When Depression Becomes Debilitating

Anyone who has struggled through a period of deep melancholy can attest to the intense power of emotions it triggers. We all suffer the occasional emotional fallout associated with difficult life events or circumstances. Pain endured from loss of a loved one, a divorce, loss of a job, diagnosis of a serious medical condition, or a broken heart can sideline us for a period, these phases commonly referred to as “the blues.” Most will manage to wind through the disappointment, fear, or sadness and the low mood will eventually stabilize with no intervention required.

For others, a cluster of pronounced symptoms may linger long after the triggering event, refusing to let up no matter how much time has passed. Depression can cause severe fatigue, impairing the person’s ability to function at work or at home. Even getting out of bed is a chore for those with serious depression. When depression becomes debilitating it is important to ensure the person is receiving the professional treatment they need, as an increased risk of suicide can develop.

Treatment for major depressive disorder must involve an integrated program that includes both traditional evidence-based therapies and medication, as well as holistic and experiential activities that enhance the treatment process by complimenting psychotherapy. Depression can be successfully treated and managed with the right combination of interventions.

About Major Depressive Disorder

Although major depressive disorder (MDD) affects about 16 million U.S. adults per year, only a small percentage of people actually seek out treatment. A stubborn stigma still surrounds mental health conditions, including depression, acting as a barrier to getting help. Some people may not know where to even begin to get help and instead continue to suffer in silence. As a result, some may begin to use alcohol or drugs to self-medicate as a means of masking the unbearable depression symptoms.

But treatment for MDD can be very effective, and should be sought out especially when depression becomes debilitating. The DSM-5 criteria for diagnosing depression involves five or more of the following symptoms having been present most of the time for more than two weeks:

1. Persistent depressed or sad mood
2. Recent unexplained weight gain or loss
3. Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
4. Fatigue
5. Lack of interest in the activities once enjoyed
6. Persistent feelings of hopelessness and despair
7. Irrational feelings of guilt or shame
8. Slowed thinking and motor skills
9. Obsessing about death or suicide

The cause of MDD is still widely unknown, although science has identified several potential factors in developing clinical depression. These include genetics, temperament, environmental factors, and brain chemistry/biology.

Dual Diagnosis

A dual diagnosis, which indicates a co-occurring substance use disorder, is present in a significant number of individuals who suffer from depression. This may come about when the individual begins to use the substance in order to find relief from the symptoms of MDD. Alcoholism is the most common coexisting disorder with MDD, only adding to the person’s misery. Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, so instead of helping the individual, it only increases the intensity of their symptoms while also adding profound health risks.

A dual diagnosis creates a more complicated treatment strategy. It is now believed that, to achieve the best long-term treatment outcome both disorders, the MDD and the alcoholism, should be treated simultaneously. Dual diagnosis treatment requires specialized training, so treatment should be sought at dual diagnosis program when depression presents with a coexisting substance use disorder.

Treatment for Depression

There exists an industry standard within the field of mental health treatment for treatment of MDD. This traditionally includes both antidepressant therapy and psychotherapy. Antidepressants are plentiful, with about thirty different brands on the market for treating depression. Initially, a doctor will take a leap of faith in prescribing antidepressants for a patient, using their training and treatment criteria to select the medication best aligned with the patient’s needs. Antidepressants can take upwards of four weeks to begin to take effect, which can be frustratingly slow. If one drug does not show promise, the doctor will have the patient trial another drug, or may just adjust the dosage.

Psychotherapy involves talk therapy and is available in various modalities. Generally, in treating individuals with MDD, mental health practitioners may select a behavioral-based therapy like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), or a cognitive-based therapy such as psychodynamic therapy. There are two main functions of psychotherapy for the depressed patient, to help them explore potential underlying pain points, such as a past trauma or other distressing life event, and to help the patient reshape their internal thought-behavior messaging and responses.

Holistic Therapies for Depression

When depression becomes debilitating, it is in the complimentary therapies that the most yardage is gained. That is because these holistic activities help the individual gain a deeper perspective into their spiritual being, discovering new insights about themselves that can become therapeutic breakthroughs. These activities include such things as mindfulness training, guided meditation, yoga, journaling, art therapy, and massage therapy.

In addition to the experiential activities, overcoming depression is enhanced by regular cardio exercise, such as daily walks, dance cardio, hiking, cycling, swimming, or running. Couple exercise with a nutritious diet of lean proteins, leafy greens, fresh fruits, whole grain breads and pasta, seeds and nuts, as this Mediterranean diet will promote improved brain health.

Elevation Behavioral Health Provides an Integrated Approach to Treating Depression

Elevation Behavioral Health is a luxury residential mental health and dual diagnosis treatment center in Southern California. Nestled in a tranquil canyon above Malibu, California, Elevation Behavioral Health provides an intimate six-bed setting for individuals in need of healing from depression, instead of an cold, institutional setting. The spacious and beautiful 10,000 square foot home features unmatched luxury in both the interior and exterior grounds.

This mental health and wellness program for depression or dual diagnosis is built upon a foundation of proven therapeutic modalities, such as CBT and DBT. Added to that are holistic therapies, such as yoga, mindfulness training, and meditation, to offer a fully integrated approach to depression treatment. When depression becomes debilitating, a serene, relaxing environment, compassionate therapists, and upscale accommodations can go a long way toward reintroducing joy in life. For more information, please contact Elevation Behavioral Health today at (888) 561-0868.

symptoms of severe ptsd

Anyone who has suffered through a traumatic event knows the lasting impact it can have on your mental state and your daily life. When a trauma occurs, such as the sudden death of a loved one, a serious accident, physical or sexual assault, living through a natural disaster, or a trauma related to combat, it imprints deeply on the memory and the soul. While most people will eventually process the painful emotions and move forward, others may remain stuck in the distressing memories and pain of the trauma.

As a result, some of these individuals may find themselves turning to alcohol or drugs to help them relieve the emotional pain, depression, and anxiety that they live with. Some may find that they struggle to function at work or struggle socially due to the lingering effects of the trauma. These individuals are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Thankfully, there are highly effect treatment strategies that can help manage the symptoms of severe PTSD.

About Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

PTSD is a mental health disorder within the anxiety disorders spectrum. It can result after experiencing or witnessing a deeply traumatizing event. After being exposed to the trauma, those with PTSD continue to experience troubling after effects for a period lasting more than a month afterward, or will experience the symptoms of PTSD as a delayed response, sometimes months later.

For many years, it was thought that PTSD only pertained to veterans who had experienced horrific events in combat, coming back emotionally scarred. While veterans have higher rates of PTSD, with rates ranging between 10-30% depending on the war itself, PTSD is an anxiety disorder than impacts about 8% of the population at large, according to the National Institute of Health.

