The Importance of Treating Co-occurring Disorders

man lies awake in bed unable to sleep due to co-occurring disorders

Co-occurring disorders are psychological conditions that exist in parallel with a substance abuse disorder. This is also sometimes referred to as a dual diagnosis. One example would be a person who is addicted to prescription opiate pain medications but also has Bipolar II disorder. Many people with substance abuse disorders enter treatment completely unaware of their secondary diagnosis. They may know that they have always seemed more anxious than others or struggled to find happiness most of their lives. This is not the same as having a formal diagnosis, however. People with undiagnosed mental illness are more likely to turn to drugs and alcohol to self-medicate and change the way they feel. (1)

Identifying and treating co-occurring disorders is important for several reasons. Recovery from addiction is a tremendous challenge for most people. When someone has addiction compounded with depression, anxiety, or untreated PTSD it only increases the difficulty of getting and staying sober. Diagnosing and treating the co-occurring psychological issue dramatically improves outcomes for dual diagnosis patients. Relief from the secondary disorder tends to lessen the tendency to self-medicate. It enables the patient to participate more fully in their treatment and focus on the work of recovery. An accurate diagnosis also helps therapists and clinicians devise a targeted treatment plan that best addresses the patient’s needs.

Ideally, a co-occurring disorder will be diagnosed prior to or during drug and alcohol treatment. That way a patient can begin to be treated immediately and observed for results in an inpatient setting. Treating each facet of mental health, in addition to the substance use disorder, leads to patients who are better equipped for early recovery. Conclusive research has shown that dual diagnosis patients who receive treatment for both addiction and the co-occurring disorder are more likely to stay sober for longer periods of time. (2) It is easy to understand why. An untreated co-occurring condition can not only lead someone to self-medicate but make life more difficult and complicated. Any number of situations can arise as a result from failed relationships to lost employment and these stressors can all contribute to the likelihood of relapse.

It is demonstrably true that treating co-occurring disorders improves the quality of life for people suffering from addiction. Practical research has also shown that dual diagnosis treatment measurably improves outcomes for these patients’ months and even years after treatment. The goal of drug and alcohol treatment goes beyond simply separating a person from their substance of choice. It is also about preparing them for a life in recovery which will allow them to become their ‘best self’. Identifying and addressing underlying psychiatric problems goes a long way towards building a robust foundation for recovery. As much of a challenge as recovery can be, we all owe it to ourselves to remove as many obstacles as possible to it. The unquestionable benefits of dual diagnosis treatment are what have led to its popularity and prevalence in the treatment field today. As the field of addiction medicine grows, we can look forward to more innovations along these lines.

If you or a loved one is suffering from addiction and/or a mental health disorder, please contact us for guidance and information.

(1) (2)

10 Warning Signs of Bipolar Depression

man gripping his head suffering from bipolar depression

Each of us have changes in our moods. When these changes become so severe that they are affecting our daily living, it is time to ask for help.  Approximately 26% of Americans ages 18 and older, about 1 in 4 adults, suffers from a diagnosable mental disorder. (1)

What is Bipolar Depression?

Bipolar depression is a mental disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood from extreme lows to extreme highs.

Some Extreme lows of Bipolar Depression are:

  • Hopelessness– No expectation of future improvement or success
  • Irritability– Disturbed, edgy mood. The onset of becoming angry
  • Fatigue– Feeling exhausted and sleeping excessively
  • Crying– In response to an emotional state.
  • Self-Harm– Cutting yourself, punching things, pulling out your hair, or bruising yourself

Examples of highs or manic symptoms are:

  • Unexplained Hyperactivity– Inability to sit still, being easily distracted, or talking excessively
  • Paranoia– Unwarranted jealousy, mistrust, and defensive attitude in response to perceived criticism.
  • A decreased need for sleep.
  • Impulsive behavior.
  • Participate in risky behaviors without concern for consequences.

Severe forms of bipolar depression are Bipolar I and Bipolar II

Bipolar I is indicated by manic episodes (mania) lasting at least a week and may become psychotic and require hospitalization. These episodes are followed by extreme episodes of depression that lasts weeks.

Bipolar II involves episodes of severe depression. Unlike Bipolar I, it does not present warning signs of mania however, one or more episodes must be experienced in a lifetime. (2)

The first step is to determine if you have bipolar depression is evaluation

Your doctor may do a physical exam and lab tests to identify any medical problems that could be causing your symptoms. The next step is usually an evaluation by a psychiatrist. They will talk to you about your thoughts, feelings, and behavior patterns. You may also fill out a psychological self-assessment or questionnaire. With your permission, family members or close friends may be asked to provide information about your symptoms.

Mood charting is also an effective therapeutic tool. You may be asked to keep a daily record of your moods, sleep patterns or other factors that could help with diagnosis and finding the right treatment. Bipolar depression is a lifelong condition. Recognizing the signs and symptoms of bipolar depression are important to manage them.

