anxiety makes me feel like i am losing my mind

Anxiety can be absolutely debilitating, keeping you in a state of constant fight-or-flight mode at the slightest little trigger. You may attempt to reason with yourself, that this or that stress-inducing trigger is no big deal, but your brain chemistry is locked and loaded to take you through the spectrum of anxiety symptoms—sweaty palms, racing heart, shallow breathing, palpitations—you cannot seem to escape this cycle.

Many who approach a therapist with the complaint, “Anxiety makes me feel like I am losing my mind!” are suffering greatly. They want to find ways to manage the anxiety so they can live a normal, productive life, and that is entirely possible with the right treatment plan. Anxiety treatment is often very effective at greatly reducing the daily struggle with stress that has held you captive.

Help! Anxiety Makes Me Feel Like I am Losing my Mind

Anxiety disorder is a broad category of mental health disorders, each with the commonality of excessive worry or fear driving it. Anxiety disorders are very common, with 40 million people struggling with one each year, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. An anxiety disorder is different from the common temporary fear experienced before having to make a presentation or trying out for something. We all experience those very normal sensations when we are out of our comfort zone. Anxiety disorders, however, are very intrusive, often becoming so difficult to manage that it impacts one’s lifestyle.

When someone suffers from anxiety something will trigger a cascade of symptoms, with each type of anxiety disorder having its own unique features. Generally, however, anxiety symptoms include:

  • Feelings of dread and apprehension
  • Being perpetually on alert for danger
  • Racing heart or palpitations
  • Shaking
  • Sweating
  • Hyperventilating
  • Shortness of breath, holding one’s breath
  • Stomach upset, diarrhea
  • Feeling jumpy or restless
  • Insomnia
  • Headaches

Different Types of Anxiety Disorders

The anxiety spectrum of disorders includes:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder: Features constant excessive worry for much of the day, resulting in headaches, muscle tension, nausea, and trouble concentrating.
  • Panic disorder: Sudden and unpredictable feelings of overwhelming terror, causing heart palpitations, shortness of breath, chest pain, and dizziness. May lead to social isolation to avoid having an attack.
  • Social anxiety disorder: Intense and irrational fear of being judged or critiqued. Fear of being humiliated in public. Causes social isolation or minimizing social interaction.
  • Specific phobias: Irrational fear of a specific thing, place, or situation. To manage this fear, the individual goes to great measures to avoid triggers.
  • Trauma disorder, PTSD: Unresolved trauma can lead to avoidance of people, places, or situations that trigger memories of the traumatic event. Flashbacks, nightmares, or repeated thoughts of the trauma stoke anxiety symptoms.
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder: Obsessive worries about such things as germs, causing harm, or a need for order drives compulsive behaviors that attempt to manage the symptoms of anxiety caused by the obsession.

How to Manage Anxiety

When the symptoms of anxiety have you saying, “Anxiety makes me feel like I am losing my mind,” it is time to meet with a mental health professional. At the initial meeting, a therapist will evaluate what type of anxiety you are suffering from and design an individualized treatment plan to help manage symptoms. Treatment is usually an integrated approach involving psychotherapy, medication, and stress-reducing holistic activities.

Psychotherapy for anxiety disorders will be determined based on the type of anxiety, but cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has been effective in helping individuals identify distorted or irrational thoughts and the maladaptive behavioral response to them. CBT then guides the individual toward replacing those with positive self-messaging resulting in constructive, productive behaviors.

Medication for anxiety disorders may involve benzodiazepines (Ativan, Valium, Xanax), drugs that swiftly produce a sedative response to calm nerves. In some cases, antidepressants are used to treat anxiety as well.

Holistic Therapies That Help Manage Stress

Including holistic therapies in the treatment plan is becoming more and more common. This is because these mostly Eastern-inspired activities are excellent complimentary interventions to the traditional psychotherapy. Some of the holistic activities accessed for treating anxiety include:

  • Yoga
  • Mindfulness meditation
  • Guided imagery
  • Hypnotherapy
  • Acupuncture
  • Massage therapy
  • Equine therapy

Elevation Behavioral Health Provides Effective Treatment for Anxiety Disorders

Elevation Behavioral Health is an upscale residential mental health treatment center in Los Angeles. If you recognize that declaration, “Anxiety makes me feel like I am losing my mind,” then seek the treatment you deserve to regain your quality of life. When outpatient care is not providing the results you desire, or your anxiety disorder worsens, consider a residential program where you can focus all of your attention on healing. Treatment is much more intensive and focused in a residential program, and by taking a break from the usual stressors or triggers in your everyday life, a stay at Elevation Behavioral Health can produce a significant and sustained reduction in anxiety symptoms. For more information about our program, reach out to Elevation Behavioral Health today at (888) 561-0868.

trauma counseling

A traumatic experience can remain deeply troubling for a period of time, impacting daily life and overall wellness. Having witnessed or personally experienced a traumatic event may leave psychological wounds and a heightened sense of emotional arousal that can cause impaired functioning, ill health, or relationship problems. While most people who experience trauma will eventually process the fallout, some may go on to develop pot-traumatic stress disorder, a prolonged and more severe form of trauma disorder.