Symptoms of Severe PTSD

Symptoms of severe PTSD generally include four categories:

  • Intrusive memories. Unwanted thoughts or memories of the trauma are experienced repeatedly thought flashbacks, vivid memories, or nightmares.
  • Avoidance. In order not to trigger the distressing emotions of a past trauma, someone with PTSD will avoid any people, situations, or places that might trigger the disturbing memories. They will avoid discussing the trauma as well.
  • Hyper-arousal. The individual will be jumpy, easily irritated, is quick to anger, easily frightened, has an exaggerated startle response, and may suffer from insomnia. Substance abuse may be used to self-medicate these anxiety symptoms.
  • Negative thoughts. People suffering from PTSD may display a sense of hopelessness and negativity in their demeanor, and talk down about themselves. They may exhibit negative emotions such as anger, guilt, shame, and fear. They may struggle with relationships.
  • PTSD and a Co-Occurring Substance Use Disorder

    A dual diagnosis is present when the PTSD, as a stand alone mental health disorder, is coexisting with a substance use disorder. The use of alcohol and benzodiazepines is a common method of self-medicating the distressing symptoms of severe PTSD. Unfortunately, as tolerance to the effects of the substance increase and consumption increases with it, addiction can develop. This only creates a more complicated treatment picture for individuals who are already struggling with PTSD.

    When a dual diagnosis exists, it is important to seek the professional help of a treatment provider that specializes in dual diagnosis. Both the PTSD and the substance use disorder should be treated simultaneously to effectively treat the individual and obtain a successful recovery result.

    How is Severe PTSD Treated?

    PTSD is treated with a combination of medication and psychotherapy. Antidepressants or anti-anxiety drugs can help mitigate the intensity of the PTSD symptoms. These drugs can ease the fight-or-flight response that is so common in PTSD as well as allow for more restful sleep. Antidepressants used to treat PTSD include Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, and Effexor. Anti-anxiety medications are from the benzodiazepine group of drugs and may include Ativan, Xanax, Klonopin, or Valium.

    Psychotherapy can be very effective in helping individuals with PTSD, especially cognitive processing therapy (CPT), cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), and prolonged exposure therapy. These types of therapy help the individual systematically process the traumatic event over a course of treatments while also working through the associated emotions and fears that are present.

    Adjunctive therapies have also proven effective in enhancing the effects of the psychotherapy. Eye movement desensitization reprocessing (EMDR) involves the individual following a moving object with their eyes while discussing the traumatic event is discussed and processed. Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is a brain stimulation technique that has demonstrated promising results for treating people with TMS. Some experiential therapies, such as equine therapy, mindfulness exercises, or guided meditation have also been helpful for those with PTSD.

    How Lifestyle Changes Can Help PTSD

    Lifestyle changes can also be effective in helping individuals with PTSD. Reducing stress by making a career change or moving on from a dysfunctional relationship can help with the anxiety symptoms. It is important to recognize what areas in one’s life are contributing to excessive stress or anxiety, and to make a change.

    Getting regular exercise, especially cardio workouts, can help reduce stress and induce relaxation and improved sleep quality. These might involve a brisk daily walk, hiking, a spin class, dance cardio workouts, jogging or running, swimming, or cycling.

    Practicing stress-reducing activities, such as taking yoga classes or enjoying massage therapy, can also help improve overall mood and wellness. Eating a nutritious diet is also important in PTSD recovery. Limiting caffeine, sugar, and starchy foods can help regulate blood sugar and jittery behaviors. Eating a diet rich in lean proteins, green leafy vegetables, whole grain breads and pasta, and nuts and seeds will provide the body and brain with essential nutrients for optimum mental health.

    Elevation Behavioral Health Provides Effective Treatment for PTSD

    Elevation Behavioral Health is a leading dual diagnosis and mental health treatment provider in Los Angeles, California. Elevation Behavioral Health is an inpatient, private treatment facility overlooking the beautiful Agoura Hills landscape. In this luxury, intimate setting, individuals with PTSD or a dual diagnosis will receive the most effective therapeutic interventions within a compassionate, nurturing environment. For more information about how Elevation Behavioral Health can help you overcome PTSD, please call us today at (888) 561-0868.

    Can You Go to Rehab for Depression?

    Can You Go to Rehab for Depression?

    When you think of rehab, you probably think most often of drug and alcohol addiction. However, many people seek help at residential treatment centers every year for anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and more mental health disorders. Inpatient treatment for depression can make a huge difference in the life of someone struggling with this difficulty.

    If you are having thoughts about harming yourself, please reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255.

    Understanding Depression

    Depression is not something to be taken lightly. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 3-5% of American adults are experiencing major depression in any given moment. Pause for a moment and think about this. Take a sports stadium holding 40,000 people. Statistically, that means 1,200-2,000 people in the crowd are experiencing depression. Of course, this is a generalized statistic and may not be true for any specific crowd, but it puts into perspective just how many people struggle with this difficult issue.

    There are multiple different types of depression that one may experience. These may include major depressive disorder, persistent depressive disorder, substance-induced depressive disorder, and disruptive mood dysregulation disorder. As there are many types of depression, it is important to seek help from a trustworthy professional.

    Although there are many resources available like anxiety and depression worksheets, self-help books, and support networks, dealing with depression often requires clinical expertise and therapeutic relationships. By working with a therapist and/or psychiatrist, you can get the help you need to address the depression and recover fully. Without help, depression can cause a number of dangerous symptoms throughout our lives.

    According to the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, people with depression are four times as likely to experience a heart attack as those without depression. Depression is the cause of over ⅔ of suicides in the United States, and the National Institute of Health estimates that about 80% of those who find help show an improvement of symptoms in only four to six weeks of treatment. Unfortunately, over half of people who suffer from depression never seek clinical help.

    Rehab for Depression and Anxiety

    Depression HelpAlthough psychotherapy, support groups, and psychiatry can all be useful in treating depression, sometimes the individual benefits from a higher level of care. There are many different treatment centers that care for people struggling with depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders. Some of these rehabs address co-occurring disorders, or the presence of both a mental health disorder and substance abuse disorder.

    At a treatment center for depression, individuals are offered professional care to help them recover. Through various methods of therapy such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), interpersonal therapy, psychodynamic therapy, and more, the person works with a trained clinician to address their experience and build a life of recovery.

