Dual Diagnosis: Alcoholism and Mental Illness

by Jessica B. April 16th, 2013 | Mental Health
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cryThis month is Alcohol Awareness Month, and there has been a lot of discussion involving alcohol and alcohol treatment. One of the major issues in treating and dealing with alcohol addiction is that it can often go hand in hand with other mental illnesses. Many undiagnosed sufferers of mental illness use alcohol to self medicate, leading to complications including alcoholism. This leads to treatment issues, as doctors need to work on treating both the addiction and the underlying mental illness.

Using Alcohol to Cope

For sufferers of anxiety, depression, and other conditions, alcohol can at first seem like a comfortable way out. As a socially acceptable drug, sufferers of anxiety and depression can consume alcohol without sending up too many red flags in the beginning. Alcohol can seem to help sufferers of anxiety face difficult situations, be it social ones or when situations are demanding. Sufferers of depression may find it easier to sleep after a few drinks. What starts out as a few drinks at the end of the day to cope with a difficult situation, can turn into a dependence on alcohol to face and cope with everyday situations.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment Centers

More and more treatments centers are beginning to focus on treatment for dual diagnosis. This means that detox situations and rehab is coupled with treatment for mental illness. This is a great way to help limit the amount of relapses back into addiction, as patients can immediately begin a medication or treatment regimen that targets their alcoholism, but also their mental health needs. Instead of taking a clean break from alcohol, they detox and also receive the medication needed to treat their problem.

This, combined with counseling from an expert who can help deal with some of the underlying problems and help the patient come to terms with both of their illnesses, has been shown to lead to a greater chance of staying clean long term.

If you suspect a loved one, who is battling alcohol, has an underlying disease, it may be worthwhile to find a treatment center that can help treat both illnesses. If you are an alcoholic who has relapsed multiple times and suspect their may be stronger underlying issues, reach out to a specialist in dual diagnosis.

If you only treat one of the diseases, chances are that the patient will relapse and seek to self medicate again, later on down the road. Proper diagnoses of underlying mental illness are important to treating both the alcoholism and the mental illness.

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All health and medical information is provided for educational purposes and is not meant to replace the medical advice or treatment of your healthcare professional.