Trauma counseling is a key element in the process of healing after experiencing a shocking or distressing event. A trauma therapist is trained to use specialized therapies that help take the edge off the traumatic memory, allowing the individual to become less sensitive to the memories of it, or the people, places, or situations that may trigger the memories. Trauma counseling, and adjunctive therapies that compliment the counseling, allow the individual to gradually move forward in their lives.

Trauma Defined

So how is a trauma different from any other upsetting event? A traumatic event tends to cause an intense psychological response when the individual feels they are in a dangerous or life-threatening situation. Traumatic events might include a natural disaster, military combat, a serious car accident, a violent physical or sexual assault, or the sudden unexpected death of a close loved one. Trauma often makes the individual feel a loss of control over their safety.

Signs of Trauma Disorder

Living through a traumatic event can shake someone to the core. Trauma symptoms include:

  • Shock
  • Anger
  • Denial
  • Mood swings
  • Flashbacks
  • Nightmares
  • Insomnia or sleep disturbance
  • Persistent feelings of sadness and despair
  • Headache, intestinal problems
  • Feelings of guilt or shame
  • Emotional detachment
  • Feeling isolated
  • Hopelessness
  • Anxiety
  • Trust issues
  • Loss of interest in usual sources of enjoyment, withdrawing from friends and family
  • Substance abuse

What Is Trauma Counseling and How Does It Work?

When an individual is struggling to overcome the effects of the trauma to a point where it is negatively impacting daily functioning and quality of life, it is appropriate to seek treatment. Goals of overcoming trauma include reclaiming one’s personal power, to shift focus from the past to the present, and to reduce the impact that the trauma has on one moving forward.

Mental health professionals use a variety of modalities to help individuals overcome the intense effects of the trauma. These might include:

Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.  TFCBT is designed for helping individuals overcome trauma by reshaping the thoughts associated with the trauma that led to the negative emotions and behaviors. By helping the trauma victim express their feelings about the experience, the therapist will show them how those thoughts have led to withdrawal, guilt, loneliness, anxiety, etc. By encouraging the individual to examine the negative thoughts and reframe them in a more productive manner, the trauma loses potency.

Psychodynamic Therapy. This is a longer-term therapy that delves into childhood experiences and how they may relate to issues in their adult life. The insights gained during psychodynamic therapy can help the individual develop a new perspective on those childhood experiences, as well as dysfunctional adult interpersonal relationships, how to rise above them and not allow them to negatively impact their present daily life anymore.

Exposure Therapy. This is a short-term behavioral therapy that helps individuals become less sensitive to the memories or triggers of the trauma. By encouraging discussion of the event and gradually exposing them to the triggers within a safe environment, the impact is gradually reduced over time. This helps with the avoidance behaviors they may have acquired following the trauma.

Adjunctive Therapies for Treating Trauma

In addition to the various traditional psychotherapies used, there are some excellent alternative therapies that compliment and augment those therapies. These include:

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). EMDR is a type of therapy that helps individuals by desensitizing them to the disturbing memories of the trauma. EMDR is an 8-phase program that focuses on the past, present, and future. The therapist will have the client follow an object or finger back and forth with their eyes while discussing the disturbing memory, the related emotions and beliefs, which has the effect of reducing the impact of the trauma over the course of the sessions.

Neurofeedback. Neurofeedback is a type of biofeedback where the individual’s brain wave patterns and activity can be modified through a computer software program, training the individual to be calmer when thoughts of the trauma arise.

Holistic Activities. Holistic practices can help promote relaxation while reducing stress, which can help in the response to thoughts of the trauma. Managing stress through deep breathing exercises, mindfulness meditation, guided imagery, yoga, massage therapy, and acupuncture can benefit the individual as they heal from the trauma.

When a Higher Level of Care is Appropriate for Trauma Disorder

When efforts to relieve the symptoms of trauma are not successful using outpatient services, it may be necessary to consider a higher level of care. Individuals whose trauma disorder is seriously impacting their daily life and their relationships may benefit from a more focused approach at a residential treatment center. This safe, supportive setting allows the individual to fully focus on getting better without the daily distractions and triggers that have so far impeded that effort. Customized treatment plans will provide the most tailored, intensive treatment approach to healing from the traumatic event and getting one’s life back.

Elevation Behavioral Health Provides Trauma Counseling in a Residential Setting

Elevation Behavioral Health is a residential mental health program in Los Angeles, California. Trauma victims who have not yet been able to move through the residual emotional pain find that the safe, supportive setting of a residential program helps them heal. Leaving the reminders or triggers of the trauma by residing at Elevation Behavioral Health for a period, patients find much needed solace. Individualized treatment plans incorporate a combination of relevant interventions to allow patients to move past the painful memories and regain control over their lives within a compassionate environment. For more information about trauma counseling and treatment options, please reach out to Elevation Behavioral Health today at (888) 561-0868.

suboxone withdrawal timeline

Suboxone Withdrawal

Suboxone withdrawal can be painful, difficult, and long-lasting. Although the medication has proven useful for many people, the effects of coming off it can create a challenge.

