A recent survey in 2010 showed over 45% of individuals struggling with addiction, have also been diagnosed with a co-occurring disorder. Co-occurring disorders, also known as dual diagnosis, refer to the combination of substance abuse and the presence of a mental disorder. Over 16% of individuals receiving substance abuse treatment have also been diagnosed with a co-occurring mental disorder. More often than not, these disorders are diagnosed as two completely separate issues. One not relating to the other, if left untreated, the symptoms of both disorders can increase in severity and be almost impossible to manage.

I most definitely am a part of that statistic. Walking into a dual-diagnosis treatment center three years ago, I was introduced to this concept. I thought for sure this rehab would mimic the scene of a psychiatric hospital, and my contempt couldn’t have proven to be more inaccurate. Not only did the treatment center educate and provide resources on recovery from long-term substance abuse, but the therapists also diagnosed me with anxiety and complex PTSD. At first I assumed my drug use was the culprit of these untreated mental health disorders. The underlying mental disorders were only “adding fuel to the fire” and ultimately led to inflammation of my dormant substance abuse issues.

Self medicating with drugs and alcohol, I was never treating either disorder. For as long as I can remember, I exemplified characteristics of both co-occurring disorders. It wasn’t until I was forced into solitude and digging through the wreckage of my past, that I was able to work with professionals in identifying the reality of what I was up against. Avoiding the remnants of trauma from my childhood had become normality for me. Addiction was prevalent on both sides of my genetic lineage and my ignorance made me the perfect candidate for crossing over the threshold into full blown substance abuse.

I was fortunate enough to find myself in a rehab that diligently and relentlessly educated and provided treatment that would help combat this dual diagnosis. Initially, I spent three days a week with a psychologist, one day with a psychiatrist, and daily caseload sessions (group therapy). The non-judgmental ambience was pivotal in my full-disclosure attitude and ultimately eagerness to pursue long-term sobriety. I was surrounded by other addicts suffering from co-occurring mental disorders as well. It was impossible to feel isolated and alone in this type of atmosphere. Ranging from ADHD, anxiety, major depression, and bipolar disorder, it was rare that I come in contact with other addicts not suffering from one of these mental health disorders. All of these people were just like me, walking through life uneducated on what was going on internally.
Dual diagnosis therapy for co-occurring disorders requires an individualized recovery plan. An onsite psychiatrist is crucial for success. A psychiatrist can aid in diagnosis, medication, and any necessary psychiatric therapy. Incorporating the psychiatric resources along with group, educational, and creative therapy proves to be the most effective remedy for dual diagnosis individuals. The stigma of mental disorders have been smashed when merging dual diagnosis treatment into the recovery process.