    In many cases, medications such as antidepressants and mood stabilizers are prescribed. These medications are prescribed by a trained psychiatrist at the treatment center, and the person’s state of mind is closely monitored to see the way the medication is working. Together with the support network and therapy offered, the person can slowly begin to climb out of the depressed state.

    Treatment centers that are primarily addiction treatment centers may not have the appropriate staff or program to address mental health disorders. Can you go to rehab for depression? Yes. But make sure you find a facility that is truly equipped to help. With proper help, people have the opportunity to fully recover and return to the lives they once knew or dreamed of.

    When to Seek Inpatient Treatment for Depression

    It may be helpful to seek help from a psychologist as a first step. As you build a relationship with a therapist, they will get to know you and your situation. Although depression often manifests in specific ways, we are all individuals. When a trained professional sees you in a clinical setting and begins to work with you to understand what’s going on, they can give you an educated recommendation.

    If you think you may need help, reach out. Find somewhere that offers inpatient treatment for depression and give them a call. We can guess all we want, but the truth is that we generally can’t see the situation as clearly as an objective, trained third-party can. Although you may not feel that you need inpatient treatment, it could perhaps be beneficial.

    The biggest piece here to remember is that there are professionals out there to walk you through your situation. Suffering from any depressive disorder is painful, difficult, and can leave us feeling hopeless. Nobody has to go it alone. There are people willing to guide you through finding treatment, but you need to seek help. Although it may not feel like it, depression can be treated. Sometimes it takes time and finding what works, but there are many methods of depression treatment, and psychologists and neuroscientists are continuing to learn more every day.

    Information on Self-Harm

    Self-harm is a difficult topic to grapple with. Many people who have a history of self-harming behavior can explain pretty simply why they do it: it makes them feel better. However, for people who have no history of this behavior it can be hard to understand. Why would someone who is already in pain want to create more pain? This post will answer that question and give you a deeper understanding about self harm.

    Other Terms for Self-Harm

    Let’s start with something simple and looking at the different terms that are used to talk about self-harm. Maybe you have heard these words and are wondering what the difference is between them. Although many of them are used interchangeably, there are some key differences that distinguish them. Here is a list of words that are often associated with self-harm and their definitions.


    Google Searches for Terms Related to Self-Harm (per month)

    [chartli id=”gD1hi9OS” type=”word_chart_1″ width=”500″ height=”500″]


    Self-Harm: Used generally to describe behavior where someone hurts him or herself intentionally. This term can refer to someone who is harming himself with or without the intention of suicide. However, it is generally used to talk about behavior that is nonsuicidal.

    Nonsuicidal Self-Injurious Behavior: This is often the clinical term that is used by doctors or therapists to talk about self-harm. If we break it down a little we can start to understand what it means. The word nonsuicidal lets us know that we are specifically talking about someone who is harming themself without the intention of killing themself. Self-injurious is just what it sounds like, causing injury to oneself.

    Self-Mutilation: This term refers to the many different ways that someone can physically hurt themslef. The term self-harm can refer to physical or emotional self-harming, but self-mutilation specifically refers to damage to the physical body.

    Self-Cutting: This specifically refers to people who harming themselves’ by cutting the skin.

    Self-Punishment: The act of hurting oneself in response to some other unwanted behavior. An example of this might be self-harming in response to overeating.

    6 Different Types of Self-Harm

    There are many different ways that someone can go about hurting themself. People can self-harm both by damaging their physical body and by causing themself emotional pain. Often when people think about self-injurious behavior they think of people who cut themselves. This is with good reason, cutting is the most common type of self-harm. One study found that 70% – 90% of people who injure themselves do so by cutting.

    However, people do use other methods. It is important to be familiar with the other methods people use to hurt themselves so that we can get people help who might be exhibiting these behaviors.

    How Do People Self-Harm?

    [chartli id=”0pldo8CZ” type=”pie_chart_13″ width=”600″ height=”360″]
    Burning – up to 35%
    Head Banging – up to 44%
    Cutting – up to 90%

    1. Self-Cutting

    This one was already defined above. To reiterate, it is when someone scratches or cuts the skin. Often people think of cuts on the wrists, but people might cut or scratch themselves anywhere on the body.

    2. Head-banging or hitting

    When someone engages in this behavior they often bang their head against a wall. They might also hit their fists against their head or use another object to do so.

    3. Burning

    People who do this often burn the skin with a lighter or lit cigarettes. You might see signs of this is someone has visible and repeated burn marks on their skin.

    4. Hair pulling

    Some people hurt themselves by pulling out their hair. This might include hear on the scalp, the eyebrows, or eyelashes. Hair pulling can also be a disorder in itself called trichotillomania.

    5. Skin Picking

    People who self-harm by skin picking might pick at small blemishes on the skin. The effects of skin picking can be observed by seeing small circular scars on the skin where it has been picked. Skin picking has been associated with the use of some drugs and other psychological disorder so it is important to differentiate if this is self-harm by itself or part of a larger problem.

    6. Mental or Emotional Self-Harm

    Some individuals hurt themselves not my inflicting physical pain but rather by causing harm that is mental or emotional. This might include excessively negative self-talk.

    Self Harm Infographic

    Why People Hurt Themselves

    Psychological research studies have looked at why people turn to self-injurious behavior. Of all the reasons there is one that is the most common. Hurting oneself for some people helps them to alleviate psychological discomfort (http://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371/journal.pmed.1000240). One of the ways that self-harm can reduce mental stress is by taking attention away from the mental stress.

    When some kind of acute harm is being caused it can take all of the person’s attention away from what is going on in the mind. For a moment, the brain is overwhelmed by this new and important event so it stops thinking about other things. Some people who self-harm might have some very difficult that is chronically on their mind. This can include trauma, anxiety, depression, or many other things. So, hurting themselves can be a few moments of a break from thinking about these very difficult things.

    The Myth of Wanting Attention

    You have probably heard somewhere from someone that people who hurt themselves are only doing it as “a cry for help” or because they want attention. However, psychology studies find over and over that when people are asked why they self-harm they very rarely say it is because they want to get attention.

    This could be because people do not want to admit that they self-harm for attention. However, it could also be that people really do not self harm for attention as much as we thought they do! The consistent finding is psychological research is that people self-harm to reduce emotional pain.

    Stories of Self-Harm from Real People

    It is important to listen to people when they express what function something serves. The people who do self-harm are the ones who know the most about why they do it, so let’s listen to what they say. All of the names have been changed to respect the privacy of the individuals who bravely shared their stories with us.

