The disease of addiction is often misunderstood. Society has a tendency to view substance abusers and alcoholics as a deviant population who are lazy, unmotivated, selfish, and indifferent. Yet, so often when one looks beyond the façade of an addict, it is frequently found that the addict is struggling with more than just drug abuse and alcoholism.
Many medical models and studies provide evidence that addiction is hereditary, yet many statistics also indicate that substance abuse and alcoholism can be a form of self-medication for an individual who is suffering with a psychiatric illness or an emotional trauma. The term dual diagnosis is applied to individuals who are affected by both chemical dependency and psychiatric/emotional disorders. In many instances, the symptoms of chemical dependency and mental illness disguise one another and as a result can make dual diagnosis a complex disease to identify.Some comparable symptoms of drug abuse and mental illness include depression, anxiety, paranoia, delusions, and hallucinations.
For one who is dually diagnosed to fully recover, both disorders need to be treated. An individual who is dually diagnosed may attempt to recover from one illness without addressing the other resulting in the contribution of relapse of the other disorder. Both illnesses have the ability to affect an individual physically, psychologically, socially, and spiritually. An individual who neglects a mental illness may feel the need or desire to self medicate with drugs or alcohol in an attempt to mitigate the symptoms of mental illness. This scenario can often lead to hospitalization.
Denial is usually an inherent problem for one who suffers with dual diagnosis. The individual involved often does not have the proper insight of the severity of their problem. Their way of living has become normal to them. One who has been dually diagnosed should be made aware of the difficulty in recovering from an addiction problem and could greatly benefit from receiving praise for overcoming addiction.
It is essential to recognize the seriousness of being dually diagnosed. While chemical dependency and mental illness interfere with a person's ability to function effectively, it is essential to treat these diseases simultaneously. The more one becomes educated on dual diagnosis, the more one will become enlightened to the fact that substance abuse has a tendency to go hand in hand with another psychiatric condition. Just as with most other illnesses, an individual affected with dual diagnosis can progress and improve on one's condition once appropriate care is received.
Jodi Goldstein is the Director of Admissions at Lakeview Health Systems, providing addiction treatment and drug rehab resources to the general public online at http://www.recoveryconnection.org, a comprehensive web site about addiction, with valuable information about mental health, dual diagnosis, symptoms of alcoholism, drug addiction, substance abuse issues as well as addiction treatment options and drug rehab referrals.
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