What is Suboxone?

Suboxone® is the combination of buprenorphine and naloxone, and is used as a method of opioid replacement therapy. Initially introduced in the 1980’s, the mix of buprenorphine and naloxone helps to relieve symptoms of withdrawal from opioids. Whether an individual is withdrawing from Percocet, heroin, or morphine, Suboxone can be an effective aid in treating symptoms of withdrawal.

Buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist. It is a semi-synthetic opioid derived from thebaine, a compound found in the opium poppy. As a partial opioid agonist, buprenorphine reaches the opioid receptors in the brain and can ease symptoms of withdrawal without producing the strong high that may be experienced with full agonists like heroin or oxycodone.

Naloxone, the other compound in Suboxone, effectively blocks the effects of opioids. When taking naloxone, somebody may use opioids but will not experience the euphoria or high normally produced. In addition to being a part of Suboxone, naloxone is sold as Narcan. Narcan is an injection given to those suffering from opioid overdose, and can reverse the effects of an overdose. When taken with buprenorphine, naloxone prevents a user from getting high from taking opioids.

Generally speaking, Suboxone is prescribed while an individual is coming off an opioid drug. Some individuals take it for a few days, while others may stay on it for months or years. Although the addiction treatment community seems to have varying opinions on it, current research on Suboxone suggests it to be an effective form of treatment.

What Causes Withdrawals?

Withdrawals begin when somebody stops taking Suboxone or lowers their dose. Because an individual has been taking the drug regularly, the brain has grown accustomed to functioning with it present. Lowering your dose can bring withdrawal symptoms, and you may go through Suboxone withdrawal cold turkey if you stop taking it completely. Withdrawal occurs because your brain is adapting to working without the substance present. This can cause a variety of symptoms in the brain and the physical body.

Symptoms of Withdrawal

Symptoms of Suboxone withdrawal may vary greatly. Each person has an individual case, and symptoms are dependent on the length of use, the individual’s health and body weight, and what dose they were taking. People who taper off Suboxone are likely to experience less severe symptoms than those that quit cold turkey. Symptoms of Suboxone withdrawal include:

  • Muscle stiffness and aches
  • Insomnia and daytime sleepiness
  • Indigestion and stomach aches
  • Anxiety and panic attacks
  • Irritability and anger
  • Fever, sweating, and chills
  • Headache and neck stiffness
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Nausea and vomiting

Suboxone Withdrawal Timeline

Suboxone withdrawal length may vary from individual to individual, and there are a variety of factors that may affect the timeline. These factors include how long the individual has been using, what their dose is, their individual weight and health, and the presence of any co-occurring disorders.

The general timeline of withdrawal from Suboxone looks like this:

  • 12-72 Hours

    During the first few days, symptoms generally get worse. They are likely to peak at around 72 hours after your last dose. During these first few days physical symptoms are generally at their worst, and the individual may experience nausea, vomiting, and sweating.

  • 3-7 Days

    During the following few days, an individual will likely experience muscle pain and aches. They also may experience difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep. Mood swings and depression may begin to arise during this first week.

  • 1-2 Weeks

    This period will generally see the symptoms begin to subside. Physical pain will improve, nausea and vomiting will subside, and the body will regain some energy. However, the person may begin to experience severe cravings and mood swings.

  • 2-4 Weeks

    Post-acute withdrawal symptoms may continue for a few weeks. During these weeks, an individual may find themselves experiencing intense cravings, bouts with depression, and irregular sleeping patterns. Because of dopamine depletion, the person may have difficulty experiencing joy or pleasure from normally pleasurable activities for weeks or months.

Suboxone Detox and Treatment

Suboxone is an opioid, and coming off it by yourself can be quite uncomfortable. Many people who try to detox from Suboxone at home end up relapsing due the the discomfort of withdrawal symptoms,, and it’s imperative you receive professional help in coming off the substance. At a medically-managed detox facility, trained clinicians and doctors will help you to come off Suboxone in the most comfortable and safe manner possible.

If you’re wondering how to deal with Suboxone withdrawal, we strongly recommending reaching out for help. At an addiction treatment center, you will be offered medical care, clinical attention, and a set of tools to get off Suboxone and live a healthy life in recovery. Call us today at (888) 561-0868.

alcohol withdrawal timeline

Alcohol Withdrawal Timeline, Symptoms and Treatment

Alcohol is a widely-used substance, and may create both psychological and physical dependence. When dependence develops, an individual will experience withdrawal symptoms upon removing alcohol from the body. Withdrawal from alcohol can be severely uncomfortable and even dangerous in some cases. It’s important to understand the risks of cold-turkey alcohol withdrawal and how to find appropriate help to keep yourself safe through the detoxification process.

