Over the past two decades, we have made significant strides in the treatment of addiction. One of the biggest steps has been the increased public understanding that substance use disorder is a mental illness. It is in this context that dual diagnosis centers have become considered the best places for addiction treatment.
What are dual diagnosis treatment centers? Dual diagnosis refers to the fact that addiction rarely occurs in isolation. Rather, addiction has co-occurring mental health disorders that often accompany it. These include mood disorders like depression and bipolar disorder, as well as personality disorders, like a narcissistic or borderline personality disorder.
Dual diagnosis treatment addresses both substance use disorder as well as any co-occurring disorders together. These centers understand that treating one without treating the other is unlikely to yield results.
However, not everyone knows if they need dual diagnosis treatment. Some people with substance use disorders are not sure if they are suffering from co-occurring mental illnesses.
How do you know if you have co-occurring disorders? Here are 5 signs you need dual diagnosis treatment.
1. You started using substances to cope
There are many reasons people start using substances. Often, it is as a result of experimentation, recreation, or simply because one’s friends are doing it. However, some people start using substances in the hopes that they will help them cope. This is a strong indication that you have an underlying mental illness.
This is also true if you had already used substances and only then identified them as a coping mechanism. The simple reality is that if you intentionally started using substances for this purpose, you were already struggling to function, whether because of depression, anxiety, or another mental health disorder.
2. You self-sabotage or act recklessly in other ways
Alcohol and drug use leads people to do things that are against their own best interests. These acts of recklessness and self-sabotage are common symptoms that you have a substance use disorder. However, if you self-sabotage or act recklessly even when you are not using substances, you should consider dual diagnosis treatment.
People act in these ways for a number of reasons, such as a desire to punish themselves, a cry for help, or an urge to stop feeling. These are all signs that you are struggling with another mental illness in addition to addiction.
3. You feel the ‘need’ for liquid courage
Some people use substances when going to a social event as they feel like they need the courage it gives them. They feel that it helps them shed their inhibitions and more easily connect with people. This is a sign that you might be suffering from a social anxiety disorder.
Social anxiety disorder is a fairly common mental illness that makes social gatherings intensely anxiety-provoking. Everyone feels nervous about meeting new people sometimes, but when this is a common experience and you feel that you need substances to help you through, all indications point to social anxiety.
4. You experience intense downs and/or highs
Feeling down is something that everyone goes through, but if you experience intense periods of feeling down, you may be suffering from depression. Depression is not just a feeling of sadness or even despair. Rather, it is an overwhelming experience that makes it difficult to function for days or weeks at a time.
Some people experience periods of intense highs even when they are not using substances. This may be a sign of mania or hypomania. If you sometimes go for days or weeks with intense energy, insomnia, and impulsiveness, you may be suffering from bipolar disorder. If so, you will also sometimes experience periods of depression.
5. You don’t want to live a life without substances
No one who is dependent on substances wants to stop using them. There are withdrawals and the possibility of cravings even when you are no longer addicted. However, many people want to stop being dependent on them.
If you cannot envision a life without substances – or the idea of that life is distressing – you may well be suffering from depression. In isolation, addiction would cause you to use substances as a coping mechanism, but it would not stop you from appreciating life. The fear that life without substances is not worth it indicates a severely depressed perspective of life.
If you resonate with one or more of the above signs, you should go to a dual diagnosis treatment center. Dual diagnosis treatment will view the addiction in context, giving you the care you need to become mentally healthy.