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Dual diagnosis occurs when a person has a mood disorder or mental illness, as well as a substance abuse problem. Both of these disorders require its own treatment plan, however, one is often overlooked or thought of as a symptom of the other. Although the reasons vary greatly with each individual, there are certain common factors that may lead to dual diagnosis. We have outlined these possible causes below, however, if you feel that you or someone you love may be suffering from a mood disorder, a substance abuse disorder or both, please contact Beachside Rehab. We are always here to help.

Self-Medication and Social Anxiety

We all know that a few drinks make you more relaxed, more comfortable in social situations and less likely to feel anxious or awkward around other people. So it’s not surprising that people with social anxiety are more inclined to develop drinking problems or become dependant on alcohol to function around other people. This kind of self-medication often occurs in people who do not know they have a mental illness or don’t have the ability to access proper healthcare. When you can’t manage the situation in the proper, medical way, it’s not surprising that those who suffer from a mental illness turn to illegal substances to help them get by. Unfortunately, without proper treatment, these habits often turn into addictions that exacerbate their mental illness rather than curing it.

Mental Illness and Your Brain

Certain parts of the brain are affected by both drug abuse and mental illnesses. For example, the ‘happy hormone’ dopamine, or lack thereof, is involved in certain mental illnesses such as depression and schizophrenia. Dopamine is also released when certain illicit substances, such as heroin, are ingested. Consequently, one often finds that people with mental illnesses that affect their dopamine levels are most susceptible to abusing drugs that release a rush of dopamine into the brain. Sufferers of these mental illnesses are then at risk of becoming dependant on the dopamine high that they achieve from their drug of choice, and can develop a drug abuse problem.

Post Traumatic Stress

 Someone who has a mental illness may start self-medicating in order to deal with the symptoms or their illness, which in turn may result in them developing a substance abuse problem. A study has shown that over half of all returning veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder also suffer from some sort of substance abuse disorder, which is almost always caused by his or her PTSD.

The reverse is also true; someone who has a substance abuse problem may develop a mental illness as a result of his or her addiction. For example, it has been proven that marijuana can increase the chances of developing psychosis or paranoia, so someone who has no previous history of mental illness may develop a psychotic disorder because of their previous marijuana dependence. Unfortunately, this then becomes a never-ending cycle, as the psychotic person becomes more and more dependant on marijuana to mask their symptoms, which then exacerbates their psychosis.

For more information about dual diagnosis and treatment, contact Beachside Rehab today.