Alcohol Consumption in the United States

Alcohol is consumed by a little over half of Americans age twelve and over, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Alcohol is the most used substance in the United States, with over 55% of people 26 and over consuming alcohol in a given month. Although many people do not develop a problem with alcohol, an estimated 6.2% of American adults suffer from alcohol use disorder. According the same statistics on alcohol consumption, over a quarter of American adults engage in binge drinking behavior in a given month.

Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

The symptoms of alcohol withdrawal vary depending upon the individual’s case. The most common symptoms of alcohol withdrawal are:

  • Tremors and shaking
  • Fevers and sweating
  • Anxiety and irritation
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Headache and muscle soreness
  • Insomnia
  • Appetite changes
  • Cravings for alcohol

Alcohol impacts the GABA receptors in the brain. GABA receptors are the main inhibitors of the central nervous system, the system in your body responsible for calming you and bringing you down. When you go through the detox process, your body essentially responds with agitation in the same system. Instead of calming, the body can become tense, irritated, anxious, and generally functioning poorly. In more severe cases, alcohol withdrawal can lead to seizures and coma, ultimate resulting in death.

Detox Timeline

Like the withdrawal from any other substance, alcohol detox happens in stages. the timeline of alcohol withdrawal symptoms may depend on your individual case, but it will follow a general path based on the half-life of alcohol in the body.

  • First 24 Hours

    During the first day after your drink, you’re likely to experience some anxiety, cravings for alcohol, and agitation. You may also experience intestinal discomfort and nausea. These may be symptoms very similar to a hangover, and may be worse than your normal hangover if you continue to not drink. The first day is difficult and a crucial period as many people seek alcohol out in order to manage symptoms of withdrawal.

  • First Couple Days

    After the first 24 hours, symptoms may worsen. During the first few days, additional symptoms may develop. You may experience things like increased blood pressure, sweating and fevering, depression and loss of energy, mood swings, and cognitive problems with memory and attention. During this period, individuals may develop physical symptoms that can be dangerous if unmanaged. It’s important to have trained physicians and clinicians observing you to manage the symptoms you are experiencing.

  • Alcohol Withdrawal Day 3 and 4

    People who go through alcohol detox often cite the third day of alcohol withdrawal as the worst. This is a time in which symptoms are likely to peak in severity, and many people relapse during this period. The good news is that if you can make it through this period, symptoms are likely to diminish.

  • 3 Days – 2 Weeks

    During the next week or so, symptoms will generally decrease. However, this is the period in which life-threatening withdrawal symptoms may arise in more severe cases of alcohol abuse. Users may experience delirium tremens, hallucinations, fever, mental confusion, and periods of intense agitation. Mood disturbances and fits of anger may occur.

Alcohol Addiction Treatment

Many people are able to drink alcohol normally, but those that develop an addiction may put themselves at risk. Alcoholism can be deadly, cause a lot of pain for individuals and their family members, and cause long-lasting effects on the mind and body. After going through the withdrawal process, it’s crucial to continue treatment for alcoholism. Moving on to a residential treatment center like Elevation Behavioral Health increases your chance at staying sober in the long-run.

It’s important to find the right help. You may want to consider if you need dual diagnosis treatment, medically-assisted detox, and/or long-term care. Although the medical and clinical communities have developed standards of care for alcohol addiction treatment, each person has an individual set of experiences and individual needs. As such, it’s crucial to find treatment that fits your specific needs in order to receive the best possible care and get the best chances at building a life in recovery.

Klonopin Withdrawal Symptoms

Klonopin® is the trade name of clonazepam, a benzodiazepine approved by the FDA to treat seizure disorders and anxiety disorders. Klonopin was patented in the 1960’s and became available in the US in 1975. Since then, it has become a commonly abused recreational drug for its relaxing effects.

How Does Clonazepam Work?

Clonazepam increases gamma amino-butyric acid in the brain, which is more commonly known as GABA. The neurotransmitter works by inhibiting the central nervous system, creating a sense of ease, comfort, and muscle relaxation. Because it acts on the GABA receptors, withdrawal and detox from clonazepam can be quite uncomfortable and physically dangerous.

Klonopin has a longer half-life than many other benzodiazepines. The half-life of a drug is how long it stays in your system, and clonazepam’s is over twice as long as the related drug alprazolam (Xanax®). This makes clonazepam better suited for longer term care of anxiety disorders, and alprazolam more effective in short-term interventions. However, the long half-life leads to a long withdrawal process as it can take weeks or months for the drug to leave the system completely.

Like all benzodiazepines, Klonopin has a very high risk for abuse and addiction. The body becomes increasingly resistant to its effects, which prompts the individual to ingest higher or more frequent doses of the drug to achieve the desired effects. Over time, the brain will adapt to the chemical response to the Klonopin, eventually causing the individual to become chemically dependent on the drug. Klonopin is both psychologically and physically addictive.

Klonopin Withdrawal

Klonopin withdrawal can be serious or fatal if not treated properly. As such, it is not advisable to stop taking clonazepam “cold turkey.” Generally, your doctor will wean you off the drug slowly over time in order to minimize discomfort and danger. It’s important to come off benzodiazepines correctly in order to maintain your health and comfort.