Treatment options include:


You may need to start taking medications to balance your moods right away. Bipolar depression often requires lifelong treatment with medications, even during periods when you feel better. People who skip maintenance treatment are at high risk of a relapse of symptoms or having minor mood changes turn into full-blown mania or depression.

Day Treatment

Your doctor may recommend a day treatment program to help you get symptoms under control.

Substance Abuse Treatment

If you have problems with alcohol or drugs, you will need substance abuse treatment as well. Ideally, a dual-diagnosis program equipped to treat co-occurring disorders.

Inpatient or Hospitalization

Your doctor may recommend inpatient care or hospitalization if you are behaving dangerously, you feel suicidal or you become detached from reality (psychotic). An inpatient or partial hospitalization stay can also be helpful if you need to remove yourself from a toxic environment. 

Self-diagnosis is not safe or accurate. Do not be afraid to ask for help.


When Should You Seek Mental Health Treatment?

grayscale image of woman staring out of a window

The decision to seek help for a mental health issue does not always come naturally. Many people endure needless suffering for months or years even, rather than seek help. The reasons why vary. Some are skeptical about the effectiveness of mental health therapy or concerned about the need for medication. Others see asking for help as a sign of weakness or a lack of discipline. Perhaps we worry about what others might think of us. Sometimes, living with depression or another mental health challenge can become so routine that we end up acclimated to this ‘new normal’. We try to accept things as they are, even though somewhere deep inside we know life can be so much better.

Whatever the reason for not seeking help, it is absolutely crucial that you give yourself a break. Remaining in denial, making excuses or judging yourself harshly probably isn’t the way you would handle a physical health problem. Should we not show ourselves the same kindness when it comes to mental health? It may be helpful to consider one important fact. When it comes to any problem, there is no such thing as ‘too much help’, there is only ‘not enough’.

Reasons Why You May Need Mental Health Treatment

If you’re reading this, chances are that you or someone you care about is facing a mental health challenge. Here are some guidelines to help you decide when you should seek mental health treatment.

You have lost interest in activities you used to enjoy.

This goes beyond simply changing hobbies. If you find it difficult to get pleasure out of life. If you don’t find your mood lifted by music, conversation, movies, food, whatever once brought you happiness. This can be a sign of a deeper issue like depression. Especially if this has been the case for weeks or months or longer.

You are turning to alcohol or drugs to escape feelings.

Do you find yourself uncomfortable in your own skin? Overcome with anxiety, anger or even boredom? Are you regularly seeking relief in alcohol or drugs? Do you drink or use drugs alone? All of these can be signs of an underlying issue and self-medicating with substances will only serve to obfuscate the real problem and move you further away from a solution.

You have experienced a traumatic event(s).

Everyone experiences some trauma in their lives and almost everyone benefits from outside help in overcoming the aftermath. Whether it’s trauma in your distant past or childhood, or something more recent, time alone does not heal all wounds. Processing trauma and learning to move through and beyond it is one of many benefits of mental health treatment. Don’t continue to rely on coping mechanisms that are failing you. There are people who can help.

You have lost someone or something important to you.

Loss is one of the biggest challenges most of us will ever face in our lives. We must be careful not to underestimate the effect it can have. According to the Holmes & Rahe Social Adjustment Scale, the death of a significant other, divorce and separation, incarceration and losing a job all rank at top of the list of significant life stressors.(1) Any significant loss can have a lasting impact that’s often hard to recover from. Mental health treatment can be greatly beneficial in these circumstances.

You are experiencing psychological symptoms that have consequences.

Perhaps you have been experiencing mood swings or lingering anger that is disrupting relationships and causing problems at work. You might be troubled by persistent, unwanted obsessive thoughts. Maybe you have persistent anxiety that is making it difficult for you to function. All of these are good reasons to see professional mental health treatment.

The reasons to see mental health treatment depend on the individual. The constant is that a person is experiencing symptoms or feelings that are impacting their quality of life. The field of mental health treatment has made great advances in recent years and there is less stigma attached to seeking help than ever. The fact is every human being deserves to realize their potential and to enjoy their life. We should try to never allow excuses or pride or worry to come between us and become our best selves. If you want to learn more about mental health treatment options, please call us at (844) 746-8836


What is Bipolar Depression?

silhouette of a man staring out of a window

Bipolar depression is a disorder that is defined by cycling moods and energy levels that fall far outside the norm. This combination of manic or hypomanic episodes punctuated by depressive episodes is the primary defining characteristic. To begin to understand this disorder, it helps to know the three main types of bipolar depression.

  • Bipolar I Disorder
  • Bipolar II Disorder
  • Cyclothymic Disorder

Most bipolar depression diagnoses fall under one of these three categories. However, people can sometimes exhibit bipolar disorder symptoms for other reasons that don’t meet the standard to be considered cyclothymic disorder. These symptoms are usually a result of another health problem or drug or alcohol abuse.

