Treating a Dual Diagnosis Alongside Alcoholism
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Signs of Alcohol Abuse
Alcoholism affects millions of Americans in every walk of life. It's an equal opportunity disease, striking young and old, rich and poor, and all ethnic groups. A definitive diagnosis of alcoholism requires a medical doctor, but the warning signs are clear to anyone. The indications of possible alcoholism include the following:
- Obsessive thoughts about drinking
- Drinking at inappropriate times or alone
- Drinking with the intention of getting drunk
- Becoming defensive when confronted about drinking
- Legal troubles resulting from alcohol use
- Difficulty maintaining healthy relationships
Alcoholism and Mental Illness
Mental illnesses or mood disorders occur in tandem with substance abuse at an alarming rate. Known as dual diagnosis, these individuals present a significant challenge for mental health professionals. Dual diagnosis alcoholism consists of an addiction to alcohol combined with a mood disorder such as depression. Unfortunately, alcohol abuse tends to worsen the symptoms of any mental illness, setting in motion a feedback loop of increased drinking and a deeper state of dysfunction.
According to the Genetic Science Learning Center at the University of Utah, about 10 percent of all Americans are addicted to a drug of abuse, including alcohol. Among persons with a mental illness, that percentage goes up significantly. One in four people suffering from major depression also struggle with an addiction to drugs or alcohol. Schizophrenics experience addiction at the rate of nearly 50 percent. The mystery lies in understanding the relationship between the mental illness and the addiction. In other words, which comes first-the addiction or the mental illness? There is compelling evidence that, in some cases, substance abuse can trigger a mental illness. However, every case of dual diagnosis is unique, and there is still much to be learned.
Some researchers have hypothesized that alcohol abuse begins as a form of self-medication. The mentally ill person seeks temporary relief from their symptoms via alcohol intoxication. With these people, the goal is to introduce new methods for confronting and overcoming their mental illness. Instead of medications, positive support and therapy sessions can provide a beneficial avenue for the dual diagnosis individual to address and work through his issues.
Treatment Options For Dual Diagnosis Alcoholics
Recovery from alcoholism and treatment for mental illness can take place simultaneously. Therapists have long understood that depression and bipolar tendencies are common among alcoholics, and they have developed approaches to manage feelings of despair or anger. Individual therapy is fundamentally important in getting at the root of the alcoholic's motivations. Often, traumatic life events set the stage for later mental illness and substance abuse. The healing process begins as soon as the causes for a person's mental illness are discussed openly.
When both alcoholism and a mental illness are present, the first step is to help the person become sober. Treatment for mental illness will be ineffective if the alcoholism continues unchecked. Severe alcoholics may require constant medical supervision, especially in the early stages of their withdrawal. Doctors can administer medications to ease withdrawal symptoms, while therapy sessions help the alcoholic deal with feelings of panic, dread, or sadness.
Maintaining sobriety requires a lifetime of maintenance, but a life of normalcy and happiness if perfectly achievable. When an underlying mental illness is to blame for heavy drinking, continued individual therapy and perhaps anti-depressant medications can make daily life more manageable.
Don't allow yourself or a loved one to struggle one more day with dual diagnosis alcoholism. For immediate help available 24/7, simply call to begin the recovery process. A life without mental illness and alcohol is closer than you think.