Klonopin Withdrawal Symptoms

The severity of symptoms in withdrawing from clonazepam depends largely on the individual. Factors in severity of withdrawal symptoms include amount of use, length of use, the individual’s health, and the presence of any co-occurring disorders.

Klonopin withdrawal symptoms may include:

  • Headache
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Hallucinations and/or nightmares
  • Memory loss/lapses
  • Irritability and mood swings
  • Anxiety and panic
  • High blood pressure
  • Impaired motor control
  • Depression, fatigue, and lack of motivation
  • Seizures

Psychological Symptoms of Withdrawal

Like the withdrawal process from many substances, coming off Klonopin can cause intense psychological symptoms. An individual coming off this benzodiazepine may experience waking hallucinations, intense nightmares, pervasive sadness, heightened anxiety and panic, severe drug cravings, and bouts of anger or rage.

Those detoxing from Klonopin use are at a heightened risk of suicidal ideations. Along with the previously mentioned psychological symptoms that may arise, this makes Klonopin withdrawal a dangerous process to go through alone. With proper medical attention and therapeutic care, these psychological symptoms can be eased in order to help the person detox with minimal discomfort.

Physical Symptoms of Withdrawal

As clonazepam impacts the GABA receptors in the brain, the withdrawal process is physically dangerous as well. When suddenly ceasing Klonopin use, an individual may experience headaches, nausea, shaking, irregular sleep patterns, heightened blood pressure, dizziness, muscle tension and spasms, and irregular bowel movements.

In addition, more severe cases of Klonopin withdrawal can result in the individual having seizures or falling into a coma. It’s important to know that the detox process can be incredibly dangerous and fatal. The physical symptoms of withdrawal make it imperative that you seek professional medical help when coming off Klonopin.

Klonopin Withdrawal Timeline

Because Klonopin is a long-acting benzodiazepine, the withdrawal process takes time and patience. Generally, withdrawal symptoms begin arising 2 or 3 days after the last use, which is when it begins to leave your system. During this time, an individual is likely to experience anxiety, insomnia, heightened blood pressure, fatigue, and mental confusion or memory lapses. During this period, the cravings for more clonazepam are often strong.

After a couple weeks, the acute withdrawal symptoms generally begin to subside. However, an individual may experience continued physical and psychological discomfort for weeks or months after. The longer-term withdrawal symptoms are often more mild, but may include anxiety, irregular sleeping patterns, and increased sensitivity to stress.

The timeline of withdrawal depends on the nature of the use and the individual’s biology. The longer you used Klonopin, the more likely you are to experience a lengthy withdrawal process.

Klonopin Withdrawal Help

If you or somebody you know is coming off Klonopin, it is crucial to seek help. Without professional help, Klonopin withdrawal can be lethal. In addition to the physical dangers, the cravings from withdrawing can be overwhelming and lead the person to abruptly stop the detox process and revert to the Klonopin.

Unfortunately, Klonopin withdrawal needs to be monitored by professionals even if you’ve been taking it as prescribed. With a trained medical team, you can come off clonazepam and stay completely safe. At a quality treatment center or detox, you may be treated with medications, constant monitoring of vital signs, and therapy. This level of care helps ensure your safety and comfort throughout this difficult process.

Comprehensive Treatment for Klonopin Dependency

Some may be so happy to have successfully completed the Klonopin detox and withdrawal process that they make the mistake of thinking they do not need addiction treatment. While that is understandable, it would be a significant misstep in the goal to remain Klonopin-free. This is because the drug is psychologically addicting, and has resulted in a thought-behavior response that keeps the individual hostage to the addiction cycle.

Overcoming a Klonopin addiction relies heavily on changing those distorted thought and behavior patterns. This is only achieved through a structured rehab program using evidence-based therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and others. The individual in recovery must replace their response to triggers with new healthy responses, and this process takes time, practice, and patience. CBT, combined with several other treatment elements within a comprehensive program, provide the interventions needed to achieve a sustained recovery from Klonopin addiction.

An integrative rehab program will include the following:

Psychotherapy: The centerpiece of addiction treatment is evidence-based psychotherapy. These one-on-one talk therapy sessions are essential in helping patients examine the underlying factors that may be contributing to the substance abuse.

Group therapy: Peer support is an important aspect of establishing trust bonds that can foster a source of mutual support while in treatment. In group therapy, the members of the small group will be invited to openly share their personal feelings and experiences with the others, while under the guidance of a clinician.

Family therapy: Addiction can significantly impact the family dynamic, causing broken trust, financial troubles, and codependency. Family group therapy helps family members address any frustrations or ask questions about how best to support their loved one’s recovery.

Dual diagnosis treatment: Klonopin is often prescribed for patients with an anxiety disorder. When treating the individual for the Klonopin addiction it is important to also address the co-occurring anxiety disorder at the same time for the best recovery result.

