What to do about DAD: Depression, Addiction and Denial

They say that, in life, bad things come in threes.

Unfortunately, this is no truer than when dealing with addiction. Addiction is a debilitating condition, and it often causes (and is caused by) other factors like mental health, isolation and denial.

We could be living our best lives and enjoying every moment, but things can suddenly take a turn for the worse and spin out of control, and we can end up with more than one problem on our plates.

Consequently, when we begin to seek help, we might be told we have dual diagnosis.

What is dual diagnosis?

Dual diagnosis (otherwise called a co-occurring disorder) describes a person who is diagnosed as having a mental health condition as a result of substance abuse.

In many substance abusers, this diagnosis is extremely common because using drugs often causes people to feel depressed and mentally unwell.

In fact, studies conducted in the UK have found that, in all mental health settings, 20-37 percent of people are diagnosed with dual diagnosis.

Where substance abuse is prevalent, dual diagnosis occurs among 6-15 percent of all patients.

The negative effect of DAD

Unfortunately, while dual diagnosis is prevalent today, it can be difficult to ‘fess up to problems and begin seeking help.

This level of denial can perpetuate our depression and addictions, and it only worsens our ability to rediscover and regain control over our lives.

Consequently, ‘DAD’ – or Depression, Addiction and Denial – can be a toxic state of mind to find yourself in. Regardless of what the problem is, refusing to deal with it can have negative effects, and when it comes to severe mental health conditions and using drugs, the effects can be devastating.

How to know if you’re experiencing the ‘DAD’ effect

Because the ‘DAD’ effect is shrouded in denial, it can be extremely difficult for a person suffering from dual diagnosis to reach a place of acceptance.

But there are some signs to watch for if you do feel depressed, addicted or even like nothing is wrong.

For example, are you:

Avoiding emotions?

A good first sign is to understand whether you’re ignoring feelings of sadness or stress. Sometimes, it’s important to tell ourselves that ‘everything is fine’, but we must recognise when things tip over and escape our control.

Ultimately, avoiding emotions keeps us from moving forwards and overcoming our suffering. Negativity is a normal, healthy feeling, and it shouldn’t be ignored.

Becoming reclusive?

When we’re addicted and depressed, we often become apathetic about life, too.

It’s easy to stay indoors and fail to experience the glorious real world around us. We want to be left alone and to suffer in silence. But this only causes more pain.

The old adage that ‘no person is an island’ rings true here.

If you feel yourself blocking out your friends and family, it’s often time to seek professional help.

Scared of alone time?

On the contrary, if you’re afraid to be alone and in the house and you find yourself constantly needing to be in social situations, it’s time to ask yourself whether you’re distracting yourself from yourself.

Time with friends and family is essential to a balanced mindset, but a constant desire to be out is as destructive to our mindset as constantly wanting to be alone.

Know when you’re happy and when you’re distracting yourself.

Finding treatment for DAD and dual diagnosis

When it comes to rehabilitation for substance abuse, it’s common for practitioners to first address a person’s mental health condition.

After all, without resolution over the mind, how can one begin to solve their dependency on drugs?

While dual diagnosis might sound negative, it is often a positive realisation. When people enter rehab, they can take a safe and guided path to the root crux that has caused drug abuse, and not only sober up for good but remain mentally healthy, too.

To find out more about depression, addiction and denial, and about how you can find the right treatment that works for you, read about how Camino Recovery can help you today

David Scourfield

David Scourfield is a Camino Recovery team member since 2017, focused on facilitating communication with Clinical and other professionals to ensure a comprehensive understanding of Camino's program.

Combining his marketing skills and lived experiences, he joined Camino in 2017, contributing to external publications and the Camino website. With a strong belief in solidarity during the recovery process, David helps clients build support networks by connecting them with others in recovery.

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