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Dual Diagnosis

Dual Diagnosis

The problem of addiction is a difficult challenge for many people struggling with its effects in North Carolina and across the country. The presence of co-existing disorders can make that challenge even more difficult to handle. Many mental and emotional disorders have complex cause-and-effect relationships with addiction. Thankfully, North Carolina rehab centers are staffed by professionals who are able to implement dual diagnosis management programs to help patients resolve their mental and emotional conditions, and begin on the path to recovery from drug and alcohol addiction.

What is dual diagnosis?

Dual diagnosis is a condition in which a substance abuser also suffers from a mental or emotional disorder that contributes to, or is affected by, his or her condition. These conditions are known as co-existing disorders in the context of drug and alcohol addiction treatment. In some cases, the addiction aggravates an existing disorder or creates a new mental disorder in the patient. In others, a newly developed disorder causes or contributes to the development of an addiction. However, many cases involve a more complex relationship between the addiction and the disorder, in which each is affected by the other.

Specific interactions between addiction and mental disorders

While many co-existing disorders exist, the following are relatively common among rehab patients:

  • Depression: Many people suffering from depression use drugs or alcohol to escape from the emotional pain caused by their condition. Alcoholism is especially prevalent among the chronically depressed.
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): PTSD sufferers experience flashbacks to traumatic episodes in their lives. These flashbacks are very emotionally scarring, and can lead to drug or alcohol abuse as a form of temporary escape.
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD): OCD patients become locked into repetitive patterns of irrational behavior that can be highly disruptive to their daily lives. Some severe OCD sufferers abuse opiates, which provide temporary relief from the symptoms of OCD.
  • Anxiety: People who suffer from chronic anxiety, often experience anxiety attacks. Anxiety sufferers sometimes turn to drug or alcohol use as a form of temporary escape from these traumatic experiences.
  • Eating disorders: Certain eating disorders have particular relationships with drug abuse. Anorexia, for example, encourages the abuse of diet pills and other drugs that promote extreme weight loss. Many eating disorders are paired with body dysmorphia, a mental condition in which the self-image of the body is distorted. Dysmorphia sometimes leads to chronic depression, drinking, and drug abuse.

An estimated four million Americans suffer from both an addiction to drugs or alcohol, and a co-existing disorder.

Treatment for mental and emotional disorders in the context of addiction

An effective model of rehabilitation must treat both the patient’s addiction, and his or her co-existing disorder for it to be successful in the long term. Many substance abuse treatment centers in North Carolina provide these forms of treatment to dual diagnosis patients:

  • Psychotherapy: This form of one-on-one counseling is designed to identify the patient’s specific mental disorders. Psychotherapy sessions can help rehab staff to understand the patient’s situation, and create a more effective and personalized treatment plan.
  • Psychopharmacology: Specialized medications created to treat the patient’s disorders may be necessary for the patient to take. An effective course of medication can help suppress the symptoms of the patient’s co-existing disorder, making effective drug and alcohol addiction treatment possible.
  • Behavioral management: Dual diagnosis patients may also benefit from courses of cognitive- behavioral therapy (CBT), during which the patient works with a counselor in a one-on-one setting. CBT aims to help the patient identify the elements in their life that cause them stress and that may contribute to their substance abuse habits. By undergoing CBT therapy, the patient can learn how to more effectively deal with stress, anger, and grief without turning to drug or alcohol use.

The importance of aftercare

The completion of rehab does not mean the patient is cured of their addiction. Aftercare for both the addiction and the co-existing disorder may be necessary for the long-term success of the initial treatment. Many former rehab patients continue to attend sessions of therapy. Enrollment in 12-step programs that place the recovering addict in contact with others who can relate to their experiences, is also advisable. By forming bonds with other recovering addicts, continuing to attend therapy, and taking their prescribed medications, the dual diagnosis patient can recover from drug and/or alcohol addiction and achieve permanent sobriety.

If you or someone you know is suffering from a substance abuse problem, contact a North Carolina dual diagnosis treatment center as soon as possible to learn more about available options for treatment.