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You’ve probably heard the phrase “dual diagnosis” in the world of addiction recovery, and you may have noticed that we at A Mission for Michael are different in that we put dual diagnosis at the very center of how we approach treatment for addiction. We offer treatment for co-occurring disorders because we believe that substance dependent patients with co-occurring psychiatric conditions greatly benefit from an integrative pattern of treatment services. Here is a look at the importance of dual diagnosis, and how dual diagnosis can strengthen your recovery from addiction.

Address the underlying problem.

For many who are battling addiction, substance abuse began as a form of self-medication for mental illness symptoms. A person with depression, for example, might have begun drinking heavily in order to cope with feelings of sadness or low self-worth. A person with anxiety, meanwhile, may have initially turned to benzos to “take the edge off” and feel more relaxed. Every story of addiction is a complicated one to be sure, but for many who are facing addiction, the onset of addiction can at least be traced in part to self-medication for an underlying mental illness.

When an addiction has its roots in mental illness, it’s important to address the mental illness directly in order to maximize treatment efforts and promote a well-rounded, successful recovery. Otherwise, when you treat an addiction that has its roots in mental illness, without treating the underlying mental illness that has been fueling it, you are addressing only half of the problem.

Recognize destructive patterns.

Mental illness and addiction are both treatable, but for most people, the journey to recovery truly does last a lifetime. Those affected by mental illness and/or addiction can find lasting recovery that allows them to enjoy day-to-day life without the intense struggles that mental illness and addiction bring; but chances are there are going to still be difficult days. Addiction recovery treatment that takes a dual diagnosis approach seeks to arm those in recovery with the tools they need to overcome these difficult days.

One thing that can make recovery especially difficult for those who also have a mental illness is how mental illness and addiction can affect and influence one another. A sharp rise in feelings of depression, for example, might increase the temptation to pick up cocaine again, or cravings for alcohol might trigger those feelings of anxiety that you are predisposed to experiencing. Dual diagnosis treatment can help you recognize destructive patterns such as these and break the cycle before it starts.

Gain perspective.

Finally, dual diagnosis treatment helps individuals in recovery gain a sense of perspective. Sometimes we have a tendency to be hard on ourselves for the choices we have made and for the lifestyles we have come to live. Dual diagnosis can help you recognize that mental illness often plays a major role in the onset of addiction.