Healing the Mind and Body: Dual Diagnosis in Addiction and Mental Health

Healing the Mind and Body: Dual Diagnosis in Addiction and Mental Health

Dr. Norris Von Curl, II, MD

Dr. Norris Von Curl, II, MD

Mental health is a complex and challenging issue in itself. What happens when we are affected by more than one mental health challenge? In the mental health community, we call this phenomenon a dual diagnosis (sometimes called a co-occurring disorder). Often, a dual diagnosis means that treatments for disorders should be aligned with each other. Let’s look at a scenario in which an individual might have a dual diagnosis.

Depression disorders, including major depressive disorder, are some of the most common mental health disorders affecting Americans today. What most people may not know is that depressive disorders are often comorbid with other serious conditions, including substance use disorder (SUD). Nearly one-third of people who have depression also have SUD. We call this a dual diagnosis because it consists of two disorders appearing at the same time and identified during examination.

At First Steps Recovery, we recognize the significance of a dual diagnosis. That is why our treatment programs are specialized and designed for collaborative treatment. In short, we support our clients by identifying the wellness issues they have and helping them to understand their disorders and treatment programs. Together, we embark on a journey of healing, helping our clients find long-term recovery for the mind, body, and spirit.

Understanding Dual Diagnosis: Interwoven Challenges of Addiction and Mental Health

Receiving a dual diagnosis is something that requires examination by a mental wellness and addiction professional. In particular, SUDs often co-occur with other mental health disorders. Sometimes this happens because underlying mental illness makes an individual more likely to abuse substances. Other times, controlled substances can cause changes in the individual’s physiology that precipitate mental illness.

Using the example of depression and SUD, we can explore how these conditions can occur simultaneously. Depression may be due to an imbalance of neurotransmitters in the brain or because of other causes. Controlled substances can cause excessive amounts of neurotransmitters to be released in the brain, causing the “high.” In turn, this change interferes with the natural flow of these transmitters and the brain’s ability to recycle them.

These factors cause a normally mentally well person to experience a chemical imbalance in the brain. Imbalances can lead to a host of mental illnesses including depression and anxiety. After this occurs, one condition cannot be treated without treating the other. Treating SUD does not automatically address mental illness. Instead, the best chance of recovery involves a dual diagnosis of both conditions and a treatment plan that addresses all symptoms.

The Dual Diagnosis of Mental Health Disorders and Substance Use Disorder

The fact is mental health and addictions go hand in hand. People who experience SUD are far more likely to also experience a host of mental illnesses. In many cases, these challenges to mental wellness occur before the development of a SUD. When someone uses controlled substances, they are often using them to escape from mental health issues. Unfortunately, this maladaptive behavior has the potential to make mental concerns far worse.

That is why it is important to seek professional help no matter what we are experiencing. Struggling with depression, trauma, anxiety, or bipolar disorder is hard enough. Facing those and SUD is a steep mountain to climb. Fortunately, receiving a dual diagnosis and an appropriate treatment plan can make all the difference.

Dual Diagnosis: Overcoming Substance Use Disorder and Mental Health Challenges

Diagnosing multiple disorders simultaneously allows a care team to treat both conditions at the same time. In many cases, the treatments for the illnesses a client faces can be very similar. However, knowing that the client faces more than one struggle can help the practitioner address all concerns holistically.

At First Steps Recovery, we know how hard it is to face these illnesses alone. That is why we are here. Our mission is to support our clients in every way we can. The First Steps care team practices collaborative approaches that utilize simultaneous diagnoses of illnesses and corresponding treatment plans. Together with our clients, we can overcome mental health challenges, paving the way for long-term recovery and well-being.

Seeking Holistic Treatment: Healing the Mind, Body, and Spirit

First Steps Recovery also recognizes the importance of treating the whole person. Just as our physical health can falter in more than one way, our mental health can suffer too. Recognizing how interconnected our different health systems are is an important part of the healing process. It helps us to recognize the significance of addressing all issues for the collective healing of the mind, body, and spirit.

Our therapeutic program is designed to promote our clients’ holistic well-being. To that end, our modalities and activities treat clients on all levels. By engaging in individual and group therapy, mindfulness, fitness, and nutrition, our clients receive the whole-person care they need and deserve.

Identifying the Mind, Body, and Spirit Connection in Treatment

Holistic approaches have the potential to transform a client who receives a dual diagnosis. When we talk about co-occurring disorders and dual diagnosis, it seems only natural to discuss interconnectedness. The mind, body, and spirit of each of us is an interconnected framework. When one part is hurt, the other parts suffer as well. That is what we mean when we talk about holistic healing. It is the treatment of all of the parts of us that are suffering.

Recovery and Sustaining Well-Being Beyond Dual Diagnosis

It is also important to keep focusing on holistic health as we progress from treatment into recovery. Recovery is a lifelong journey that keeps going long after treatment is finished.

We can all benefit from continued health and wellness. Holistic health begins with a strong support network. It continues with proper self-care, good coping skills, and continuing professional support. Together we can overcome dual diagnosis. We just have to take it one day at a time.

Substance use disorder (SUD) and mental health are interwoven fields that are inseparable from one another. Receiving a diagnosis for a SUD often also involves the diagnosis of a separate mental health condition. This dual diagnosis may seem overwhelming when you receive it. However, getting a dual diagnosis means that your care team can design a treatment program that addresses your health holistically. At First Steps Recovery, our focus is on getting your whole health back on track in mind, body, and spirit. We identify and treat all of your SUD and mental health struggles with the caring and compassion you might expect. Call us today at (844) 489-0836 and begin your journey to a lifetime of recovery. 

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