Sadly in many substance abuse cases, there’s a chance a pre-existing causal disorder is also present in their life. Though addiction can be diagnosed on its own, in a high number of situations, it ends up being the result of one or other mental disorder. With Anxiety, Depression, and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder being the most common ones, the necessity for us all to identify in time any early signs or symptoms can make the difference between a suicide/overdose and a successful recovery.
Even more so when according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) has found that around 64% of people experiencing an alcohol addiction match the description as well of someone dealing with a clinical diagnosis of depression.
How does this happen?
The first thing
What we need to understand between depression and addiction is that both can be affected by similar situations and factors that lead up to increase the chances of suffering from either or both disorders.
Some of these factors include hereditary conditions, in which due to their genetic makeup, a predisposition for substance abuse or depression might take place. It can be led by the early use of substances while the brain is still in development, or after a very traumatic experience like the death of a loved one or physical/sexual abuse, they all can push an individual towards a depressive and/or addictive routine.
Having either of these disorders can predispose the individual to suffer from the other. An addictive behavior is strongly linked to a mental disorder. Though not a golden rule, it is safe to say that one makes a person prone to develop the other. A very common and sad example is the link between alcoholism and clinical depression, which when overlooked can lead to suicide.
When diagnosing a patient, the doctor might hardly differentiate the moment where one starts and the other ends.
An individual suffering from addiction will start having problems with keeping a steady job, maintaining relationships, etc., and will eventually result in depression. On the other hand, the abuse of substances has effects on our brains that though might not necessarily induce a mental disorder; it definitely makes our minds vulnerable to develop one.
What are the signs of a Dual-Diagnosis?
Despite being very different disorders, addiction and depression share many common symptoms, which can lead to a confusing dual-diagnosis. Though identifying some on our own doesn’t mean that the patient suffers from any specific disorder, it’s always advisable to keep an eye on their behavior until we can get professional medical help for a possible dual-diagnosis.
Some of the most common symptoms/signs are:
- Hopelessness and sadness for long periods of time (even without substance consumption)
- Use of substances to deal with painful or unpleasant memories (which can lead to substance abuse).
- The patient becomes isolated due to substance abuse.
- Dependence on drugs to go through the day.
- If the patient has a history of any mental disorders and shows abnormal behavior
- A previous traumatic experience that has never been discussed with a professional.
What to do?
When looking for professional help, it is very important that whichever facility we’re looking at, offers specific treatment for Dual-Diagnosed patients. Along with it, licensed addiction specialists and licensed psychiatrists should be available and should have high qualifications that involve handling mental disorders affecting addicts.
Besides aiming for the 12-step approach, when dealing with a Dual-Diagnosis, it is extremely important that the treatment is specifically tailored to each patient because each addiction is different and each causal trauma is also different.
Seeking professional help is definitely the best approach. If you want to help a loved one that has been struggling with co-occurring disorders, the best thing you can do first is to educate yourself. The more information you can gather on the topic, the better.
When attempting to tailor a treatment with professional assistance, some of the requirements might be:
- A detailed history of the patient’s past and present psychiatric health.
- Medication therapy to handle severe symptoms.
- Individual therapy to work on the link between addiction and the mental disorder.
- Different types of therapy to not only work on the addiction, but also on the mind and spirit of the patient.
What happens after?
Once the program has been completed, it is very important that the family and loved ones maintain an active role that ensures and encourages the patient to remain clean and motivated to pursue his or her new goals in life.
A big mistake that is present in some Rehab Centers is that after a certain period of time, they decide to stop including the families in the process, leaving them on their own without the professional advice and assistance that they definitely need.
During and after rehab, it is very important that all close and loved ones remain active and willing to help. It is a hard and long process but the results will always be worth it.
Doing research on what programs you can get involved in, is crucial to the patient’s progress.
Whether it is depression, or social anxiety, or any sort of mental disorder that has developed a link with a substance abusive behavior. Learning as much as possible from reliable sources will mean the world to the patient’s recovery.
Dealing with addiction is already hard enough, and dealing with it while also having to struggle with a mental disorder can make things more difficult for everyone. This is why the love and dedication we have matters the most for a successful rehabilitation. A Dual-Diagnosis can result more severe than when dealing with just one of the two problems, but it’s not impossible.
If you or someone you love is going through a hard time, it might not necessarily mean you’re clinically depressed or prompt to fall into addiction, but it is always worth it to keep an eye on everything and detect any signs at an early stage to avoid bigger problems in the future.
If you’d like to ask a question or suggest any other points you consider important in the Addiction-depression relationship, leave us a comment below.