How Depression and Substance Abuse Are Connected

It’s tough enough being diagnosed with clinical depression or substance abuse on their own, as both can be all-consuming struggles to deal with individually. But being told — or even realizing you have — a dual diagnosis can be just downright, well, depressing.

Depression and substance abuse have always been very closely linked; so close, in fact, that many people experience being diagnosed with both of them at the exact same time. One can trigger the other but it can also be the opposite – a sort of chicken-and-egg situation that can be difficult to organize in your mind.

Maybe you were depressed first and that led to substance abuse as an attempt to cope, which unfortunately is common. But maybe it was the reverse, and what started out as recreational or medical substance use mutated into substance abuse and that led to becoming depressed This, too, is not at all uncommon.

Dealing with a dual-diagnosis can be overwhelming to accept, and even more challenging to work through, so we’re going to share with you several different treatment modalities to help you achieve recovery from both of these ailments.

Dual-diagnosis definition

Just as it might sound, a dual diagnosis is when someone is diagnosed with having two different illnesses at the same time, which is also sometimes called co-occurring disorders. Almost always, this means having a mental illness (such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder) in addition to some sort of addiction (typically substance abuse, such as in the case of alcohol or drugs, but could also be something like gambling).

People who struggle with a mental illness commonly struggle with substance abuse, just as those who struggle with substance abuse commonly struggle with mental illness — because of this, someone who has a dual diagnosis is considered a high-risk patient.

Mental illness and addiction are challenging enough on their own, but when they’re combined, they can, and often do, lead to hostility or violence against others and yourself. Dual diagnosis patients are also harder to treat because of the difficulty of determining what the root cause of the struggles are, as in, which of them came first: the mental illness or the substance abuse.

What treatment looks like for dual diagnosis

When you are being professionally evaluated for dual diagnosis, the counselors and staff will take into consideration a variety of factors.

They will look at the well-being of your overall life, which will include things like:

  • Your platonic, romantic and professional relationships or lack thereof
  • The habits, actions and practices you engage in on a regular basis
  • If you are genuinely a threat to yourself and/or others
  • If you have a history of aggression or self-destructive behavior
  • How committed you are to your recovery and sobriety

After they’ve taken into account all of these factors, they’ll discuss with you their recommended treatment plan. A high-quality dual-diagnosis program will offer integrated treatment, and ideally, if the center is expansive enough, it will all happen under the same roof. 

Healing from a dual diagnosis looks a little different for everyone, but typically, you can expect to undergo therapy or counseling, being part of a support group if that’s something you’re interested in, and some level of rehabilitation for mental illness, substance abuse or both.

A thorough dual diagnosis recovery plan will most likely include working with specialists in mental health and substance abuse to ensure your treatment is thorough and balanced. Psychotherapy also often plays a very big role in this type of recovery, but medication may also be required, depending on your unique situation.

Find dual-diagnosis treatment near you

You might feel as if you’re facing this alone and that no one could possibly understand what you’re going through — but we do. It’s what we’re trained for, and it’s what we love to do. Here at Mazzitti & Sullivan, we offer a variety of extensive programs and treatment plans to help you achieve dual diagnosis recovery, and we’ll help you figure out which one is right for you.

If you are ready to take the next step in your dual diagnosis recovery, we’re here for you.

All you have to do to get started is send us a message today or give us a call at 800-809-2925.