    “I started cutting myself a little when I was about 12 years old. My parents got divorced and I was really sad but I didn’t have anyone that I could talk to. I used the razor that was in my bathroom and I made some cuts on my wrist. It hurt but it also made me feel better for a minute. For just a second I didn’t have to think about my parents getting divorced anymore. The school caught me cutting so I had to go to therapy. For a while I just started cutting my ankles and inside my thighs where no one could see. But after I went to therapy I felt better and I just kind of stopped.”
    ~ Katie, age 14

    “I’ve been banging my head for pretty much as long as I can remember. I asked my parents recently and they said that I started doing it when I was a little kid. I had something bad happen to me when I younger but I didn’t really know about it until this year. I just know that I always had thoughts that were so brutal and I couldn’t stop thinking about them. When they kept coming into my head I would start hitting it against a table or a wall and then it would make them stop for a little bit. When I got older I also started drinking and doing drugs. That also helped me feel better too. But now I have been sober for a few months and I haven’t been hurting myself as much either.”
    ~ Brendan, age 22

    “Ever since I got help I have been thinking a lot about why I used to self-harm. At first, I really thought that I was just overreacting to things that were happening in my life. During my last year of high school all of my friends just dropped me out of the blue and started spreading all kinds of rumors about me. I felt so alone. It was this time that everyone was having fun and going to parties and literally no one would even talk to me. I started self-harming and it kind of made me feel better. Now that I am in therapy I don’t think I was overreacting I just think that I didn’t really have a better solution for feeling depressed and lonely.”
    ~ Cassandra, age 19

    Who is at Risk?

    Adolescents are generally thought to be at higher risk for self-harm than adults. One study found that the prevalence of self-harm for adolescents is around 8%. The same study found that adolescent girls were at slightly higher risk than adolescent boys. About 9% of girls cut themselves compared to 6.7% of boys. According to another study the prevalence for adults is significantly lower at 5.9%. These researchers found that the average age of onset was 16 years old.

    [chartli id=”PJ1Y9gih” type=”pie_chart_5″ width=”750″ height=”450″]

    Additionally, people who have a diagnosed mental disorder might be more likely to exhibit self-injurious behavior. For example, self-harm is a common symptom among people with borderline personality disorder. However, this does not mean that just because someone hurts themself they have a diagnosable disorder.

    Help is Available

    If you know someone who is hurting themslef the best thing you can do for them is to try and get them help. This might mean talking to helping professional who might be able to guide you and let you know what to do. It might also mean talking to your friend directly. Self-harm can be physically and psychologically dangerous so it is important to take it seriously.

    If you are struggling with self-harm, you are not alone. Please reach out for support so that you do not have to do this by yourself. You can always contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255. You can also call us at (888) 561-0868 .

    Long before recovery, rehabs, and relocating to California, I suffered from crippling depression. I used to ask myself constantly, “Can a person go to rehab for depression?” As a child, sometimes getting out of bed seemed impossible. I remember summers spent indoor, watching as the rest of the world seemed to be in a frenzy; jumping from excitement to excitement while I stayed in bed until well after noon. The patterns of this would carry into my adult life, making tasks like work or school seem just as unlikely as going outside as a kid.

    Eventually, through enough trial and error with drugs, alcohol, and failed attempts at getting a grip on my own mental health, I found a doctor whom I trusted and in turn listened to. I was prescribed a few different medications for depression before one finally helped. It was a slow process, but eventually I noticed a difference in my mood and my quality of life. I was skeptical of medication, and I was skeptical that there could be any underlying issues other than drug and alcohol abuse. For many alcoholics and addicts, there’s usually what is referred to as a co-occurring disorder, or a separate issue that may add to the symptoms of another disorder or disease. Quite often, Alcoholics and drug addicts self medicate with drugs or alcohol as a way to treat the symptoms of a different disorder; like anxiety or depression.

    The stigma associated with mental illness is still alive and well today. Unfortunately, most addicts and alcoholics suffer from some form of mental illness. Whether it’s bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, anxiety, or depression, mental illness is an underlying issue for most addicts and alcoholics.

    What is Mental Illness?


    Much like a physical illness, a mental illness can develop as either hereditary or from environmental factors like abuse or neglect. A mental illness is any disorder that affects the range of thoughts, mood, or behavior. Most commonly, anxiety and depression account for the majority of mental illnesses in recovery. When first diagnosed, this may seem like a shock or perhaps appear to be a mistake. After all, this doctor doesn’t know you, right?

    Accepting A Diagnosis

    It’s important to be honest while meeting with your doctor. Ideally, a diagnosis would be made after having been off of drugs for at least a month. However, there are patterns related to certain disorders and illnesses that are common characteristics of that particular illness. Only you will know in your heart whether or not the diagnosis seems correct. In any case, a mental illness diagnosis is not the end of the world. In fact, most artists and musicians have suffered from some form of mental illness at one time of their lives. Mental illness and drug addiction usually go hand in hand, as the addict and alcoholic seemingly try to self medicate with drugs and alcohol. Much like the first step of addiction, the first step in recovery from a mental illness is accepting the diagnosis.


    Asking your doctor questions about your mental illness is extremely important also. From medication management to avoiding stressors, your doctor is the best person to ask and develop a plan of recovery with to insure that you can lead a happy and healthy life. When I was diagnosed with major depression, I didn’t know that exercise and a healthy diet along with medication could actually help me to avoid depressive swings. Minor things like blood sugar and releasing endorphins that seem so obvious we’re a world away until I asked my doctor whom I trusted. Meditation also became a regular practice of mine, as recommended by my therapist.

    Talk About It

    From group and private therapy to Emotions Anonymous meetings, whatever you’re going through doesn’t have to be done alone. In fact, the World Health Organization states that over 350 million people in the world suffer from depression. Although it might seem like a dark diagnosis, there are many other people who have gone through similar experiences. As you’ve learned in recovery from drugs and alcohol, you don’t have to go through anything alone anymore.

    Don’t Give Up

    If you’ve been diagnosed with a mental illness, you aren’t alone. This isn’t a death sentence or a prison stint. There are precautions you can take to protect yourself from severe episodes and there are people everywhere who are going through a similar experience. While medication can have side effects, working with a doctor or care team that you trust is a great step in protecting yourself from having your mental illness get out of control. The stigma around mental health is outdated and currently only a screen to protect the accusers from being found that they or their loved ones suffer from the same disorders. The biggest stigma is against untreated mental health disorders, and is both sad and preventable. By looking after your mental health with the same compassion as you would a sick child, you may begin to see just how strong you are and how manageable life is with a mental illness when the proper measures are taken. The stigma of having a mental illness is one that comes from fear and a lack of insight. By educating yourself, trusting your doctor, and talking about it, you’ll in time shed light on something that is totally manageable and treatable, much like alcoholism and drug addiction.