If You Suffer From Bipolar Depression, You’re Not Alone

About 2.8% of the U.S. population are diagnosed with a bipolar mood disorder. (1) The majority of bipolar sufferers are diagnosed with either Bipolar I or Bipolar II. Bipolar I, has the most severe symptoms. It is characterized by manic episodes lasting a week or longer, or severe mania that requires a hospital visit. Bipolar I patients also experience depressive episodes usually lasting 2 weeks or more. Bipolar II patients experience similar, but much milder symptoms than those with Bipolar I. They may go through hypomanic periods of high energy and enthusiasm, but not full-blown manic episodes. They also experience depressive troughs of low energy and depressed mood. (2)

The full-blown mania of a Bipolar I manic episode can be alarming to observers and dangerous to the person experiencing it. During an episode, the person may speak rapidly, jumping from subject to subject and exhibit extreme enthusiasm. These racing thoughts are usually accompanied by high physical energy and insomnia. Judgment is affected, they may espouse seemingly wild ideas that they would never normally entertain. A manic episode can even sometimes lead to psychosis, this is another reason why it is so important for Bipolar I sufferers to get proper treatment.

Hypomania, as experienced by Bipolar II sufferers is a much milder form. The less severe features of Bipolar II often make it more difficult to diagnose. A person with Bipolar II disorder is often able to function and live a relatively normal life. They may even learn to harness their hypomania and channel it into productive pursuits. Their depressive episodes can vary in severity, but many people with Bipolar II manage to live without treatment or medication for many years. Most people with Bipolar II also find treatment or therapy beneficial, whether or not medication is needed.

The extremes of Bipolar I disorder can make it almost impossible to live a normal life without disruption. Full-blown manic episodes often result in the sufferer needing to be hospitalized. Many Bipolar I patients get a certain amount of enjoyment out of manic symptoms or may find that they miss the way they used to feel after beginning treatment with medications to stabilize their mood. One of the most common problems faced by Bipolar I patients is deliberately neglecting to follow their medication regimen. This is something any spouse, family member or caretaker of a Bipolar I sufferer should be aware of.

There Is Help Available

Whichever form of bipolar mood disorder a person may suffer from, there are simple choices that can make life much easier. The first is receiving a proper diagnosis by a qualified psychiatrist or psychiatric nurse practitioner. Once a diagnosis is made, medication may be recommended by a psychiatrist. Whether or not a medication regiment is suggested, two of the easiest ways to help a bipolar person at home is by maintaining order and routine in their lives and engaging in regular exercise. Choices as simple as keeping a tidy bedroom and socks and underwear neatly organized and keeping a regular bedtime introduce order. These behaviors can be helpful for a Bipolar II sufferer, but critical for a person with Bipolar I. Studies have shown that regular exercise and proper nutrition also contribute greatly to the stability of the lives of people with a Bipolar Mood Disorder. Exercise helps alleviate anxiety and regulate stress hormones. (2) It is absolutely possible to live a healthy, fulfilling life with a bipolar disorder, if it is diagnosed and managed properly. If you believe you or someone you know may be suffering from bipolar mood disorder, please consider calling us at (844) 746-8836 for guidance.


5 Tips for Managing Depression

three women laughing outside

Depression can seem to cast a shadow over your entire life at times. Worse, it can be a self-perpetuating problem as the behaviors that it results in usually only serve to cause yet more depression. Much research has been done into depression as it is one of the most common forms of mental illness. While there is no definitive cure, we do have an array of interventions that are proven effective.

As with any complex problem, the most powerful remedy is often a compound approach. It may be a combination of talk therapy and medication or meditation and medication. Exercise and nutrition. Even religion or spirituality. Utilizing more than one remedy at the same time generates synergy. You’ll almost always get far more out than you put in.

All that is needed is enough willingness to try. We have to suppress the masochistic instinct to continue wallowing in misery just long enough to try something that just may work. You’ve got nothing to lose except a lousy mood. If your depression has continued for more than a few weeks, you may want to consider getting a formal diagnosis, if you haven’t already. A mental health professional can help you jump start your recovery and help you avoid common pitfalls.

Here are 5 useful tips for managing depression:

1. Get outside of the house

It may be the last thing you feel like doing when you’re depressed but going outside and getting some fresh air and sunlight has a real effect. Several studies have shown that depression is one of the mental health issues that is most improved by outdoor activity. (1)

2. Get outside of yourself

Isolating and focusing all of your attention inward almost never makes depression any better. In fact, it usually makes it worse. Spending time with other people, even when you don’t feel like it, is important. Humans are social animals. We are built for contact and interaction with each other. Stepping out of your own mind and into someone else’s experience for a little while can serve to not only get your mind off your own problems, it can give you a sense of purpose.

