Mental Health Disorders and Addiction Treatment

Too often, drug addiction is regarded as a character flaw, a sign of personal weakness, or an arbitrary choice. As new research emerges and public awareness rises, however, addiction is increasingly becoming recognized as a chronic brain disorder that requires specialized medical care. When addiction occurs alongside a mental health disorder, that care must take the form of dual diagnosis treatment to ensure the full scope of your needs is addressed.

Mental Health Disorders and Drug Addiction


Mental health disorders can take many forms, and include both temporary conditions and chronic, lifelong illnesses. While the specific symptoms, duration, and intensity of mental health disorders may vary from person to person, all types of mental health disorders can cause overwhelming emotional distress and behavioral dysfunction, interfering with your ability to live a healthy and stable life. Unfortunately, part of this behavioral dysfunction often includes drug abuse, as you seek to alleviate painful symptoms, lose the ability to exercise good judgment and self-control, become more prone to risk-taking, or any combination of the above. Simultaneously, research has shown that mental health disorders and drug addictions share overlapping genetic vulnerabilities and involve similar regions in the brain, increasing the likelihood of experiencing both conditions on a biological level. As a result, the presence of a mental health disorder is one of the most significant predictors of drug addiction; at least 20% of people with a psychiatric illness have a co-occurring substance use disorder, and for some diagnoses the number can be significantly higher.

While psychiatric symptoms brought on by substance use cannot be used to diagnose a mental illness, substance use can exacerbate existing symptoms. As symptoms worsen, the impetus toward substance abuse grows, often sparking a cycle of addiction and emotional suffering that can be extraordinarily difficult to break out of without professional intervention. Many people living with mental health disorders and co-occurring drug addiction experience serious internal barriers to accessing that intervention due to shame, fear of having to face their symptoms without drugs, or the inability to recognize their own illnesses.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment


Historically, mental health disorders and drug addiction have been treated as separate entities. This approach led to high relapse rates, as the underlying causes of addiction and the complex ways addiction and mental illness interact were not adequately addressed. As our understanding of these conditions and the relationship between them has grown, we now recognize that dual diagnosis treatment is necessary to achieve the best outcomes.

Dual diagnosis treatment seeks to treat both addiction and psychological distress simultaneously, to break through the bonds that create suffering and cause you to engage in self-destructive behaviors. The exact form this treatment takes will depend on the experiences of each person. Through in-depth psychological testing, your clinical team will be able to gain a complete picture of your individual situation, identifying your needs and strengths as well as establishing diagnostic clarity. This information will then be used to craft a personalized treatment plan that speaks to your unique circumstances in a way that is meaningful and relevant to you. Typically, this treatment plan includes multiple pathways to healing, allowing you to participate in a well-rounded curriculum of therapies that engage your mind, body, and spirit. The most effective therapeutic modalities for people struggling with mental health disorders and addiction include:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Psychodynamic Therapy
  • Experiential Therapy
  • Holistic Therapies
  • 12-step support groups

Pharmacological treatments often form an integral part of the treatment experience, either on a short-term or ongoing basis. It is vital that any medications are used judiciously to alleviate, not mask, symptoms and help you more fully engage in treatment. Because people with psychiatric illness and drug addiction often face special challenges when it comes to pharmacological interventions, it is of utmost importance that you work with a psychiatrist who specializes in addiction medicine to develop a safe and effective medication plan.

Dual diagnosis treatment gives you the opportunity to more fully understand your emotions and behaviors and allows you to develop the tools you need to reach deeper levels of insight into your own psyche. Simultaneously, you learn the practical skills you need to break out of damaging patterns that keep you from moving forward. Within a safe, supportive environment surrounded by compassionate clinicians and peers, you are able to give voice to your suffering, practice critical coping mechanisms, and rejuvenate your sense of possibility. If desired, your loved ones can be a part of your healing process through structured family programming that gives your family the guidance you need to mend your relationships and nourish your bonds to help you heal together.

Intensive treatment, however, is only the first step in the journey toward lasting wellness True healing requires more than 30 or 90 days in a treatment, it requires ongoing support and continuous recommitment to recovery. As such, it is imperative to seek out a treatment facility with a well-articulated continuing care program that will ensure that you have both the internal and external resources you need to stay on the path toward recovery with confidence and purpose. In doing so, you can continue to engage in the ongoing work of self-discovery and allow your authentic self to flourish.

If you would like more information about drug addiction and mental health disorders, or have any questions about dual diagnosis treatment, we encourage you to contact us at any time. We are always happy to offer support and guidance on your journey to sustainable healing.