Alcoholism and “Dual Diagnosis” Conditions
Unlike a disease such as a viral infection or a cardiovascular condition, beating addiction is not only a question of reducing some measurable parameter such as blood pressure or fever. Like obesity, not only the patient’s lifestyle has to change, but in a sense the patient himself, too.
Unfortunately, the behaviors associated with depression, bipolar disorder, chronic anxiety, and other mental health issues are not restricted to avoiding social interaction, struggling to perform at work, insomnia and so forth. When the mental and emotional strain of a psychological disorder becomes too great, many sufferers seek temporary release in the form of alcohol, which can easily become a habitual indulgence.
The Insidious Positive Feedback Loop of Dual Diagnosis Conditions
The term “dual diagnosis” is used when addiction coincides with and is caused by an underlying mental health issue such as bipolar disorder.
While a condition such as clinical depression is bad enough on its own, the situation is significantly more challenging when it results in addiction. It may take the form of substance abuse, but it can also be compulsive gambling or other destructive and uncontrollable habits. With two mental health issues feeding off and strengthening each other in this way, and the apparent relentless downward spiral is the imminent result. Not only can the physical effects of chemical dependence worsen the symptoms of the original illness, but the work-related and social consequences of addiction will also have a negative effect on the concrete circumstances of the individual’s life. In turn, a further impaired mental state makes substance abuse more likely, and so the cycle repeats.
Interrupting the interplay of substance abuse and mental issues is not as easy as taking a pill every few hours. Due to the interrelationship between the two conditions, addressing only one is rarely a successful intervention. Changing patterns of behavior is seldom painless, and even less so when a depressive or manic state is undermining a patient’s willpower. Escaping an unbearable mental state through alcohol is easy, whereas more permanent solutions will generally be much more difficult for the sufferer to pursue.
Conversely, any progress in one area has automatic benefits in the other. This is not to say that either problem can be viewed in isolation, but rather that a treatment strategy such as cognitive behavioral therapy that addresses the linkage between thought, emotion, and action, tends to be most effective in cases of dual diagnosis.
Considering all of the above, someone in a caregiver role should, when confronted with a case of alcoholism or other addiction, be willing to spend some time exploring the root of the problem. It will often turn out to be psychological in nature. Equally, monitoring the intake of alcoholic drinks, prescription opioids, and other neuro depressants should be an important factor in treating depression and other mental illnesses. Neglecting this approach makes a relapse on one of the conditions.