Complimentary therapies: Treatment of a Klonopin dependency will be enhanced when complimentary therapies are added to the treatment protocol. Holistic and experiential therapies can help patients learn techniques to help regulate the stress response associated with benzodiazepine addiction. These activities are included in treatment to help reduce anxiety, which can in effect augment treatment results. After the patient has completed treatment, they are able to access these same therapies and incorporate them into their aftercare plan. The activities may include yoga, meditation, art or music therapy, acupuncture, massage therapy, mindfulness exercises, equine therapy, journaling, and aromatherapy.

Continuing care planning: Completion of a comprehensive rehabilitation program is the first important step on the recovery journey, but just as important is the continuing care planning that will follow treatment. Recovery exists on a continuum, meaning that ongoing efforts will help ensure that recovery is sustained over time. These measures can include scheduling weekly therapy sessions, living in a sober living home during the early months of recovery, and participation in a recovery community.

Many of us in recovery can tell you from experience that trying to get sober on your own rarely works. In fact, many of us tried this before we finally turned to some kind of help. When I was first thinking about getting sober I tried only going to AA meetings. When this didn’t work for me I tried going to only therapy. When I failed again, I finally realized that I needed more help and support. I checked myself into inpatient treatment where I went to regular recovery meetings, had individual and group therapy, and the support of so many people around me. My recovery started working when I became willing to get help from other people. Getting support didn’t mean that I was too weak to do it on my own. It just meant that I realized I didn’t need to make things harder on myself.
eightelevate

1. Longer Programs Produce Better Results

One big reason not to go at it on your own is that the longer someone stays in treatment the more positive the results. The National Institute on Drug Abuse recommends a program of at least 90 days of inpatient treatment. In fact, one of the biggest obstacles in inpatient treatment is people dropping out. People who chose to stay in these programs and stay longer often do better than people who leave or go to a shorter program. Psychological research has supported this claim. A 2006 study by Moos & Moos found that those who got help were more likely than those who didn’t to stay sober for at least three years.

2. Addiction Treatment Requires Follow Up

According to the National Institute of Heath, treatment for addiction requires continual follow up and monitoring. This is true of any chronic disorder or disease. For example, if you were suffering from diabetes you might need to be hospitalized and work closely with a doctor until everything stabilized. After that you might step down to regular check ins with the doctor and monitoring your own blood sugar. The same kind of care is needed for addiction. Going to inpatient treatment then following a step down program like intensive outpatient and sober living allows people to have more follow up support in recovery. Follow up like this gives people a big network of people to reach out to when they need help or aren’t doing well.

3. Different Things Work for Different People

Another reason to get support in your early recovery is that different things work for different people. Maybe you know someone who is sober and know what they did in order to start their recovery. The problem is that what works for one person won’t work for everyone. Addiction, treatment, and recovery are not one size fits all. The 1998 MATCH study found that recovery rates depended on matching personal characteristics with the correct type of recovery program for them. In some cases this meant an emphasis on 12 step treatment but for others it meant cognitive behavioral therapy. Although this research is a little dated, the findings still hold true. When finding help for addiction it is important to find the right kind of help. Rather than going it on your own it can be important to reach out to someone who can help you find the right kind of facility or program for you.

4. More is Better

Another reason to get support in your recovery is that doing different recovery activities has an additive effect according to research by Hillhouse, PhD. This means that treatment plus a twelve step program is better than just treatment on its own. Rather than trying to recover from drug an alcohol addiction with self-help books, it is better to do everything that you can. Going to treatment or only attending only AA meetings might work for some people but for most people it is better to do more. This is also a great reason to check out more than one step-based recovery program, have individual and group therapy, and to have a sponsor and a therapist. All of these different recovery activities will help with something different, so do as many as you’re able to!

5. Recovery is More than Abstinence

It is true that recovery often begins with abstinence from drugs, alcohol, or process addictions. However, recovery is much more than abstinence. According to the NIH effective treatment attends to multiple needs of the individual, not just substance use. It might be possible to stop drinking or doing drugs on your own. However, it is much harder to deal with the underlying causes of the addiction without any help. The reason that so many people turn to professionals for help is that they can treat the root of the problem. Often drug and alcohol abuse is a symptoms of an underlying issue that is unresolved. By getting support you can get help staying clean and feeling better as well.

6. Self-Detox can be Dangerous

This is a huge reason to get support in your recovery. It can be risky and even life threatening to stop taking drugs or alcohol without assistance. The National Center for Biotechnology Information has published research that withdrawal from alcohol and benzodiazepines has caused death in some patients. Klonopin withdrawal, for example, may cause seizures, high blood pressure, and suicidal ideations. Due to the dangers of self-detox it is recommended that people who are trying to come off of drugs or alcohol get help doing so.

7. Medication Might be Necessary

Aside from a medically assisted detox, some people need medication throughout recovery. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration favors what is called medication-assisted treatment. This might not be necessary for all people but some do require medication. For example, during treatment someone might discover that they have an underlying depression or anxiety disorder. If this is the case the treatment plan might include medication. It is very hard if not impossible to get the proper medication if you do not have support from a doctor in your recovery.