    If you’re diagnosed with a mental illness of any sort, knowing that there is treatment and support available can seem like a huge safety net. Many of us in recovery have a duel diagnosis, and many of us lead happy, healthy, and successful lives. Talk to your doctor and therapist about what treatment and support options are available for you. Education is the best defense against a mental illness, as it will open up various doors for treatment and support groups. There’s nothing wrong with having a mental illness, as many of us in recovery have had to battle our demons at one point or another. Please contact us if you or your loved one is suffering from a mental illness.

    Holistic Wellness Programs for Treating Addiction and Mental Illness

    Philosophers often discuss the difference between “being” and “well-being.” In order to simply “be,” a person or thing must have certain qualities or attributes that define its core essence. These features describe the subject’s basic existence, but they do not address what is necessary to thrive or flourish.

    Many treatment facilities tout the core treatments that provide clients with the means to attain sobriety. But there are additional components necessary to help someone achieve the benefits of a happy, healthy life experience.

    These benefits address much more than the cessation of problems that led them to treatment in the first place. Instead, they address the broader considerations that make up a fulfilled life and contribute to the person’s “well-being” and not just their “being.”

    It is essential for people in recovery to understand and improve all the different parts of their existence, so they can consciously build better lives.

    Understanding and Defining Holistic Wellness

    “Wellness” is a term that comes up frequently in certain circles, and the term can be used in many ways. Although there are multiple views on exactly what the concept encompasses, the National Wellness Institute, in conjunction with leaders of varying health and wellness fields, has suggested that most models of wellness agree upon the following principles:

    • Wellness is a conscious, self-directed and evolving process of achieving full potential.
    • Wellness is multidimensional and holistic, encompassing lifestyle, mental and spiritual aspects and the environment.
    • Wellness is positive and affirming.

    With these principles in mind, the NWI proposes that, “Wellness is an active process through which people become aware of and make choices toward a more successful existence.”1

    Wellness is an active process through which people become aware of and make choices toward a more successful existence.

    Wrapping all of this together, we can define “holistic wellness” as the condition of being in optimum overall health, which is a blend of physical, mental and spiritual well-being. The condition is the result of consciously choosing to live a quality life; it doesn’t happen by accident. It’s a day-to-day choice involving an active process of increasing self-awareness, as well as community-supported, self-directed action.

    What Are Holistic Wellness Programs?

    The goal of holistic health is to achieve maximum well-being, where everything is functioning in the best way possible. The path of holistic wellness is a life-long journey that emphasizes personal responsibility and commitment.

    The path of holistic wellness is a life-long journey that emphasizes personal responsibility and commitment.

    Without specific ways to work toward this goal, people would flounder without any ability to truly make progress. That’s where holistic wellness programs come in.

    Holistic wellness programs are an essential part of any well-rounded recovery program. These programs comprise the methods that give people the tools to feel more whole as human beings. The features of holistic wellness programs are designed to take into account the entire person as they move forward in their quest for optimal health and wholeness.

    Specific program components may include things like individual therapy, meditation, mindfulness and yoga, which promote positive attitudes and teach practical methods for coping with stressful situations. One may also learn about healthy nutrition, the importance of regular physical exercise and other helpful life practices, such as journaling.

    Yoga – Posing for Wellness

    Yoga is a technique that uses physical postures and controlled breathing to develop many mental and physical benefits.2 The postures used in yoga practice are sometimes difficult to achieve or hold, but the purpose goes far beyond merely becoming a human pretzel.

    The challenging poses and movements of yoga help create flexibility and strength as they elongate the spine, improve muscle elasticity, reduce stiffness in the joints and increase overall mobility. The focus required during practice also calms the mind, improves concentration and promotes patience. Regular practice is needed to fully experience these benefits.

    For those in recovery, yoga offers some specific advantages. For example, many addictions begin as a coping mechanism or a way of filling an emotional or spiritual void. As a result, people in treatment for addiction must learn to deal with their emotions and environment in healthier ways.

    Studies of the biological impact of yoga have noted a correlation between yoga and inhibiting the dopamine surge that typically results from using drugs. The studies found that intense breathing patterns in certain forms of yoga release the body’s natural pleasure-producing endorphins. A healthy yoga practice can help suppress addictive behaviors while restoring the brain’s dopamine functions to healthier levels.

    Those in recovery know full well that stressful situations can trigger addictive behavior and cravings. The very process of adjusting to sober living can be stressful. Since yoga emphasizes willpower and stress reduction, those in recovery can learn to combat that stress, better resist temptation and regain control over their bodies.

    Since yoga emphasizes willpower and stress reduction, those in recovery can learn to combat that stress, better resist temptation and regain control over their bodies.

    Meditation – Doing Something Good for Yourself

    Meditation is not an esoteric, mystical exercise best left for ascetic monks. Although there are numerous forms of meditation practice arising from various historic traditions, most of them share a simple common principle: intentionally setting aside time to do something good for yourself.

    Meditation involves intentionally setting aside time to do something good for yourself.

    That may seem like an oversimplification, but it accurately describes the underlying purpose of meditative practices. Whether the form of meditation incorporates bodily movement or is stationary, both emphasize the good that results from quietness of the mind.

    The primary goal of developing a sense of inner calm, sometimes called detachment, enables meditation to fit well within the recovery process. This is because overcoming substance abuse disorders often involves a person establishing distance between themselves and their desire to use.

    Meditation encourages the practitioner to view their own impulses from a third-person perspective, as they observe and examine their own thoughts and motivations. This is not always easy, but the skill will enable them to gain a psychological detachment from their cravings, along with the ability to properly understand such desires. This helps cultivate contentedness without the need to resort to alcohol or drug abuse.

    While the full benefits from meditation may take time, neuroscientists have found that even short-term meditation can have profoundly positive effects on the brain. In one study, after just five 20-minute sessions of meditative technique, participants had increased blood flow to an area of the brain vital to self-control. After 11 hours of accumulated practice, the scientists found actual physical changes in the brain around this same area.3

    By building a stronger awareness of themselves and their environment, people in recovery can realize the impact drugs and alcohol have had on their lives and start to discover their triggers. Meditation fosters an appreciation for the mind and body, which builds motivation to treat oneself with respect.

    Meditation fosters an appreciation for the mind and body, which builds motivation to treat oneself with respect.

    Mindfulness – Moment-by-Moment Awareness

    Mindfulness can be a form of meditation, but it is worth distinguishing here in our overview of holistic wellness. Mindfulness-based interventions have shown compelling evidence of significant benefit for people in recovery from addictive disorders.

