Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Dual Diagnosis Disorders: Addiction and Mental Illness among Men

When it comes to treating addiction, a multi-step approach is necessary. From treating the physical effects of long-term substance abuse to addressing the root cause of addictive behaviors, a lasting recovery requires in-depth comprehensive care.

For example, for men struggling with addiction, underlying conditions like depression, PTSD and bipolar disorder often contribute to substance abuse, and can also worsen the effects of addiction.

Therefore, to effectively treat addiction and prevent relapse with addictive substances, addressing underlying mental illness is crucial. Keep reading for more on mental illness and substance abuse among men, including information on symptoms, risk factors and available treatment options.

Dual Diagnosis in Men

Dual diagnosis is a term used to describe co-occurring disorders like addiction and mental illness. In patients with dual-diagnosis disorders, drugs and alcohol are often used in an attempt to numb or self-medicate the symptoms of mental illness, which can result in both physical and psychological dependence. Among men, addiction typically co-occurs with conditions like the following:

• Post-traumatic stress disorder. PTSD is triggered by a stressful or traumatic event, and is associated with symptoms like severe anxiety, mood swings, sleep disturbances and flashbacks of the event in question. Men with PTSD are at an extremely high risk for addiction, as over half of all men with this disorder experience problems with drugs or alcohol.
• Bipolar disorder. Characterized by severe mood swings and extreme behavioral disturbances, bipolar disorder is extremely common among men suffering from addiction. What's more, bipolar disorder can be difficult to diagnose and treat, which increases the risks associated with drug and alcohol abuse.
• Depression. Though women are more likely to be diagnosed with depression, men suffer from this illness in growing numbers. Men are also less likely to seek treatment, and are at greater risk for complications like substance abuse, self-harm and other destructive behaviors.

• Schizophrenia. Men are more likely than women to suffer from schizophrenia, and many use drugs or alcohol to relieve symptoms like extreme paranoia, hallucinations, anxiety and more.

• Anxiety. Anxiety is typically viewed as a female issue; however, men and women suffer from social anxiety in near-equal numbers, and men with this disorder find it difficult to perform simple, everyday tasks. Symptoms of anxiety can vary, but can include feelings of fear or panic, as well as physical symptoms like high blood pressure and shortness of breath. 

Treating Dual Diagnosis Disorders

Even when addiction occurs on its own, treatment can mean the difference in life and death; when addiction co-occurs with mental illness, the need for professional help is even more critical. Combined, the effects of mental illness and substance abuse can have a severe impact on health and quality of life, and can increase the risk of complications like overdose, suicide and aggressive or violent behaviors. Thankfully, dual-diagnosis disorders can be treated, safely and effectively. Methods like the following are typically included in dual diagnosis residential treatment for men:

• Counseling. Talk therapy is necessary in the treatment of both addiction and mental illness. One-on-one counseling encourages patients to explore their issues with addictive substances, as well as formulate a plan for long-term health and sobriety. Plus, talk therapy is often necessary in identifying the mental illnesses that often contribute to substance abuse. Group counseling is beneficial, as well, as it provides peer support, accountability and the opportunity for men to discuss their problems, honestly and without fear of judgment.

• Medication. Prescription medications are often necessary in treating mental illness. For example, with illnesses like schizophrenia and depression, medications can relieve symptoms and enhance quality of life so that the urge to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol is significantly reduced.

• Followup care. Followup care methods, such as continued counseling and group therapy, are crucial in preventing relapse and ensuring sustained mental health.

• Dual diagnosis disorders can have a severe impact on health and quality of life. Thankfully, though, with intensive, comprehensive care, recovery is possible. If you or someone you love is suffering from addiction and/or mental illness, get help today, and take the first step toward a better, brighter tomorrow.

This is a blog post by Nancy Evans.

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