Those people who remain trapped in addiction are caught in a downward spiral. Unless they find a way to escape their descent they are heading towards a great deal of misery and a premature death. The suffering involved in addiction usually means that people will hit a rock bottom, and this encourages them to ask for help. There are things that prevent this breakthrough in denial from occurring and one of example of this is the dual diagnosis. This is something that not only acts as a barrier to recovery, but it can also prevent progress if people do manage to escape their addiction.
To say that somebody has a dual diagnosis means that they are not only dealing with a substance abuse problem but also a mental health problem. It may have been this other condition that drove the individual to substance abuse in the first place. There will also be those people who develop a dual diagnosis as a result of their abuse.
A dual diagnosis may refer to addiction combined with a metal health problem such as:
* Anxiety disorder
* Antisocial personality disorder
* Narcissistic personality disorder
* Bipolar disorder
* Obsessive compulsive disorder
* Borderline personality disorder
The addiction may involve alcohol, prescription drugs, or illegal drugs.
Some people will already have a mental health problem before they turn to substance abuse. In many instances the individual will not know that their symptoms are caused by a mental health condition. They just know that they do not feel right and that when they use alcohol or drugs it makes them feel a bit better. In the beginning the individual may be able to successfully self medicate their symptoms but substance abuse is only a temporary solution at best. Not only does alcohol and drug abuse become less effective as a form of self medication but it starts to exacerbate the problem. It leads to a dual diagnosis where the individual has far more problems than when they began self medicating.
There are also people who will develop a dual diagnosis as a result of their substance abuse. Alcohol and drugs can be highly toxic to the body. These substances can wreak havoc on every organ in the body – including the brain. Alcohol is a type of depressant and so it is hardly surprising that this type of abuse leads to the symptoms of depression. Substance abuse can lead to paranoia, anxiety, hallucinations, extreme mood fluctuations, suicidal thoughts, and emotional problems. Those who engage in this type of behavior over a long period of time are putting their mental health at risk. In many instances those mental health problems that have been caused by substance abuse will improve once the individual stops using alcohol and drugs.
It is fair to say that a dual diagnosis can be a serious barrier to recovery. Many individuals in this situation will continue with the substance abuse for a number of reasons including:
* It can be difficult for some people with a mental health condition to gain insight into their own situation. This makes it harder for them to get over their denial and seek help.
* People with a dual diagnosis can become trapped in a catch 22 situation. Their mental health problem prevents them from escaping their addiction, and their addiction makes it almost impossible to treat their mental health problem.
* Those individuals who have managed to become sober previously may have found it highly unsatisfactory because of their substance abuse so they are unwilling to try again. They fail to realize that the problem was their dual diagnosis and not with the path of recovery.
* Many of these people will have had negative experiences with the recovery community in the past. They may have been told that their real problem was the failure to put enough effort into their recovery – a claim that is unhelpful and wrong.
* These mental health problems can really impact the individual’s feelings of self worth. They may come to the conclusion that they do not deserve to get any better.
* In the past there were few provisions for people who were dealing with a dual diagnosis. This meant that these individuals could not get the help they needed – these people were once referred to as the hopeless cases.
In recent years there is an increase in the number of resources available for people who are dealing with a dual diagnosis. This means that many more of these people are managing to escape their addiction and build a good life in recovery. In many instances these individuals will need to have both of their conditions treated at the same time. This will mean that their mental health condition will not prevent them from building a life in early recovery. There is also far more awareness of dual diagnosis these days and those who are struggling to find happiness in sobriety are not just given the judgment that they are doing something wrong – although this does still happen.
There are a number of reasons for why dual diagnosis can act as a barrier to recovery including:
* Those individuals who are not aware of their dual diagnosis will struggle to find happiness in recovery. They may decide that life away from alcohol or drugs is just dissatisfying and decide to relapse.
* If people continue to struggle in recovery they may consider desperate measures such as suicide.
* In order to build a strong sobriety the individual will need to do a great deal of work on overcoming their character flaws. This other condition can get in the way of this work and keep the individual from making any progress.
* If people have been using alcohol or drugs to self medicate their untreated mental health problems they may find that their symptoms become more noticeable in recovery.
* There is more to recovery than just giving up substance abuse. An untreated dual diagnosis can keep people trapped in a dry drunk limbo.
When people become sober and they continue to struggle it can lead to a great deal of worry and misery. Other people in recovery may suggest that the problem is that this individual is doing something wrong. Those who belong to a recovery group may be told that their difficulties arise from not working the program properly. These people are usually well meaning, but it can be extremely dangerous advice. If the recipient of this advice continues to ignore their symptoms it will just lead to further problems. They will also become frustrated if they put even more effort into their recovery and fail to see any benefit. This will give them a justification to relapse back to their addiction.
If people are struggling to settle into recovery because of unexplained mental health symptoms or feelings of depression they need to speak to a professional. In most instances there will be a course of treatment that will greatly improve the situation. In many cases it will be possible for the individual to overcome their dual diagnosis to live a full and rewarding life in recovery. The worst thing that people in this situation can do is to just ignore the symptoms or put them down to something that they are doing wrong.