3. Gratitude

Everyone has something to be grateful for. No matter who you are. It may sound silly but a great deal of overcoming depression, in the beginning, has to do with going through the motions. Even when you think nothing can possibly lift your mood or make life seem less gloomy. Do it anyway. Act as if. You have nothing to lose but more of your misery. Start by making a list of the things you are grateful for. Make it a habit.

4. Forgiveness

Forgive people in your past. Forgive people in your present. Forgive yourself.

Depression and anger are inextricably linked. Work on getting rid of anger and depression begins to lift. Forgiveness doesn’t mean saying that it’s OK that someone did you harm. It means you are choosing to let go of the anger and sadness and move on. Who can you forgive? Who might you ask to forgive you? Forgiveness is magic if you let it work for you.

5. Remember what brings you joy

Everyone has had things in life that bring them happiness. Even if it’s something that used to make you happy in the past and you think it won’t help, do it anyway. Surround yourself with beauty. Listen to music. Watch a movie that makes you smile or laugh. Read an inspirational book.

Here are some helpful resources:

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is an advocacy group for people who struggle with mental illness and their families. NAMI is an excellent resource for finding help and support.

The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is available 24-hours a day at 800-273-8255. You can also chat with them online if you prefer at

Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Let someone help.

Women’s Healthcare Month: How Addiction Affects Women Differently

Women's Healthcare and Addiction

In the past, men reported higher rates of addiction and substance use disorder than women, but the past few decades women have swiftly closed the gender gap. Today, men and women experience roughly equal rates of these issues. However, women’s rates of progression, experiences, reasons for use, and stigmas can vary greatly from their male counterparts. 


Addiction Progression in Women 

Scientific studies have found that women progress in addiction faster than men due to their physiology. This is particularly true with alcohol, which female bodies process differently. Because women have less of a particular stomach enzyme which helps break down alcohol, it remains in their system longer and leads to higher blood alcohol levels. One drink for a woman can have twice the physical impact of one drink for a man. When a woman is drinking often, this higher saturation of alcohol leads to dependence more quickly. It also leads to brain and organ damage more quickly than for men. 


Co-occurring Disorders in Women

Studies show that women are two times as likely to suffer from depression and anxiety as men. Self-medicating is a common theme with co-occurring disorders to manage uncomfortable feelings and often leads to abuse, dependence and addiction. Women are also more likely to experience suicidal thoughts and attempts than men. 

Furthermore, domestic and sexual trauma in women can lead to co-occurring disorders. Roughly one in three women will experience a sexual assault in their lifetime, a stat which is higher for women than it is for men. Women are more vulnerable to physical attacks and are more likely to experience child sexual abuse, incest, neglect in childhood, and domestic violence. A history of violent trauma is more common among women with drug addiction, often as a result of PTSD. In fact, one study found that as many as 6 in 10 women with addiction also have PTSD. 


Women’s Pain and Addiction

Women’s pain is less likely to be taken seriously by medical professionals than men’s pain, called Pain Bias. According to Harvard Health, women’s pain is more likely to be considered psychological rather than physical. One study found that women in emergency rooms in acute pain were less likely to receive painkillers than males in similar condition. 

Conversely, women are found to suffer more frequently and more intensely from pain and often require more medication to mitigate the effects. One study found that women needed twice the amount of morphine as males to receive comparable pain relief. Women are also more likely to have chronic and painful inflammatory and/or auto-immune conditions than men. Further, women’s reproductive health conditions can lead to significant pain such as Endometriosis which affects 1 in 10 women worldwide.

The lack of adequate pain management can lead women to seek pain relief elsewhere in the form of illicit substances or illegally-sold prescription medications on the street. 


Social Stigmas and Pressures for Addiction in Women

Women with children in particular experience social stigmas around addiction. They have been found to be less likely to admit they have a problem, to analyze their own alcohol or substance use habits. They are also less likely to speak to a friend or professional about their problem for fear of judgement.

Further, women with addiction who are pregnant are less likely to seek support. One study found that 25% of opioid addicted pregnant women went untreated. Researchers believe that shame and stigma play a role in their barrier to receiving help. 


Getting Help 

Women need and deserve proper support in treatment of Substance Use Disorder (SUD) and Addiction. Seeking help in a supportive, nurturing environment that also specializes in treating Co-occurring Disorders can help to make the changes needed to overcome addiction. 

If you or a loved one are struggling with drugs or alcohol, contact us today. We are here to listen and we are here to help.



4 Common Co-Occurring Disorders Accompanying Addiction

Dual Diagnosis occurring disorders

Mental health conditions can run hand-in-hand with drug and alcohol addiction. In a clinical setting, the terms co-occurring disorders or dual diagnosis describe a person who is struggling with substance use disorder and a mental health condition. 

