Substance abuse is a chemical dependency that is characterized by the uncontrollable use of addictive drugs or alcohol. A dependency on addictive substances impacts the mind and body and can have dangerous long-term consequences. Health problems like seizures, internal damage, difficulty breathing, tremors, and brain damage are just some of the harmful and life-threatening effects.

Mental health issues and substance abuse can also go hand-in-hand. If you or a loved one are struggling with co-occurring disorders, reaching out for help from a dual diagnosis treatment center at Westwind Recovery® can help you find hope and healing.

Symptoms of Substance Abuse

Individuals who are struggling with addiction often hide their habits from loved ones and themselves. While only a physician or licensed mental health professional can diagnose addiction, there are warning signs and symptoms, including:

  • Changes in personal habits
  • Mood Swings
  • Insomnia
  • Lethargy
  • Tremors
  • Visible marks on the body
  • Dramatic weight gain or weight loss
  • A decline in hygiene and physical health

If your loved one is exhibiting these symptoms of substance, contacting an addiction treatment center can be the first step in getting them the help they need.

What Is a Dual Diagnosis?

Dual diagnosis is a term used to describe the condition of struggling with both mental health issues and addiction. Individuals with a dual diagnosis may have additional challenges in recovery because of their mental health issues, which must be worked on in conjunction with maintaining sobriety.

Substance abuse and mental illness are interconnected. Both are brain diseases, which are often treated at the same time. Brain diseases, like substance abuse or depression, share the same biology.  Depression can be a factor in substance abuse and vice versa. Many people who develop addiction problems often have depression or another mental health issue and turn to substances to suppress pain or escape reality.

Substance Abuse and Anxiety

When substance abuse co-exists alongside a mental health illness like anxiety, symptoms may become muddled and more difficult to understand. Anxiety symptoms like shaking, sweating, difficulty breathing, and increased heart rate may not be noticeable if a person abuses alcohol. Their alcohol addiction may dull the appearance of those symptoms, making it challenging to uncover.

For generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder (social phobia), panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or agoraphobia, people may turn to mood-altering substances to help alleviate the pain. For sufferers with any severe anxiety disorder, substances like alcohol may dull the paralyzing elements of anxiety and allow them to function. For this reason, it is hard to tell the difference between the two.

While everyone will experience some aspects of anxiety during their lifetimes, serious anxiety disorders can interrupt people’s lives. Anxiety is a serious mental health illness and should not be minimized. Sadly, many people do not seek help when confronted with anxiety symptoms. They turn to quick fixes like alcohol, which provide temporary relief and do not address the bigger issues, leaving room for addiction to develop further.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment

When seeking addiction treatment therapy programs for addiction recovery, it is important to work with a therapist who has experience with treating a dual diagnosis.

Based on the severity of the addiction and mental health illness, physicians may choose to use medication as a method of healing at their discretion.

For alcohol abusers who also suffer from anxiety, twelve-step programs may not be suitable due to the program’s social nature. Research has shown that twelve-step programs can be especially problematic for people suffering from social anxiety disorder (social phobia). They often have worse outcomes. However, mental health treatment programs are among the best treatments for a person with a dual diagnosis of substance abuse and anxiety.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the most frequently used treatment approaches used in psychotherapy. It has a high effectiveness rate in dealing with a variety of mental health issues and symptoms. But for anxiety disorders specifically, cognitive behavioral therapy provides lasting results.

The cognitive element of CBT guides people towards addressing negative thoughts, which may be self-sabotaging or dangerous. For example, an individual with social anxiety might address why they don’t want to speak in front of a small group. The cognitive element will help them break down those irrational thought patterns, where they originate, and why it is incorrect. For individuals in recovery, thought patterns will probably be more detailed and severe, possibly involving past trauma or shame. Thought patterns from those sources will be harder to break, in addition to maintaining sobriety.

The behavioral factor of CBT hopes to change a person’s reactions to anxiety. This is crucial for those in recovery because they might have turned to drugs or alcohol prior to treatment. Cognitive behavioral therapy helps them identify triggers, remain calm, and turn to new coping mechanisms.

Contact Westwind Recovery® in Los Angeles

Working on healing from addiction and a mental health illness is challenging, but it is never impossible. Don’t wait. Find help today. At Westwind Recovery®, we offer dual diagnosis treatment in our Los Angeles treatment center. Reach out to our team to learn more at 855.340.8832.