both. It helps individuals shift self-destructive behaviors and thoughts into positive ones by teaching practical coping skills and increasing self-confidence. Dialectical Behavior Therapy is effective as it focuses on coming to terms with difficult emotions or behaviors. It helps to find a balance between acceptance and change., co

In addition to getting professional treatment there are self-help steps one can begin to take to address mental health and substance abuse issues.

Getting sober is only the first step.

Other steps one can take are to learn to manage stress, know one’s triggers, connecting with family, friends, or groups, staying physically healthy, practice relaxation techniques, and develop new activities and interests.

Laila Wiechmann, MS, LPC, LADC
Laila Wiechmann, MS, LPC, LADC
(414) 899-8581
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