It is estimated that 17.5 million Americans are struggling with a mental health disorder, and of those people, one in four are actively abusing substances or developed an addiction. Sadly, only half of those with co-occurring disorders actually receive treatment for their dual diagnosis. 

Research has shown that 34% of co-occurring disorder patients received mental health treatment without receiving addiction treatment. 2% received care for only an addiction. Meanwhile, only 12% actually received treatment that supported all their issues and disorders.

In other words, it can be a vicious cycle. Substance abuse is fueled by a mental health condition, or an underlying mental health condition is exacerbated by substance abuse. 

The most common mental health conditions seen with addiction are: 
  1. Depression
  2. Anxiety Disorders
  3. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  4. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

However, these are not the only mental health disorders that occur with addiction. Overall, comprehensive treatment has the best outcome for dual diagnosis patients with co-occurring disorders. Only treating one, and not the other creates a roundabout effect. A patient who receives mental health treatment but not addiction treatment continues to use, which aggravates their mental health condition. A patient who receives addiction treatment but not mental health, struggles to remain sober. Therefore, this person, without proper care, is also more likely to relapse due to the effects of their mental health condition.

At Harmony Recovery Group, we help patients recover from addiction and co-occurring disorders through evidence-based treatment in a warm and supportive environment. If you or a loved one are struggling with cooccurring disorders or addiction in general, please do not hesitate to contact our admission specialists at 844-746-8836. We are here to help and support you. 

Read more about the relationships between mental health and addiction.

Relationship Addiction and Substance Abuse

Relationship Addiction and Substance Abuse | Recovery in Tune

A person who has a relationship addiction cannot function normally without being in a relationship and often feels incomplete. Moreover, the “addict” may stop taking care of themselves while in a relationship, and neglect any goals or purpose they might have had for their lives.

Like any addiction, relationship addiction can lead to many adverse consequences. A person can be addicted to relationships without even realizing it unless another person or other life event triggers the symptoms. Recognizing these symptoms is the first step in getting help, and if you or someone you know has experienced any of the following, you may want to consider seeking therapy and counseling.

Signs of Relationship Addiction

Many people with relationship addiction find themselves unable to end relationships, although there is emotional or physical abuse occurring. Deep down, they know that the relationship isn’t good for them, but any attempts to break free from it result in reconciliation. While they may experience intense feelings of love for the other person, they also sometimes feel devalued, and they, as well as the other person, may frequently question their self-worth.

Many relationship addictions are rooted in fear of being abandoned. Relationship addicts often fail to recognize that they are currently in a toxic relationship or look the other way. 

Having Multiple Break Up Cycles

One of the main signs of relationship addiction is going through many breakups and makeup cycles. In other words, the addict is unable to stick to their guns and stay away from the romance for an extended period. 

Instead, the addict always reconciles with their partner, although they realize it is probably not in their best interest to do so. This can occur even though the person with relationship addiction was the one who was wronged in some way. In fact, that person is often the one who initiates the reconciliation.

Multiple breakups is likely a sign that the relationship is not working, or that one or both individuals cannot or will not change their behaviors in order to bring about harmony. A healthy relationship can be resurrected from more than one breakup, but this usually does not occur at such an extreme level.

Having a Lack of Self-Control

Relationship Addiction and Substance Abuse | Recovery in Tune

Just like a person who is addicted to drugs or alcohol, a relationship addict does not typically exercise self-control. They do not have control over a new relationship, and they can easily transition from one relationship to the next without pause.

For example, a relationship addict may learn that their partner is having an affair, and instead of summoning up self-esteem and dignity, they keep begging their partner to stop the infidelity. Whether or not the other person obliges, this is not power—this is an inability to ensure that a relationship is offering oneself the respect one deserves.

There Is Little Life Outside of the Relationship

Many relationship addicts give way too much of themselves, and their partner may even feel suffocated. Not unlike other kinds of addiction, relationship addiction has negative effects on many different areas of a person’s life, such as losing interest in hobbies, jobs, family, social life, etc. 

Instead, all attention is focused on the relationship, even when the other partner exhibits a lack of interest in the relationship or is disrespectful or hurtful. All is lost for the sake of maintaining the relationship. And ironically, the relationship addict can feel very lonely and empty inside despite being in a relationship. 

Thinking That Sex = Love

People who are addicted to relationships may often confuse sex for love. They may allow themselves to be used for sex, thinking that sexual intimacy is the same thing as love intimacy. For example, a partner may be abusive emotionally or physically, and then resolve this problem by initiating sex. While sex and love can certainly co-exist, sex is not a replacement for love, even in the context of an intimate relationship.

Obsessive Thinking About The Relationship

A person who has an addiction to a relationship is continuously thinking about the relationship and over-analyzing it. They may be wondering how they appease the other person or change themselves in some way to make their partner love them more. 

Even while at work or talking to family and friends, they are continually thinking about the relationship or discussing it with others. Serious problems can arise from this obsessive thinking because the person can’t focus on anything else or deal with other issues.