8. You’ll Get Help in Other Areas

My final reason to reach out for support is that most treatment programs will help you find a job, go back to school, and find housing when you’re ready. Perhaps you can find a reputable sober companion to work with. As I have said more than once in this post, recovery is about more than just not drinking and using. Having this help to find work or pursue your passion can be incredibly helpful when you are going through a period of change. When you try to get sober by yourself there is no one there to help you navigate these life changes.

 



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.2The 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. Regular exercise keeps energy flowing throughout the body, which enhances its stress reducing properties.
  • 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 due to increased levels of the brain chemicals dopamine and serotonin.
  • 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. Engaging in a competitive sport, or just setting your own fitness goals leads to feelings of accomplishment, which also improve feelings of self-confidence.
  • 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. Science has found that people who exercise have sharper cognitive functioning and better ability to concentrate.
  • 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. The anxiety-reducing effects of even just a brisk daily walk can be highly beneficial to individuals in recovery.
  • Boost Brainpower. More than merely preventing decline, studies have shown that cardiovascular exercise can create new brain cells and improve overall brain performance. Some studies show that the brain volume in those who exercise regularly is greater than in those who do not.
  • Regular workouts increase levels of a protein known as BDNF. This is believed to help with the executive functions of the brain, such as 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, while providing a new, healthy reward pathway.
  • 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. Those who get a higher quality of sleep tend to function better during their daytime activities, have a more positive frame of mind, and have better emotional self-regulation.
  • 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. Exercise increases stamina and strength, increasing energy levels that benefit the individual throughout the day.

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.

Journaling also helps with stress relief. Just putting down on paper the emotions being experienced in recovery can give them a place to reside, other than rattling around in one’s head. Think of journaling as a repository for thoughts, feelings, hopes, dreams, and goals. A place to safely unload all the things that might be taking up too much space in one’s head.

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.

One such therapy is mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT). This is a type of CBT that utilizes the mindfulness training so important in cultivating a healthy mind-body connection. MBCT is based on Jon Kabat-Zinn’s mindfulness stress reduction program, and has been found useful in treating individuals in addiction recovery. MBCT combines the concepts of CBT, which involve reframing dysfunctional thought patterns that lead to self-destructive behaviors, with meditative practices.

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, as well as nutritional deficiencies, 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 to the brain and the body.

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.

Examples of nutritious meal options that enhance both psychological and physical healing and wellbeing include:

  • Lean protein sources
  • Omega 3 fatty acids
  • Whole grains
  • Fresh vegetables and fruits
  • Nuts, seeds, and legumes

Limiting caffeine, sugary beverages, sugary treats, and processed foods will also improve overall health.

Other Holistic Activities

Any activity that fosters feelings of serenity will benefit someone in recovery. Adding these activities into the weekly or daily wellness routine can augment the effects of psychotherapy and other recovery activities. Holistic activities help to cement the positive effects of sobriety by providing ongoing coping tools that can be accessed as needed.

Other holistic activities or therapies might include:

  • Massage therapy. A relaxation massage helps muscles release the toxins that build up in the body due to daily stress and worry
  • Acupuncture. The use of tiny needles on specific areas of the body help open up blocked energy, leading to stress reduction and reduced cravings
  • Equine therapy. Being involved in the care, feeding, and exercising of a horse is an excellent source of accountability, leading to improved self-confidence. Bonding with a horse is also deeply satisfying on an emotional level
  • Gardening therapy. Being outdoors provides sun exposure that translates to increased vitamin D, which benefits mood. The process of cultivating plants, vegetables, or flowers is rewarding, giving one a sense of accomplishment
  • Aromatherapy. Essential oils can be used topically or inhaled through vapors to induce relaxation and reduce stress
  • Hypnotherapy. A hypnotherapist can guide the individual toward changing negative thoughts and replacing them with affirming thoughts and behaviors
  • Guided meditation. These audio files are available on apps or downloads and offer a soothing voice to guide one into a meditative state, which induces relaxation.

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 as they progress in their recovery journey.

Sources:

  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
Dual Diagnosis Treatment Who Can Benefit

The term dual diagnosis refers to a condition in which a person has both a mental illness and a substance abuse disorder simultaneously. Each condition worsens the other, intensifying symptoms and complicating recovery.

A dual diagnosis approach offers integrated treatment options, which significantly improves outcomes over traditional therapy approaches that do not differentiate the two conditions.

Diversity of Dual Disorders

Even though studies may group people together when they suffer from mental illnesses and addictions, most treatment providers agree that there is no single type of dual disorder. As a broad category, dual diagnosis involves a host of different possible illnesses and conditions.

From mild depression to severe bipolar disorder, any mental illnesses recognized by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders can be part of a dual diagnosis when combined with substance abuse. These mental disorders become increasingly complex when a person suffering from the illness also abuses drugs or alcohol. Therefore, such situations warrant a dual diagnosis and a simultaneous treatment protocol.

