There’s a strong correlation between addiction, mental illness and trauma. People who experience one of these circumstances are significantly more likely to experience the other two.
That’s why when you’re looking for a drug or alcohol treatment program, it’s important to consider the staff’s ability to address co-occurring disorders, and whether they use a trauma-informed approach to addiction treatment.
Dual Diagnosis and Co-Occurring Disorders
Co-occurring disorders refer to a situation where a person suffers from multiple disorders at the same time. It’s common for people with addiction to have a co-occurring mental illness, such as depression, bipolar disorder, or PTSD.
Dual diagnosis is when a person is evaluated by a medical professional and found to have co-occurring disorders. Evaluating new clients for possible co-occurring disorders is standard practice for rehab centers that are qualified to treat dual diagnosis cases.
Mental health issues that commonly co-occur with substance abuse include:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Trauma (a more general term than PTSD but still very relevant)
- Bipolar disorder
- Other mood disorders and personality disorders
- Attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
The Link Between Addiction and Mental Health Disorders
Those suffering from mental health disorders are more likely to turn to addictive substances to alleviate the symptoms of their mental illness.
Addiction can also worsen the symptoms of mental illness, and even cause signs of mental illness to appear when there were none previously.
This is why it’s important to treat mental disorders and addiction at the same time, because failing to fix one problem can make it difficult to remedy the other.
The Link Between Addiction and Trauma
The link between trauma and addiction is also a two-way street: Trauma can lead to addiction, and addiction can lead to trauma.
Historically, trauma has often been ignored – by the victims, who are ashamed to admit to their victimization and trauma symptoms, and by those around them who prefer to avoid dealing with the difficult and dark issues that often lead to trauma.
But it’s dangerous to ignore trauma during substance abuse treatment. Without healing from trauma, the client will most likely relapse into addiction after leaving treatment.
In helping a client overcome trauma, it’s important that the treatment center staff know how to address the trauma without re-traumatizing the client. This is why choosing a rehab center that follows a trauma-informed approach is very important when selecting an addiction treatment program.
A Trauma-Informed Approach to Substance Abuse Treatment
A trauma-informed approach is not a specific program or therapy, but refers to the mindset and practices that support healthy recovery from trauma.
An addiction treatment program based on a trauma-informed approach will:
- Recognize the signs and symptoms of trauma in clients, as well as in families, staff and others that are affected by addiction
- Organize treatment and recovery around therapies that help clients heal from trauma, as well as addiction
- Actively seek to resist re-traumatization
- Have widespread policies and procedures designed to recognize trauma, treat it and prevent re-traumatization
If you or a loved one suffering from addiction are also impacted by trauma and/or mental illness, then be sure to find an addiction treatment center that is qualified in dual diagnosis and trauma-informed care.
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