    Though it has roots in Buddhist meditation, the common secular practice of mindfulness was established through the work of Jon Kabat-Zinn and his Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program, which was launched at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in 1979.

    In its most basic definition, mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations and surrounding environment. It also involves acceptance of thoughts and feelings without judging them. By removing the tendency to determine what is “right” or “wrong” with a certain thought or feeling, a person is more able to concentrate on what they’re sensing in the moment, rather than comparing it with the past or imagining the future.

    Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations and surrounding environment.

    Thousands of studies have documented the physical and mental health benefits of mindfulness. Because the practice promotes nonjudgmental acceptance of moment-to-moment thoughts, mindfulness has been shown to interrupt the tendency to respond to experiences using harmful behaviors, such as substance use. As the individual learns to respond with awareness and not to react automatically, they are also more likely to resist cravings.4

    For individuals in recovery, the struggle with temptations toward drugs or alcohol is inevitable. Mindfulness meditation is one way to gain awareness of these thoughts, accept them without feelings of guilt or shame and learn how to cope in healthier ways.

    Physical Fitness – Strong Body and Mind

    It’s no secret that regular exercise is good for the body. But physical exercise is also one of the most effective ways to improve mental health. Exercise has a profound and positive impact upon symptoms of depression, anxiety, ADHD and more. In addition to boosting overall mood, exercise relieves stress, improves memory and helps people sleep better.

    In addition to boosting overall mood, exercise relieves stress, improves memory and helps people sleep better.

    But don’t worry, there’s no need to become a hardcore fitness devotee. Research indicates that even modest amounts of exercise can make a real difference, as evidenced by the popularity of such things as the scientific 7-minute workout.5

    No matter what fitness plan or routine one may settle into, there are definitely worthwhile rewards for the efforts. Here are some outstanding examples of the mental health benefits of exercise:6

    • Reduce Stress. Working out can relieve physical and mental tension and increases concentrations of norepinephrine, a chemical that can moderate the brain’s response to stress.
    • Boost Happy Chemicals. Exercise releases endorphins, which create feelings of happiness and euphoria. Studies have shown that exercise can even alleviate symptoms among people suffering from depression or anxiety.
    • Improve Self-Confidence. Physical fitness boosts self-esteem and improves self-image. Regardless of a person’s particular physique, even moderate exercise can quickly elevate self-perception and self-worth.
    • Prevent Cognitive Decline. While it won’t stop the aging process, exercise boosts the chemicals in the brain that support and prevent degeneration of the hippocampus, an important part of the brain for memory and learning.
    • Alleviate Anxiety. During and after exercise, chemicals released in the body can help people with anxiety disorders calm down even more effectively than a 20-minute soak in the hot tub.
    • Boost Brainpower. More than merely preventing decline, studies have shown that cardiovascular exercise can create new brain cells and improve overall brain performance. Challenging
    • workouts increase levels of a protein known as BDNF. This is believed to help with decision making, higher thinking and learning.
    • Sharpen Memory. Regular physical activity enhances the ability to learn new things. Research has linked brain development with levels of physical fitness, and one study showed that running sprints improved vocabulary retention among healthy adults.
    • Help Control Addiction. Dopamine, which is known as the brain’s “reward chemical,” is released in response to any form of pleasure, including sex, drugs, alcohol or food. One aspect of addiction involves dependency on the substances that produce dopamine. But exercise can help in recovery, since working out can effectively diminish and distract from cravings.
    • Increase Relaxation and Improve Sleep. Often those in recovery find their body processes are interrupted, including circadian or sleep rhythms. Exercise can help reboot the body clock, enabling people to relax and have more regular sleep cycles.
    • Get More Done. Those who exercise regularly have been shown to have higher energy levels, which leads to greater productivity. Sedentary people tire more easily and quickly, leaving less mojo for work and play.

    Journaling – Insights for Life

    Journaling is an effective tool with widespread use among those recovering from an addiction. It has been called the least expensive, most accessible form of therapy, and it can produce meaningful results for those who take advantage of it for gaining insights into their own life.

    Keeping a journal is straightforward; it requires writing down brief thoughts, ideas, observations, stories, important events, successes during recovery or even a simple record of an exercise routine.

    There are numerous methods and styles of journaling, and each person can adopt an approach that fits their personality and schedule. There’s no need to be verbose; even a single word that captures a feeling or mood can provide powerful insights, which lead to better understanding and discernment.

    Writing in a journal encourages people to think critically and examine their thoughts and assumptions. Clearer thinking helps overcome negativity, reduces stress and may even lower the risk of relapse. Journaling is also a way to track progress and increase motivation. Journals are private expressions, recorded without fear of judgment.

    Writing in a journal encourages people to think critically and examine their thoughts and assumptions.

    The point is not the subject of the writing or the amount of writing. Instead, it’s about taking the time to write and engage in personal introspection. After journaling for a few months, many are amazed when they look back to see where they were and where they are now. In some cases, they are encouraged by how far they’ve come. Other times they may be surprised to find they’re revisiting old habits.7

    Holistic Individual Therapy – Building Skills for the Future

    Recovery and rehabilitation frequently involves therapy. Holistic therapy takes an integrated approach and pays attention to the connections between a person’s mind, body and spirit.

    Unlike some forms of therapy, which seek to treat the symptoms, holistic therapy sessions try to uncover the underlying causes that led to substance abuse or contributed to other unhealthy behaviors. Holistic therapists use multiple approaches to address issues and encourage self-awareness and self-acceptance in those in recovery.

    Holistic therapists use multiple approaches to address issues and encourage self-awareness and self-acceptance in those in recovery.

    Counselors or therapists typically provide a variety of services to people in treatment for substance use disorders, including assessment, treatment planning and counseling. Individual counseling often focuses on reducing or stopping substance use, skill building, adherence to a recovery plan and social, family and professional/educational outcomes.8

    Nutrition Education – Fueling the Healing Process

    Improper nutrition can severely hinder the normal functioning of the body, including its ability to heal and overcome illness. Drugs and alcohol can further amplify the disruptive effects of a poor diet. Improving nutrition is essential for diminishing and correcting some of the biochemical and digestive problems often developed during addiction.9

    Improving nutrition is essential for diminishing and correcting some of the biochemical and digestive problems often developed during addiction.

    Proper nutrition helps those in recovery (and everyone else) feel better because nutrients give the body energy, help build and repair organ tissue and strengthen the immune system. Many people experience damage to vital organs during the course of their drug or alcohol abuse. Establishing good nutrition provides them with the crucial building blocks needed to begin restoring the damage.

