Up until the 1990s, individuals who were struggling with an addictive disorder and a mental health disorder were treated for each individual issue in two separate facilities. Mental health concerns were typically addressed in a psychiatric hospital setting, and addiction issues were addressed in an inpatient or residential treatment setting. In fact, those who presented with symptoms of a mental health disorder were often denied treatment unless they were sober – of course, those struggling with serious substance dependency issues could not simply sober up in order to receive the help they needed. It was recently discovered that addiction – which is also a mental health condition – is best treated in conjunction with all underlying disorders. Not only does this make for a more effective treatment experience, but it has been proven to prevent rates of relapse in the long-term. Mental health and addiction go hand-in-hand. Those with untreated psychiatric symptoms often turn to drugs and alcohol as a means of self-medication. They attempt to alleviate uncomfortable and disruptive symptoms by ingesting chemical substances in large quantities. While doing so may provide very temporary relief, substance use will always make the symptoms of mental health disorders worse and more unmanageable in the long run.

It is estimated that one out of every four adults who struggles with a mental health disorder simultaneously suffers from an addictive disorder of some severity. Sadly, the US Department of Health and Human Studies reported that out of the 4 million American adults who struggle with a dual diagnosis disorder, only 12 percent will receive the comprehensive care they need. This is not because dual diagnosis treatment isn’t available. In fact, most treatment centers throughout the US will offer some degree of dual diagnosis treatment as part of their overall recovery program. The line between mental health and addiction has been successfully eradicated. We now understand that in order to treat one disorder, we must simultaneously treat all additional, underlying disorders. Mental health professionals who work in the field of substance abuse very frequently receive in-depth training on the diagnosis and treatment of mental health concerns.

About Dual Diagnosis Treatment

Effective dual diagnosis treatment will consider addictions and mental health concerns during the entire length of the recovery process. Those who are in need of dual diagnosis treatment will either have a diagnosed mental illness, or they will be presenting symptoms but may have not yet received an official diagnosis. Some common dual diagnosis disorders include anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and personality of behavioral disorders. There are many specialized dual diagnosis treatment centers as well – for example, a treatment center that caters specifically to those struggling with substance abuse and an eating disorder. Dual diagnosis treatment centers should ensure that patients are receiving comprehensive and personalized care, and that the following guidelines are consistently being met:

  • The staff is made up of a team of addiction specialists and mental health professionals – Every dual diagnosis treatment should offer licensed therapists and psychiatrists, counselors, medical professionals and prescribing physicians.
  • The use of certain prescription medications in the treatment of mental illnesses and – when necessary – in the treatment of addiction – Antidepressants may be necessary, for example, and if a patient struggles with depression and opioid addiction he or she might also require a short-term medication like suboxone. It is important that physicians and psychiatrists work together to ensure there are no drug interactions or adverse effects.
  • Not only enforcing a comprehensive treatment strategy, but also an inclusive one – Dual diagnosis patients often benefit from involving family members in therapeutic intervention. Most effective dual diagnosis treatment centers will offer services like family counseling and support.
  • A kind and compassionate approach to integrated care – It is important that patients feel safe and comfortable opening up about all of their personal struggles, not just those directly relating to addiction.

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About Addiction

Both mental health and addiction are widely stigmatized. Those suffering from depression might be repeatedly told to “cheer up,” for example. Those suffering from an anxiety disorder might be told to “calm down.” Stigma generally stems from a combined lack of knowledge and misinformation. Those who struggle with addictive disorders often face the same level of judgement and misunderstanding. Some believe that substance dependency is nothing more than a matter of weak willpower. They may believe that using drugs or drinking addictively is a choice. The truth is, those struggling with addiction have completely lost control of their own actions – their brain chemistry has been significantly altered, and they feel that if they do not continuously use their drug of choice they will not be able to function properly. Addiction is a complex, chronic, and relapsing brain disease, and quitting takes much more than ample self-belief or a desire to stop. While addiction is referred to as a “relapsing” brain disease, relapse is not a prerequisite to recovery. However, relapse is common when a consistent and comprehensive program of recovery is not upheld. The risk of relapse increases even further when an untreated mental illness is present.

There is a clear connection between addiction and mental health. If all underlying mental health concerns are not thoroughly treated, relapse will almost be inevitable. It is likely that the individual will return to destructive patterns of self-medication within the first few weeks or months of completing residential treatment.

Addiction and Co-Occurring Disorders

There are several co-occurring disorders that are often closely linked to substance abuse. These co-occurring disorders include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Behavioral disorders
  • Personality disorder
  • Unresolved trauma

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In order for addiction treatment to be successful, any and all co-occurring disorders must be treated at the same time. If you believe you may be struggling with a dual diagnosis disorder but have not been officially diagnosed, we are available to help. At Immersion Recovery Center, we have fully licensed and accredited psychiatrists on staff, who will help diagnose existing disorders after a short period of sobriety has been maintained. We understand that because active addiction causes individuals to act differently than they normally would, it can be difficult to properly diagnose a mental illness while a substance is being abused. For example, someone who is drinking heavily on a daily basis might sleep more often than normal, or feel unmotivated and stop taking care of personal hygiene. These are symptoms of alcoholism and of depression, so differentiating the two and making a clear distinction is crucial. This is why our on-staff psychiatrists might wait until an individual has been sober for several weeks before making an official diagnosis.

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Immersion Recovery Center and Dual Diagnosis Treatment

At Immersion Recovery Center, we offer a curriculum of dual diagnosis care that is both highly individualized and integrated, ensuring those with co-occurring disorders are receiving all of the care they need in order to maintain sobriety for years to come. We provide our patients with a combination of medicinal and holistic, therapeutic care. Our on-staff psychiatrists work to adequately diagnose and treat all mental health concerns, while our therapists, counselors and addiction specialists address substance abuse recovery. Our main priority is delivering you the quality care you both need and deserve, and paving the way for a lifetime of healthy, happy and substance-free living. For more information on our dual diagnosis recovery program, give us a call today.

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Reviewed for accuracy by :

Serving as the Inpatient Clinical Director at Immersion Recovery Center, Susan will work directly with staff members, clients, and family members to ensure the clinical program remains as effective and individualized as possible. Susan is no stranger to the fields of behavioral health and addiction. She has over 25 years of experience, working in an inpatient setting, an outpatient setting, acute stabilization and nearly all other settings in the realm of addiction recovery.