The symptoms people experience vary greatly depending on the mental illness involved. Some forms of psychiatric illness can impair an individual’s ability to function on a daily basis, while another mental illness might only cause periodic impairment.

When substance abuse is added to the mix, the nature of dual disorders becomes even more diverse. For example, depending on the particular substance being abused, a person may feel sedated and calm, while another person may feel energized or paranoid. Both patients could have a dual diagnosis, but their disease modalities are unique, so the specific treatment paths would also be different.

Importance of Integrated Treatment

For the reasons noted above, effective treatment for individuals with a dual diagnosis necessarily involves an integrated treatment plan. This means that both conditions—the mental disorder and the addiction—will be treated at the same time.

If only one problem is treated at a time, it leaves the other problem in place. Since the two conditions aggravate each other, there is an elevated risk for continued imbalance that may severely impair recovery. For real, lasting improvement and healing to occur, both issues must be addressed together.

Effective integrated treatment can involve inpatient or outpatient programs, depending on the nature and severity of the symptoms. Both types of programs typically include the following features:

  • Parallel treatment of mental health and substance use disorders
  • Balanced use of psychotherapeutic medications, such as anti-depressants or anti-anxiety meds
  • Group and/or individual therapy that builds self-confidence and restores self-esteem
  • Ongoing recovery strategy, including education, as well as the involvement of partners, spouses, children and family members

Reaping the Benefits of Dual Diagnosis Treatment

A study in The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse found that many with a dual diagnosis had related issues that significantly impacted the quality of their lives. In addition to the symptoms inherent to their illnesses, they experienced things like:

  • Poor family and social relationships
  • Undesirable living arrangements
  • A history of arrest
  • Previous psychiatric hospitalizations
  • A history of abusing multiple drugs

Anyone struggling with the compound symptoms of co-occurring disorders could benefit from a dual diagnosis treatment. Integrated treatment offers better outcomes for severe cases of addiction, including users of multiple substances and users with severe forms of mental illness, such as schizophrenia.

People with a dual diagnosis frequently need more intensive help in order to achieve sobriety. The diversity and effectiveness of integrated treatment offers the understanding care and specialized assistance they need.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment What Is It

For a long time, people experiencing the symptoms of mental health disorders where treated separately from those needing help with drug or alcohol abuse. Mental illnesses were sometimes ignored or those with overlapping conditions were frequently denied treatment for their psychiatric disorders until the substance abuse was under control.

This began to change in the 1990s with the advent of dual diagnosis treatment. This relatively new concept in addiction recovery involves recognizing that someone can experience mental illness and substance abuse simultaneously.

Determining the Dual Diagnosis

Although dual diagnosis is a broad category, there are two key factors involved in determining whether the diagnosis is warranted.

An individual must meet the criteria for mental illness as defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). The DSM is an official guideline for mental health professionals and is used for diagnosing and treating patients. A dual diagnosis also requires symptoms of drug or alcohol addiction or abuse.

In other words, someone experiencing a mental health condition could be using drugs to self-medicate, in an effort to improve their troubling mental health symptoms. On the other hand, if someone is abusing drugs, they could trigger or intensify an underlying mental health condition.

The diagnosis does not require identifying which of these issues developed first; it only requires that both be present.

Co-Occurring Symptoms and Dual Diagnosis

When both a mental health illness and a substance use disorder coexist, they are referred to as co-occurring disorders. People with mental health disorders are more likely to experience an alcohol or substance use disorder than are those without mental health disorders.

According to information from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the National Alliance of Mental Illness, the frequency of co-occurring disorders is significant:

  • Approximately 7.9 million adults had co-occurring disorders in 2014.
  • About one third of people experiencing mental illnesses also experience substance abuse.
  • About fifty percent of those living with severe mental illnesses also experience substance abuse.
  • Men are more likely to develop co-occurring disorders than women.
  • Military veterans, individuals with lower socioeconomic status and people with general medical illnesses have particularly high risk for co-occurring disorders.

Dual diagnosis is a relatively new approach for identifying and treating people with these co-occurring disorders. Unlike times in the past, where one set of symptoms may have been ignored or left untreated, individuals with co-occurring disorders can now receive integrated treatment.

With a dual diagnosis, practitioners can address mental and substance use disorders at the same time, creating better outcomes for their patients.

Benefits of Dual Diagnosis

Although there are numerous variables for treating someone with a dual diagnosis, it commonly involves an integrated intervention. In this treatment, the patient receives care for both the substance abuse and any identified mental illness.

Addiction often has to do with trauma, anxiety, depression and chemical imbalances in the brain. Those struggling with addiction frequently try to relieve their own pain through drugs or alcohol.

But if they have struggled with an undiagnosed mental illness, getting a dual diagnosis can bring great relief. Identifying a specific mental condition that may be contributing to the substance abuse can give a tremendous sense of hope and open new doors for effective treatment.

Mental disorders and addiction have multiple underlying causes, but dual diagnosis treatment deals with these simultaneously, enabling a full and lasting recovery.