Alcoholism and Depression: Understanding Comorbidity

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Unless you struggle with an alcohol use disorder yourself, it can be almost impossible to understand the plight that addiction to alcohol actually is.

The same goes for people who struggle with depression or any other mental health condition.

It can be easy to speculate from an outsider’s perspective, but unless you are in the throes of these conditions, truly relating to the struggles they experience is infeasible. This is what can make treating alcoholism and depression extremely difficult. While these are two conditions on their own that are formidable in nature, combined, they can prove extremely hard to address.

What Is Comorbidity?

Comorbidity is the presence of one or more additional disease or disorders co-occurring with a primary disease or disorder. Essentially, it’s the combination of multiple disorders in tandem. This can spell disaster for an individual struggling with alcoholism and depression. Thanks to the combination of mental health disorders and an addiction disorder, both disorders must be treated for the patient to find relief. You cannot simply focus on one while ignoring the other. Some of the commonly seen mental health disorders that co-occur with addiction disorders are:

  • Depression
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Anxiety Disorders
  • Schizophrenia
  • Personality Disorders

While many people may not be too familiar with the term “comorbidity”, many have heard of a “dual diagnosis” in relation to alcoholism and depression. Dual diagnosis is a popular term among addiction treatment. Many programs tout a superior approach to dual diagnosis treatment since it requires a specialized treatment approach as opposed to traditional drug or alcohol addiction treatment. In order to actually successfully treat alcoholism and depression, a full understanding of dual diagnosis is necessary.

What Does Dual Diagnosis Look Like?

Currently, in the United States alone, there are close to 21 million Americans suffering with substance addictions. Greater than the number of people who have cancer in all its forms combined, that works out to roughly 1 in every 10 people. Out of those 21 million, 7.9 million people are struggling with a dual diagnosis. This is clearly a massive issue among the substance abuse community. Having a comorbid disorder affects more than one-third of all addicts and alcoholics in the United States.

While, of course, alcoholism can cause subsequent depression as a result of the difficulties and negative outcomes that come hand in hand with alcoholism, alcoholism and depression as co-occurring disorders is a completely different situation. Alcoholism is naturally a depressant, a drug class that refers to substances that lower neurotransmission levels, which depresses or reduces arousal or stimulation in a variety of areas of the brain.

But if it is a true dual diagnosis, the signs and symptoms may look something like this:

  • Inability to maintain employment
  • Inability to maintain functional relationships
  • Legal problems
  • Financial issues
  • Extreme mood swings or inability to control their emotions

It is also worth noting that many times long before the addiction manifests, the depression or mood disorder will become apparent. Children and teens who have had struggles with depression are far more likely to struggle with drug and alcohol addiction later in life than those who have not. Also, women are twice as likely to start drinking heavily if they have a history of depression and are more likely to drink more than men when they’re depressed.

Treatment for Alcohol and Depression

If a comorbid alcohol and depression disorder exists, then treatment should be started sooner than later. Studies have shown the direct correlation between dual diagnosis and suicidal tendencies. Those who suffer from alcoholism and depression are more likely to think about suicide, and typically, alcohol use reduces the effectiveness of antidepressant medications.

Due to the dire nature of a dual diagnosis, professional intervention is necessary.

Proper treatment for alcohol and depression, or any other comorbid disorder, will include equal attention to both individual disorders as opposed to focusing solely on one or the other. Typically, care for a dual diagnosis will include:

  • Care by professionals trained in both addiction treatment and mental health disorders
  • Implementation of psychotherapeutic medications such as antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications
  • A supportive therapeutic approach that garners the patient’s self-esteem and confidence
  • A treatment plan that incorporates loved ones such as family, partners, and children into the therapy sessions

Treatment for alcohol and depression and other dual diagnoses that was sequential, or separate, led to a higher relapse rate for many patients. Reports have indicated that patients who received proper comorbid care saw higher success rates during the treatment process as well as in maintaining long-term recovery.

Struggling with A Dual Diagnosis?

Since the statistics regarding the number of addicts and alcoholics struggling with dual diagnosis are so high, it’s more than likely you or your loved one may be dealing with something more complicated than simply an addiction disorder. A comorbid disorder requires specialized attention and care coupled with an understanding atmosphere in order for the individual to find relief. That’s where Arete Recovery comes in.

At Arete Recovery, you’ll find yourself in the company of other people just like you struggling with a co-occurring disorder. Our staff is made up of highly trained professionals who are experts in successfully treating dual diagnosis cases. When you call, you’ll be connected to our knowledgeable addiction specialists who can get you the help you or a loved one may need. Upon arrival at the facility, you’ll undergo a preliminary assessment that will help our staff formulate an individualized treatment plan for you and your specific needs! No one needs to struggle with a comorbid disorder alone, call 844-318-7500 or contact us online anytime and start your journey to recovery now!

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