Making Excuses for Wrong Partners

It’s not uncommon for relationship addicts to make excuses for the partner’s bad behavior. They may say something like, “Well, I know I complain about him being abusive, but I stay with him for all the times when he’s good to me.” Unfortunately, people who are addicted to relationships tend to attract the wrong kind of partners—often those who are narcissistic, unfaithful, and use manipulation to keep the other person in line.

Moreover, relationship addicts will frequently drive away good partners because of their obsessive behavior, neediness, or general lack of self-worth and self-esteem. Instead, they will settle for another person who is less than deserving to feel needed and be in a relationship. Their fear of abandonment is enough to keep these individuals in a bad relationship because they think that it is better than being alone.

Relationship Addiction and Substance Abuse | Recovery in Tune

Low Self-Esteem and Self-Defeating Behaviors

Addicts of any kind tend to have self-esteem problems. These problems may cause the addictive behavior, and the behavior itself tends to lower their self-worth as they engage in it. Also, because they are prone to attracting the wrong people, their partners fuel their lack of confidence and inflict emotional abuse intended to keep them in their place.

Sometimes, however, a person can become addicted to a relationship that drags them down from an attitude that was much more positive. They soon find themselves behaving in ways they never before imagined, from a place that is desperate, exhausting, and lonely. Others will notice this decline and speak up, but the person in the addictive relationship will continue to make excuses for their partner and possibly isolate themselves from family and friends for this reason.

Substance Abuse in an Unhealthy Relationship

Many of the same factors that contribute to a person being a relationship addict may also compel a person to drink or use drugs in excess. Childhood trauma or a fear of abandonment, emotional dysregulation, and many other mental health problems are found among both those who have relationship issues and people who engage in substance abuse.

Other times, relationship addiction can lead a person to turn to drugs or alcohol to self-medicate away negative feelings about themselves and their lives. Conversely, people with substance abuse issues may become involved in bad relationships because their overuse of drugs and alcohol is problematic, and a person seeking stability may very well be scared away by this fact.

Regardless of which behavior came first, both problems tend to exacerbate each other, leading to an ever-increasing cycle of relationship problems and escalating substance abuse.

Getting Help for Addiction

Recovery in Tune is a specialized addiction treatment facility that offers comprehensive programs, in both outpatient and partial hospitalization formats, designed to treat all aspects of a person’s mental health and well-being. Severe emotional problems, such as those related to relationship addiction, need to be addressed in conjunction with substance use disorders to prevent relapse and ensure a person is stable enough to maintain long-lasting sobriety.

If you are suffering from addiction to both substances and relationships, contact us today! We are committed to ensuring that each person we treat receives the very best care available and are given the tools they need to reclaim their lives for good!

⟹ READ THIS NEXT: Trauma Recovery and Addiction

Selective Eating Disorder and Addiction

Selective Eating Disorder and Addiction | Recovery in Tune

Selective eating disorder, which is also known as avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID), affects thousands of people in the U.S. People with this disorder are extremely picky in their food choices, as they fear certain types of food. ARFID often occurs in children, but adults can also be affected. Adults with ARFID tend to have a minimal range of foods that they will eat, sometimes less than 20.

ARFID is different from anorexia and bulimia, and the individual’s selectiveness stems from concerns that do not generally involve weight loss or weight control. Common fears experienced by people with ARFID are that food temperature will not be appropriate, choking may occur, and that they will become sick, especially when consuming new foods.

There are three primary types of ARFID, which include the following:

Lack of interest, in which the person has a genuine lack of interest in eating food, and they may tend to get full quickly.

Sensory avoidance, in which the person has issues with the taste, texture, temperature, and smell of many foods.

Fear of aversive consequences, in which the person fears illness, choking, nausea, or that an allergic reaction will result from eating.

Symptoms of Selective Eating Disorder

The following signs and symptoms may be associated with a person who as ARFID:

  • He/she has a very short list/menu of acceptable foods from which to choose.
  • He/she may only eat food with similar characteristics, such as being crunchy or in liquid form.
  • He/she has strong preferences in food preparation methods.
  • He/she avoids broad categories of food, such as vegetables, fruits, or sources of protein.
  • He/she frequently eliminates certain foods permanently.
  • He/she may be underweight and malnourished.
  • He/she may have nutritional deficiencies, such as those involving iron, and vitamins A and C.
  • He/she becomes upset or stressed when around unfamiliar or undesirable foods.
  • He/she only eats a small selection of “safe” foods, such as those enjoyed in childhood (e.g., grilled cheese sandwiches, chocolate milk).

These fears and food limitations will often adversely affect social interactions and behaviors. Like people with anorexia or bulimia, people with ARFID may not wish to attend certain events in order to avoid exposure to various foods. They may also be ashamed of their condition and try to conceal it from others.

