Dual Diagnosis and the Most Common Links to Addiction

» Posted by on Sep 23, 2015 in Alpha Blog | 0 comments

Dual Diagnosis and the Most Common Links to Addiction

Addiction is not usually a singular disease.   The majority of addicts have a dual diagnosis, meaning they have a mental health condition in addition to their addiction. Often times, people use drugs or alcohol to self-medicate their mental health symptoms. For example someone with anxiety may feel like alcohol allows them to act more “normal” and not as standoffish. While this tactic may work temporarily, using a substance like alcohol to tame an imbalance in your emotions is somewhat counterintuitive considering the side effects that come with drinking. In fact, many addicts have mental health conditions because of their addictions. Drugs and alcohol have a strong physiological effect on the body, so it makes sense that they can cause other problems when abused.

Below are the most common dual diagnosis conditions when presenting with addiction, and what the addicts do to find relief from their symptoms.

  • Bipolar Disorder and alcohol or cocaine. This condition results in extreme mood and energy shifts between depression and mania. These symptoms can be extremely frustrating for an individual. To control this, they may use alcohol when in a manic (extreme excitement, energy, impulsiveness) to try to relax during these periods. Conversely in a period of Depression (extreme sadness, hopelessness, low energy) the addict may turn to cocaine for the feeling of extra energy and euphoria.  Trying to control bipolar disorder by using substances like these will typically result in exacerbated symptoms and more frequent shifts between mania and depression.

  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and alcohol, benzodiazepines, or sleeping pills. This condition is caused or triggered by an extremely traumatic event in an individuals life, and results in nightmares, anxiety, flashbacks, nervousness, and emotional detachment. Substances that allow the individual to relax or fall asleep are typically abused. Using substances does nothing to treat or improve the emotional trauma that causes the disorder, therefore it only prolongs its symptoms resulting in a vicious cycle.


  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and alcohol,stimulant drugs or prescription drugs. This condition results in a persistant lack of focus and increased inattention combined with  hyperactive and often impulsive behaviors.  Symptoms can include being easily distracted, the inability to complete tasks, constant tardiness, and obsessive or addictive tendencies. Typically using alcohol or stimulant drugs result in the individual feeling calmed or “slowed down”. In the case of someone with ADHD, the stimulant will result in a feeling of relaxation rather than the typical feeling of elevated energy that  someone without ADHD would experience.  Also the drugs that are used to treat ADHD, most commonly Ritalin and Adderall, can be extremely addictive themselves.


  • Anxiety and alcohol and benzodiazepines. Anxiety results in excessive stress and worry, panic, and the inability to sit still. These symptoms can often be so strong that they impact the individual’s life negatively. Alcohol and benzodiazepines allow the individual to feel periods of relaxation, or to calm their racing mind. They often continue to use the substances to maintain the feeling and to avoid the discomfort of anxiety.


  • Depression and alcohol. This condition results in continuous feelings of sadness, hopelessness, worthlessness, fatigue, and extreme apathy. Individuals will abuse alcohol in order to mask these conditions. Alcohol also contributes to a “numbing” of the symptoms. This self-medicating is extremely dangerous, because alcohol abuse actually makes the symptoms of depression even worse once the individual starts to sober up.

These are just a few of the mental conditions that are typically diagnosed with an addiction. The reason for using the substance in the first place is generally to control or subdue the symptoms of the the mental health condition. There are safe ways to address and treat mental conditions that will have a positive outcome rather than just masking the symptoms. Meeting with a therapist can help you get a handle on your emotional problems, and allow you to start to regain control of your emotions and your life. The therapists at Alpha Counseling are here to offer you support and help you through your journey. Contact us today to ask any questions you may have, or to schedule your first appointment!

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