Dual Diagnosis: Alcoholism and Depression

According to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), 16.6 million adults above the age of 18 and 697,000 adolescents met criteria for diagnosis with an alcohol use disorder in 2013. Alcoholism can cause many serious physical health problems, and it may also cause depression and other mental health illnesses. For those suffering from mild to severe depression and alcoholism, treatment needs to take place at a dual diagnosis treatment center. Those with dual diagnosis need to understand how and why alcoholism and depression make up one of the most common dual diagnoses in the country.

Dual diagnosis: Alcoholism and depressionHow does alcoholism mask depression or vice versa?

In a publication at the NIAAA, psychiatric researchers identified how alcoholism "can coexist with, contribute to, or result from several different psychiatric syndromes." Because alcohol-related signs and symptoms may mirror the signs and symptoms of depression, mental health professionals at a dual diagnosis rehab center must consider the entire scope of both illnesses.

Is alcoholism and depression treatment successful?

Treatment for alcoholism and co-occurring depression can be successful if the causes and symptoms of both conditions are treated concurrently. Common treatment approaches to alcoholism can actually be applied to depression. Psychotherapy, or talk therapy, is a critical part of successful treatment for alcoholism and depression, and many of those who obtain treatments continue psychotherapy or other forms of counseling in an outpatient setting.

Medication treatment of alcoholism and depression may include the use of antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications and mood stabilizers. Antipsychotic medications may be included if alcoholism or depression presents with psychotic symptoms, such as delirium tremens or hallucinations.

Is inpatient treatment of dual diagnosis necessary?

Depending on the severity of alcoholism, inpatient dual diagnosis rehab may be necessary to maintain safety and well-being during detox. Detox refers to a forced withdrawal from alcohol abuse. Unfortunately, withdrawal symptoms from alcoholism may be severe and life-threatening.

Withdrawal symptoms from alcoholism, according to MedlinePlus, may include high fevers, sudden changes in blood pressure and heart arrhythmias, In addition, severe aggression and severe depression place an individual with an alcohol use disorder at risk for committing suicide or homicide. As a result, most mental health professionals recommend completing detox at an accredited dual diagnosis treatment facility. Inpatient detox and treatment can help manage these withdrawal symptoms through the use of medications as well.

Alcoholism and depression represent two major threats to modern society. The majority of those with an alcohol use disorder do not obtain treatment, but those with alcoholism and depression can take on an active role in treatment by agreeing to obtain treatment of both disorders at the same time.

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