Risks and complications associated with ARFID may include:

  • Co-occurring anxiety and panic disorders
  • Failure to gain weight or weight loss
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Malnutrition
  • Developmental delays in children

Causes of Selective Eating Disorder

Like most mental health conditions, ARFID doesn’t have one precise cause. Instead, it is believed to be a product of several factors, including those that are biological, social, emotional, and environmental in nature. Moreover, a person who is already genetically predisposed to an eating disorder may be triggered by something in their environment, such as exposure to a traumatic event.

And, because other mental illnesses, such as anxiety and depression, may involve disrupted patterns of eating, these may also be present. In fact, eating disorders and mood disorders are both frequently underpinned by similar emotional issues.

Selective Eating Disorder and Addiction | Recovery in Tune

Selective Eating Disorder and Addiction

Eating disorders and addiction to drugs or alcohol frequently go hand-in-hand. People with mental health conditions such as ARFID may be more likely to abuse substances as a means to self-medicate. Unfortunately, this method eventually fails, and the person not only continues to suffer from mental illness, they now have a co-occurring substance use disorder, as well.

Furthermore, addiction causes further emotional dysregulation and tends to make many of the symptoms of mental disorders worse. Emotional issues and escalating substance abuse can propel a person in a vicious cycle that is seemingly endless unless they receive an effective medical intervention.

Finally, eating disorders are thought to be a kind of behavioral addiction in and of themselves. Behavioral addiction and substance abuse affect similar parts of the brain, such as those responsible for feelings of satisfaction, pleasure, and reward. For this reason, people who experience a behavioral addiction may be more likely to engage in other addictive and compulsive behaviors, such as substance abuse.

Treatment for ARFID and Addiction

Fortunately, recovery from both eating disorders and addiction to drugs or alcohol is possible! Both of these conditions do, however, require highly-specialized, long-term treatment facilitated by medical and mental health professionals. An approach that addresses all aspects of a person’s emotional and physical well-being is most effective, as failure to address a mental health disorder in conjunction with substance abuse will likely lead to a relapse involving either condition.

If you are a loved one is struggling with substance abuse and an eating disorder, please reach out to us. Recovery in Tune specializes in the treatment of co-occurring conditions such as these. We offer personalized, comprehensive programs, in both outpatient and partial hospitalization formats, designed to provide clients with the tools and support they need to recover fully from both mental illness and addiction.

You don’t have to suffer alone any longer—contact us today to discuss treatment options! Discover how we help people get on the road to recovery and foster the fulfilling lives they deserve!

⟹ READ THIS NEXT: Trauma Recovery and Addiction

Trauma Recovery and Addiction

Trauma Recovery and Addiction | Recovery in Tune

In the United States, 61% of men and 51% of women report experiencing at least one traumatic event in their life. People who experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and have been exposed to traumatic events are at a heightened risk of developing an addiction to drugs or alcohol.

Many people with addictions use substances to self-medicate in an attempt to relieve symptoms of anxiety, guilt, shame, fear, depression, and other emotionally painful symptoms associated with trauma. Many of these symptoms are linked to increased stress and the inability to regulate thoughts and feelings following a traumatic experience. 

Traumatic experiences are usually the result of disturbing and harmful events, such as sexual, physical, or emotional abuse, violence, extreme poverty, military conflict, or natural disasters. Another reason trauma and addiction often occur together is the fact that the affected individuals’ lifestyle may place him or her in dangerous situations more frequently than that of a non-addicted person. 

Having sketchy acquaintances, dangerous neighborhoods, drunk driving, and other factors commonly linked to drug and alcohol abuse may expose substance abusers to trauma via assaults, crime, accidents, violence, and abuse. There may also be biological components that make a person more susceptible to PTSD as well as addictive tendencies. 

Therapeutic Elements of Trauma Recovery

Methods for addressing both a substance use disorder and the associated trauma have been found to improve long-term positive client outcomes.

Elements of trauma recovery treatment often include the following:

  • Grief counseling
  • Support groups
  • Individual therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Exposure or desensitization
  • Pharmacotherapy, or medications to mitigate symptoms
  • Holistic practices, such as mindfulness techniques, relaxation, and yoga
  • Coping skill development, including emotional regulation skills and cognitive restructuring

Trauma-Focused Therapy

Trauma-focused therapy is one of the most effective ways to help a client to progress from merely coping to living life fully and freely without the need to use drugs or alcohol. This approach recognizes that a person’s substance abuse is a method of coping with devastating emotions, interfering memories, fear, grief, or feeling unsafe or under threat. 

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), there are six main principles of trauma-focused care:

  • Safety
  • Trustworthiness and transparency
  • Peer Support

  • Collaboration and mutuality
  • Empowerment, voice, and choice
  • Cultural, historical, and gender Issues

Safety should be a priority in any approach to trauma recovery. A trauma recovery therapist devises ways to assist the client in managing flashbacks or intensely upsetting responses before examining how trauma has played a vital role in the client’s life.

