Someone who struggles with both addiction and mental illness is diagnosed as having a dual diagnosis. This means that they have two diagnoses, or two illnesses that need to be treated. For instance, a person might have depression, post-traumatic stress disorder or anxiety in addition to their addiction. In these cases, treatment for the addiction as well as the psychological illness needs to take place at the same time. It is essential to consider that a person needs to detox and get off substances in order to properly diagnose the mental illness. When a person is under the influence of drugs, it is difficult to determine what is causing the secondary symptoms: the reaction and/or psychosis from the drugs, or truly another mental illness. In fact, when mental illness accompanies addiction, there are many aspects of treatment that are important to include. Alcohol or drug detox, psychological assessment, treatment for the psychological illness, drug counseling, psychiatric services (getting the right medication for the psychological illness), family therapy and drug counseling might all be a part of a person's treatment.
In addition to this, it is most effective to have collaborative communication among all health professionals to maintain congruence of treatment. Another significant consideration is to work with mental health professionals that specialize in the field of addiction, including the psychiatrist and therapist.
Chris Massman, MA, MFTI, CDS
Mental health issues affect millions of Americans. While the majority of individuals who experience mental health problems are able to find ways to cope on their own, some conditions require lifelong assistance or treatment. Since mental health directly impacts the way one thinks, feels and behaves, it is important to address any underlying issues as part of addiction recovery process. This can help put one in the appropriate state of mind and provide the mental clarity needed to be able to navigate the ups and downs of addiction recovery.
Abimbola Farinde, Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor