Living with a dual diagnosis – a substance abuse disorder and a mental illness – is tough. At 12-Step recovery support groups, you’ll be told that you can’t be sober and take antidepressants or other “mood altering” drugs. You’ll face twice as much stigma, since you’re both an addict and mentally ill. But you can’t recover from your substance abuse disorder unless you also receive treatment for your mental illness, and you can’t recover from your mental illness unless you also receive treatment for your substance abuse disorder. You need treatment for both. Even after you get treatment, living with a dual diagnosis can be much more difficult than living with a single diagnosis. The professionals at our dual diagnosis treatment center have put together these tips to help you cope.
Substance abuse disorders and mental health problems are best treated together. When you seek help from a dual diagnosis treatment center, like the Delray Center for Healing, you’ll get integrated treatment from a team of professionals working together to care for you mentally, physically and emotionally. Your condition is best treated by a team consisting of a substance abuse specialist, a mental health clinician and a psychiatrist. Many mental health professionals don’t have experience treating addiction, and many addiction specialists don’t have experience treating other mental illnesses. A team of specialists working together in a dual diagnosis treatment center knows what you’re up against and how to best combat it.
When you enter treatment for a substance abuse disorder, you need to educate yourself about addiction so you can understand what lies ahead in the treatment process and what challenges you’ll face. The same goes for your mental illness. The time you spend receiving treatment in a dual diagnosis treatment center is an excellent opportunity for you to learn everything there is to learn about your mental health problem, your substance abuse disorder, how each disorder is treated, how the two disorders play off of and exacerbate one another, how they influence your personality, beliefs and self-image, and what challenges you can expect moving forward.
The specialists at your dual diagnosis treatment center can’t help you if you won’t help yourself. Participate fully in your treatment program. Be honest about your readiness and willingness to change, so that your treatment team can design a plan that meets your needs. Attend group therapy – it’s a great opportunity to learn how to make healthy choices, practice your problem solving skills, learn to avoid the temptation to use or drink, and learn how you can avoid high-risk situations. Your group therapy experience can help you learn to trust others and can strengthen your social skills through the sharing of experiences and emotional support. The support you receive from other members of your therapy group is invaluable to your success in treatment.
Poor nutrition, sleep deprivation and lack of exercise can have a profound effect on your mental health and mood. If you’ve been abusing drugs and alcohol heavily for a long time, you’re probably suffering from malnutrition and other physical problems. Your dual diagnosis treatment will involve an exercise regimen and nutritional therapy that could include the use of vitamins. If you’re not sleeping well, let your treatment team know – adequate sleep is important to your overall wellbeing, so if you’re sleeping poorly, you might need medication or other therapies to help, at least for a time. Make sure you follow your treatment team’s nutritional and other health guidelines. Even after you leave the treatment center, you need to stay vigilant when it comes to eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly and getting enough sleep.
You may find that some 12-Step support groups frown on the use of medication in people who are recovering from a substance abuse disorder, even if those people need medication to manage the symptoms of a mental illness. If you find yourself in such a group, not to worry; attitudes vary from one group to the next, and you can always find another support group.
You should also educate your family and friends about what it means to have a dual diagnosis. Help them understand the challenges you face and let them know what they can do to help you meet those challenges. Surround yourself with people who support your recovery and encourage you to make healthy decisions.
If you need help for a dual diagnosis, a dual diagnosis treatment center is the best place to provide it.
Call the Delray Center for Healing today at 888-699-5679 to learn more about our programs.
Since 2003, the Delray Center for Healing has provided exceptional psychiatric and therapeutic care for mental health, eating, and substance use disorders. To learn more about our philosophy and treatment approach, download our free e-book, “Psychiatry Redefined,” written by our founder and medical director, Raul J. Rodriguez, MD.