Did you know that 17 million adults in America have both a substance use disorder and a co-occurring mental health condition? Also known as dual diagnosis, these issues can combine and reinforce each other in the worst ways. And when you’re trying to figure out how to stop drinking, that can create substantial roadblocks on the path to recovery.
However, there are specialized treatments that exist to treat dual diagnosis addiction and mental health issues. And when it comes to how to stop drinking with a co-occurring mental health issue, this kind of professional care can make all the difference.
But first, how do you know if you need specialized help to quit drinking? There are some major signs of co-occurring disorders that you should consider before delving into how to stop drinking.
Signs You Might Have Co-Occurring Disorders
Even if you’ve never been diagnosed with mental illness, you may still have an underlying disorder that’s making it hard for you to quit drinking. On average, people don’t get treatment for their mental illness until 11 years after their first symptoms, so you should not feel embarrassed or strange for not having received help yet. Here are some signs you might have a dual diagnosis:
- You drink to cope with negative feelings. Think about the reasons you drink alcohol. Do you drink in response to feelings of sadness, anger, or guilt? Do you drink before doing things that make you nervous or anxious? These are all signs of co-occurring disorders.
- You frequently feel unhappy when you’re sober. It’s normal to feel your mood change while you’re under the influence. But if being sober starts to consistently feel strange or uncomfortable, that is a serious sign that you have become so used to self-medicating that an alcohol addiction has formed.
- You have a family history of addiction and/or mental health issues. Both alcohol abuse and mental health disorders can be genetic. If someone in your family has struggled with alcohol or mental illness in the past, you could be at a higher risk for both addiction and mental health issues.
- You have struggled to quit drinking in the past. If you’ve had treatment for either alcohol abuse or mental illness in the past and did not recover, it could be because of an underlying mental health issue.
Why It’s Hard to Stop Drinking with a Dual Diagnosis
You may have followed advice or tips to quit drinking but didn’t get positive results. This may be because learning how to stop drinking when you have a mental health disorder presents many challenges. But before we discuss how to quit drinking with co-occurring disorders, it’s important to know what hurdles you should expect on the path to recovery. To that end, here are the most common difficulties you’ll face with dual diagnosis conditions.
Lack of a Mental Health Diagnosis
Around one in five American adults have a mental health disorder. But sadly, many of these issues go undiagnosed and untreated for years. And when an alcohol use disorder develops alongside a mental health issue, it can be easy to blame everything on the addiction and not see the underlying cause. This is because mental health symptoms are often hard to seperate from the effects of alcohol abuse, e.g. mood swings, sudden aggression, or long periods of sadness.
When it comes to how to stop drinking, this can create a serious hurdle, since traditional alcohol rehabilitation centers may not be able to meet your needs. It is still entirely possible to quit drinking, but you will likely need additional support.
Mental Illness Stigma
Over half of adults with mental illness don’t get treatment. And a common reason is because they’re afraid of how others will perceive them. Despite increasing acceptance of mental health disorders as serious conditions, there’s still a stigma attached to them. For that reason, one of the biggest challenges in how to quit drinking can be just talking about what you’re going through.
You might avoid talking about what you’re going through to avoid judgment from friends and family. Keeping your feelings to yourself can make things even worse. And when you internalize your mental health struggles, you may feel shame, guilt, and self-doubt. Unfortunately, this can make your symptoms grow stronger over time and lead to coping with alcohol.
Self-Medicating with Alcohol Complicates Symptoms
For individuals living with a mental health condition, coping skills are a crucial part of functioning well in daily life. But for those with undiagnosed or untreated co-occurring disorders, alcohol can become a substitute for healthy coping. But when it comes time to learn how to stop drinking, this can make sobriety harder for you to attain.
The problem with drinking to cope with mental health issues is that alcohol feeds mental illness. You might feel short-term relief, but over time your mental illness will get worse. As your symptoms get worse, so does your need to self-medicate with alcohol.
That’s why dual diagnosis is such a serious issue. The combination of addiction and mental illness makes both conditions more intense and harder to treat, especially if your provider does not know that there is a mental health concern.
Finding the Right Alcohol Addiction Treatment Is Difficult
Some addiction treatment centers may focus on treating your alcohol abuse without noticing mental health issues. And if you get treated for alcohol abuse but not for your mental health disorder, your mental health condition will continue after you leave treatment. This can greatly increase your risk of relapse, since you may not have spent time developing mental health coping skills while in rehab.
On the other hand, mental health professionals may be unequipped to address addiction issues. This kind of treatment may temporarily address the mental health issue, but without addiction counseling, your risk of relapse remains high. That is why it’s so important to find a treatment program that is specifically designed for co-occurring disorders.
How to Stop Drinking with Dual Diagnosis Care
The only way to effectively quit drinking with a mental health disorder is to enter a dual diagnosis program. These inpatient programs are carefully designed to treat addiction and mental illness at the same time.
At Baton Rouge Behavioral Hospital, our dual diagnosis program starts with an evaluation to identify any substance abuse and mental health issues. In this way, you can receive a full assessment and get an individualized care plan that is uniquely tailored to your situation. From there, our world-class staff will provide a variety of evidence-based therapies to help you get on the path to addiction and mental health recovery. Some of these may include:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) helps address negative automatic thoughts, which can both improve your mental health symptoms and lessen the urge to relapse.
- Group therapy gives you an opportunity to open up and work through your challenges with others who are going through a similar experience.
- Family therapy helps prepare you and your loved ones for life after treatment and help everyone work through the trauma that addiction and mental illness can cause.
- Recreational therapy introduces you to fun and healthy ways to manage stress and other negative emotions. Moreover, it also helps with developing essential life skills that can improve your overall quality of life.
- 12-step programming can help you start a program that you can continue long after completing treatment, which helps with lowering your risk of relapse.
At Baton Rouge Behavioral Hospital, you can get compassionate and understanding care for dual diagnosis in a supportive environment. Our doctors, therapists, nurses, and other essential care staff have decades of experience helping people overcome alcohol addiction and lead healthy, fulfilling lives. Call one of our admissions specialists at 225-300-8470, or fill out our confidential contact form if you’re ready enroll in an addiction treatment program and learn how to stop drinking.