    Mood and attitude are also affected by nutrition. Changes in the diet can alter brain structure both chemically and physiologically, thus influencing behavior. Certain foods have been connected to increased production of brain chemicals like serotonin, which enhances a person’s mood.

    Using healthy food and regular meals to fuel the healing process is an important strategy for reaching optimal well-being and energizing the recovery process. In many cases, just feeling better due to proper diet can even reduce the risk of relapse, since the temptations may have less appeal.

    Bringing It All Together

    Hopefully, this overview of holistic wellness programs was encouraging and highlighted the many benefits of such an approach to recovery. But more than as just a means to recovery, programs focused on holistic wellness bring together the tools and knowledge for lifelong preventative and restorative health solutions. This provides the essentials for achieving a healthy body and mind, allowing each person to take responsibility for their own well-being.


    1. Six Dimensions of Wellness. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.nationalwellness.org

    2. Pizer, A. (2016, April). What is Yoga? Retrieved from https://www.verywell.com/what-is-yoga-3566739

    3. Tang, Y.; Lu, Q.; Geng, X.; Stein, E. A.; Yang, Y. and Posner, M. I. (2010, August). Short-term Meditation Induces White Matter Changes in the Anterior Cingulate. Retrieved from http://www.pnas.org/content/107/35/15649.full

    4. Marcus, M. T. and Zgierska, A. (2009). Mindfulness-Based Therapies for Substance Use Disorders: Part 1. Substance Abuse, 30(4), 263. Retrieved from http://doi.org/10.1080/08897070903250027

    5. Reynolds, G. (2013, May). The Scientific 7-Minute Workout. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/05/09/the-scientific-7-minute-workout

    6. Breene, S. (2013, March). 13 Mental Health Benefits of Exercise. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/27/mental-health-benefits-exercise_n_2956099.html

    7. Howes, R. (2011, January). Journaling in Therapy. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/in-therapy/201101/journaling-in-therapy

    8. Treatment for Substance Abuse Disorders. (2015, September). Retrieved from http://www.samhsa.gov/treatment/substance-use-disorders

    9. Miller, R. (2010, May). Nutrition in Addiction Recovery. Retrieved from http://mhof.net/sites/default/files/Addiction%20and%20Recovery%20Report.pdf

    Holistic Wellness Yoga

    Those who have ever taken a yoga class know firsthand the sense of calmness and well-being that follows, and they’ve probably experienced the sensation of lightness in the muscles brought on by long, gentle stretches. The health benefits are well-documented, but its benefits for those in addiction recovery go far beyond improving physical health.

    Any high-quality treatment program will take a holistic approach to treatment that addresses issues of body, mind and spirit. At Elevation Behavioral Health, yoga is an integral part of our program because it strengthens and soothes body, mind and spirit, promotes mindfulness, reduces stress and fosters good physical and mental health.

    Yoga and Mindfulness

    Yoga brings the mind and body into the present, where focus is on what’s happening in the here and now. How does the body feel? What is the state of mind? What emotions are present? Being in tune with one’s physical and mental state is the cornerstone of mindfulness, and practices in mindfulness, including yoga, are fast becoming proven therapies for preventing relapse, according to an article published in the journal Substance Abuse.

    Mindful recovery is all about being aware of thoughts and attitudes, accepting them as they arise, observing them non-judgmentally, and learning to reshape them. Practicing mindfulness through yoga can help people in recovery navigate cravings, make healthy lifestyle choices and—perhaps most importantly—recognize the early signs of relapse.

    Stress Relief

    According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, stress is a major trigger for relapse. Stress and the body’s response to it can be mitigated through yoga practice, according to Harvard Medical School, which cites a study that shows it helps to reduce the body’s stress responses like muscle tension and increased heart rate, blood pressure and body temperature. Yoga can even help the body learn to respond to stress in healthier ways.

    Mental and Physical Health

    Regular yoga practice bolsters the immune system and improves overall health, according to a study published in the International Journal of Yoga. It strengthens the muscles, and it improves flexibility and promotes balance of mind and spirit. A healthy body is central to long-term recovery, as is a healthy mind. Yoga can help improve mental health by relieving anxiety and depression, enhancing a sense of self and helping to heal emotional wounds, according to the American Psychological Association. This can be particularly helpful for those whose addiction is rooted in trauma.

    A Holistic Approach to Treatment is Best

    The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration points out that everyone’s pathway to recovery is different, and a holistic approach to treatment should include a variety of research-based alternative and complementary therapies. As one of a number of holistic therapies offered through our program, yoga can help individuals in recovery develop a higher level of self-awareness, improve self-esteem and foster other healthy lifestyle choices that can improve the chances of successful long-term recovery.

    Common Co-Occurring Disorders

    When someone who suffers from a mental health disorder also has a substance abuse problem, they have what is called co-occurring disorders, also commonly called dual diagnosis.

    Co-occurring disorders could come about as an individual with mental illness subsequently develops a dependency on drugs or alcohol as they seek relief from unpleasant psychiatric symptoms. It could also happen when someone who has a substance abuse disorder then develops mental health disorders from the changes in the brain’s chemistry and structure that addiction can cause.

    Typically, it’s difficult to determine which condition came first. Either way, all conditions need treatment at the same time for effective results. Many different variations exist with co-occurring disorders.

    Common Co-Occurring Disorders and Addiction

    Eating Disorders and Addiction

    The brain is stimulated by pleasurable activities. Using drugs and alcohol can stimulate the same reward center of the brain, producing pleasurable effects. Gratifying stimulation comes from eating and enjoying food, and that experience can also block any unwanted, negative feelings and emotions. When pursuit of gratification to avoid negative feelings increases, an addictive cycle develops.

    When food or the denial of food is the stimulus, it can lead to eating disorders such as bingeing or anorexia. People in this type of cycle frequently incorporate illicit substances to get the same stimulation, leading to the development of co-occurring disorders.

    Depression and Addiction

    Depression is found to be a common mental health issue among substance abusers. People who are depressed often use drugs and/or alcohol to block painful thoughts, memories and emotions.

    On the other hand, people who frequently drink alcohol—a depressive substance—may bring on sadness as alcohol affects the brain with its depressive properties. Unfortunately, depression and substance abuse feed upon one another, which creates a continuing cycle of both.

    OCD and Addiction

    It is currently thought that OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) is likely caused by an imbalance of brain chemicals. There are theories that this imbalance of brain chemicals also causes alcoholism and drug abuse, so the two are tightly interrelated. OCD sufferers also use substances for relief from obsessive thoughts, and regular use can lead to the development of addictions.