Trauma Recovery and Addiction | Recovery in Tune

Core Tenets of Trauma-Focused Therapy

1) Acknowledge the survivor’s need to be informed, respected, and optimistic about recovery.

2) Identify the correlation between trauma and addiction.

3) Cooperate with family and friends of the survivor and human services agencies to promote empowerment and resiliency.

The therapist works continuously while helping the client find resources and connections with supportive institutions and individuals. Trauma recovery enables clients to better deal with situations that contributed to substance-using behavior in the past.

Trauma-focused therapy for substance abuse involves the following five objectives:

1) Designing a respectful, caring, and safe environment for the therapy.

2) Promoting an understanding of the association between existing mental health problems, such as trauma and emotional disorders, and addiction.

3) Encouraging self-compassion and self-respect to combat the unavoidable guilt and shame associated with addiction and mental health conditions related to trauma.

4) Helping clients to develop healthier solutions to the issues they have identified.

5) Locating other supportive resources, such as recovery groups like Alcoholics Anonymous.

Breaking the Cycle of Addiction

Drug and alcohol addiction is not something that people choose to happen. Instead, substance abuse is often a desperate attempt to cope with stress, anxiety, depression, and flashbacks or numb unpleasant thoughts and feelings.

From a healthy person’s perspective, substance abuse may seem incomprehensible and a terrible decision. However, people who are struggling with addiction both need and deserve compassion and support to overcome this adversity and heal both emotionally and physically.

Addictive Behavior Is a Survival Strategy

Experimentation with drugs or alcohol often starts as occasional use that is enjoyable or exciting. Addiction is often born as a survival strategy. Moreover, the individual uses substances to get through each day because of the way it makes them feel or to avoid certain undesirable feelings. 

Using substances is a means in which to numb or self-medicate distressing thoughts and feelings. It is also a misguided way of running from disturbing memories that have become difficult to control. 

Self-medication is a desperate attempt to disconnect from one’s own negative thinking, painful emotions, and disturbing mental images. Essentially, alcoholics and drug addicts are engaging in an ineffective form of self-treatment in an effort to cope with unresolved grief, distress, and suffering.

Recognizing the Need for Treatment

Trauma Recovery and Addiction | Recovery in Tune

Many people, at some point, decide to drink or use drugs occasionally and socially. They may or may not take the experience of trauma into consideration when they do this. While most people who drink moderately or use low-level drugs like marijuana do not develop severe addictions, many do. 

Furthermore, those who have experienced trauma or have emotional problems are at a higher risk of becoming an alcoholic or addict. A person should be able to feel comfortable in their own skin without having to numb or escape thoughts and emotions. If they are unable to do so, it’s time to start examining underlying issues that are contributing to the substance abuse.

A person may have a dependence that would benefit from treatment, even if he or she doesn’t engage in substance abuse every day. Warning signs that a person’s substance abuse habits need to be addressed with professional treatment include the following:

  • Repeated binging or drinking/using to excess
  • Drinking or using drugs for longer or more intensely than originally intended
  • Feeling the need to be drinking or using drugs to socialize
  • Drinking or using drugs despite feeling ill
  • Engaging in drunk or drugged driving
  • Normalizing or glamorizing using behavior
  • Drinking or using drugs to control one’s mood
  • Drinking or using drugs to help manage emotions or quell psychological pain
  • Loved ones confront the user about the damage to the relationship
  • Engaging in compulsive, substance-seeking behavior despite the incurrence of adverse consequences
  • Drinking or using drugs upon waking or having a “hair of the dog”
  • Attempting to conceal alcohol or drugs and their use from others
  • Isolating behavior or socializing with a new group of friends
  • Neglect of self-care, such as bathing, leading to a disheveled appearance

Getting Help for Trauma and Addiction

Sometimes, years of self-medication using drugs or alcohol have effectively dulled traumatic memories, so on the surface, the addiction appears to be the only problem. A person who has suppressed traumatic experiences may be motivated to become and remain sober, only to find other addictive or unhealthy behaviors eventually replace alcohol or their drug of choice. And, once these feelings come flooding back, relapse is a serious concern.

Persons suffering from PTSD and survivors of traumatic events need to have these issues addressed in addiction treatment. By neglecting this aspect of a person’s mental well-being, recovery from substance abuse is undermined, and the person is much more likely to return to active addiction.

Harmony Treatment and Wellness offers an integrated approach to addiction treatment that simultaneously addresses all aspects of mental and emotional health. Our caring and skilled staff are committed to ensuring that each client receives all the tools and support they need to overcome addiction and relieve the symptoms of mental illness.

If you are motivated to break free from the vicious cycle of addiction and improve your physical and psychological well-being, contact us today—we are here to help!