A common question for dual diagnosis treatment is: Which one of the co-occurring disorders should be treated first? Addiction is a mental illness, but often the underlying causes of it are due to another mental health issue. Many people with undiagnosed mental health issues turn to substance abuse as a form of self-medication. The substance abuse eventually leads to addiction.
For example, someone with anger issues or high anxiety might decide to use opiates as they have a calming and sedative effect. Someone with depression might choose stimulant drugs like cocaine or amphetamines in order to feel more energetic and alive. These people might feel like they’re helping themselves by countering their symptoms. Unfortunately, drug abuse or alcohol abuse eventually makes these symptoms worse.
Mental health and addiction are ultimately two sides of the same coin. Integrative therapy after a dual diagnosis means that mental health is addressed during and after physical treatments for substance abuse, such as detox. Even when a person’s body is freed of the addictive substance, the underlying reasons for the addiction still remain. If the underlying reasons include undiagnosed mental illness, then that is the next step of mental health treatment.
Sometimes people become addicted to drugs or alcohol without prior mental illness, but they may still need therapy to address the trauma or stress that led them to substance abuse.