    PTSD and Addiction

    People who suffer from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) experienced traumatic events. Difficult symptoms from PTSD include flashbacks, nightmares, sleeplessness, mood instability and paranoia. Many PTSD sufferers turn to readily available drugs or alcohol for relief and to numb themselves.

    Dual Diagnosis Treatment

    Proper treatment from trained professionals helps people suffering from co-occurring disorders to reach sobriety and manage psychiatric symptoms, opening up a healthy and productive life made possible by effective and comprehensive addiction programs.

    Psychopharmacology: Medication is needed to treat any remaining psychiatric symptoms once detox is completed.

    Psychotherapy: Group and individual therapies are needed to address mental health and addiction issues at the same time.

    Behavioral Management: Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) teaches coping skills for how to respond to negative thoughts and actions. It teaches individuals to replace negative behaviors with positive ones, and rewards are given for positive actions. CBT has been proven effective in modifying addictive behaviors.

    What is Dual Diagnosis in Mental Health

    What is Dual Diagnosis

    When a person has a substance abuse problem and also has accompanying mental health issues, this is known as a dual diagnosis. Also known as co-existing disorders, a person might find themselves chemically dependent on drugs or alcohol while also experiencing a disorder like depression, anxiety, or bipolar.

    Addiction specialists need to discover all co-existing disorders to ensure a comprehensive dual diagnosis is reached. After complete identification, rehab programs need to treat all issues for successful recovery.

    The National Alliance on Mental Illness reports:

    • A third of people with mental illness and half of people living with severe mental illnesses also have substance abuse problems.
    • A third of all alcohol abusers have been diagnosed with a co-existing mental illness.
    • More than half of all drug abusers have been diagnosed with a co-existing mental illness.

    Dual Diagnosis Signs & Symptoms

    Since dual diagnosis is a mental health and substance abuse disorder occurring simultaneously, there are many combinations of disorders that exist. The symptoms of dual diagnosis vary widely. Some of the symptoms include:

    • Isolation from friends and family
    • Sudden behavioral changes
    • Using substances under unsafe conditions
    • Acting out risky behaviors while under the influence
    • Loss of control over using substances
    • Doing things out of character to obtain drugs or alcohol
    • Developing tolerance to substances
    • Relapsing on substances after treatment
    • Legal problems
    • Showing withdrawal symptoms from substances
    • Feeling like drugs or alcohol are needed to function
    • Extreme mood changes
    • Confused thinking
    • Concentration and memory problems
    • Thoughts of suicide

    Diagnosis of Co-Occurring Disorders

    To properly diagnose dual disorders in a person, a professional performs an assessment that details the signs and symptoms being experienced. Since symptoms of substance abuse can mimic the signs of mental health disorders and vice versa, it might take a few days or weeks of observation before an accurate assessment can be made.

    The following methods are used to evaluate and diagnose addiction and mental health disorders:

    • Interviewing the client, family and friends about past and current psychiatric symptoms and substance use.
    • Conducting lab tests to detect the presence and quantity of drugs or alcohol that are currently in the body.
    • Holding a physical exam and/or lab tests to look for any physical problems that could cause psychiatric symptoms.
    • Completing a checklist regarding alcohol or drug use, psychiatric history and health.

    Treatment for Dual Diagnosis Disorders

    Treatment for dual diagnosis is usually a program of medication, therapy and behavioral counseling. All disorders must be treated at the same time to be effective and to prevent relapse.

    There are several treatments available for dual diagnosis: psychopharmacology, psychotherapy and behavioral therapy.

    Psychopharmacology treats each disorder with prescription medications. Ongoing assessments are made to track the effectiveness of treatment of each disorder.

    Psychotherapy uses counselors and therapists to help resolve mental or emotional problems by discussion. Root causes of substance abuse and trauma are uncovered and analyzed.

    Behavioral therapy examines behaviors, focusing on the negative consequences and harmful effects. Positive behaviors are developed to avoid these negative consequences using improved judgements. Positive and negative reinforcements are used to foster better decisions.

    Is Drug Addiction a Mental Illness

    Drug addiction is a complex issue, and so is mental illness. Both disorders display serious and persistent symptoms.

    When the best treatment options are being decided, it’s crucial that all issues are included. An addiction treatment program that addresses all these points results in effective recovery and helps to prevent relapse.

    The Effects of Addiction on the Brain

    According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, drug addiction can be considered a mental illness in and of itself because using substances causes fundamental brain changes.

    The results of these brain changes alter the priorities of the person suffering from addiction. After addiction has taken hold, obtaining and using drugs or alcohol becomes the person’s main priority. Compulsive behaviors—those with little impulse control—dominate the person’s life without regard to the resulting consequences, which is one indication of mental illness.

    The Relationship of Addiction and Mental Health Issues

    Research has shown that most people who abuse drugs or alcohol also have mental health issues, and the reverse is true as well.

    • People who have anxiety or mood disorders are twice as likely to also have a substance abuse disorder.
    • People with mental health disorders, such as antisocial or conduct disorders, are also twice as likely to have addiction problems.
    • People with substance abuse problems are also twice as likely to suffer from mental health disorders like mood and anxiety disorders.

    Some areas of the brain are affected by both substance abuse and other mental illnesses. One affected area is the pathways that are used by neurotransmitters. Since common areas of the brain are affected by addictive substances, they may also be involved in mental health disorders like depression.

    Drug Addiction Treatment Options

    The first and most important step in addiction programs is to evaluate a client to understand all the mental health issues, besides addiction, that are present and need treatment. Many individuals need qualified help for alcohol withdrawal symptoms, as alcohol detox can be quite dangerous. A comprehensive assessment by trained professionals is needed to do this.

    People entering addiction treatment programs need screening for additional mental health issues. Also, people entering mental health treatment need screening by trained healthcare professionals to uncover any substance use disorders.

    Once all the symptoms a person is experiencing are diagnosed, it’s crucial to treat all disorders at the same time. Substance abuse and mental health disorder symptoms are typically persistent and resist treatment in someone with co-existing disorders, so a plan of treatment that recognizes this will be most effective.

    Finding the Right Help

    Drug Addiction treatment plans that will be most effective include:

    Medications: Using medicines that are effective in the treatment of substance abuse and mental health issues. Sometimes these medications will help multiple problems.
    Behavioral Therapies: Behavioral therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy that modify behaviors, when used alone or with a medication program, have proven to be effective in helping clients with co-occurring disorders.

    Finding the most effective treatment involves multiple approaches. This creates a comprehensive substance abuse treatment program that supports clients who are struggling with addiction to reach sobriety, and it helps to prevent relapse.