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Dual diagnosis is defined as a comorbid condition where a person suffers from both a mental health disorder and a substance abuse problem. This type of health condition is extremely common, as 50% of substance abusers are diagnosed with at least one mental health disorder.

Why Someone with a Mental Illness Develops an Addiction

One of the main causes behind the development of a chemical dependency for someone with a mental disorder is the act of trying to self-medicate. When traditional medication is not working, or the disorder is going untreated, people are more likely to find a solution on their own. Some of the reasons for substance abuse related to self-medication can include:

Relaxation – Most disorders, such as anxiety, insomnia or schizophrenia can cause a person to feel that their head is always spinning. They might become wound so tightly as a result that they will try different methods of relaxation just to help ease the symptoms, including experimentation with drugs.

Control – Certain types of psychosis such as bipolar or personality disorders are likely to make a person feel out of control when it comes to their thoughts and emotions. This lack of control can lead to difficulties in social settings, in the workplace and at home, making the person feel overall inadequate. Substance abuse might begin to appeal to a person in this situation, as he might feel that he can begin to quiet his emotions all while building a sense of courage, even if it is false.

Avoidance – Some people have experienced situations that have aided in the development of discovery of their mental disorder. These situations, as well as instances related to their mental state can often times stir up negative emotions related to a user’s less than positive experiences in the past. By self-medicating, a user can work to block out any discomfort they are experiencing as a result of their mental disorder.

How Self-Medication Causes Chemical Dependency

When a person is self-medicating their mental health issues through substance abuse, he is more likely to experience a chemical dependency to the substance he is using. This chemical dependency will occur because of the following:

Neurotransmitter confusion – As a substance is being abused and enters into the brain, it will fire off neurotransmitters that send a message to the user that what they are doing feels good. This signal encourages continual use, and the longer the use continues, the more the brain will begin to rely on the substance to stimulate these neurotransmitters as opposed to doing so naturally.

Chemistry changes – Using substances that cause chemical dependency will lead to a change in the make-up of the user’s brain chemistry. The user will likely begin experiencing mood changes including aggression and euphoria that impact their daily lives. If the drug ceases to be administered, these changes will only become worse unless otherwise treated, encouraging continual substance abuse.

When a person is diagnosed with a mental disorder, it is important that they understand the heightened risk it puts them at for developing a chemical dependency problem. La Ventana Treatment Programs specializes in treating dual diagnosis.  Clients work with licensed therapists who specialize in working with addiction and treating the underlying issues.

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