“Co-occuring disorders” are additional psychological challenges that can sabotage the will and compromise even the most steadfast dedication to the goal of becoming drug-free. Examples of mental disorders that can accompany addiction are:
- Parallel addictions (e.g., alcohol abuse, nicotine, gambling, etc.)
- Eating disorders
Recruiting Self-Awareness to Fight Hopelessness
The reason mood disorders are difficult to treat is because different (although additive) diagnoses are made by healthcare professionals. For example, one may be diagnosed and treated with one method for substance abuse at a treatment facility, and then by another separate medical professional, such as a therapist, for a mood disorder like bipolar disorder. This results in diverse therapies at varying locations, adding to a logistical complexity of transportation, budgeting, stress, and fatigue in trying to do everything right.
In addition, there are many people who suffer from substance use disorders that have underlying mood disorders which have never been properly diagnosed, or treated, and come to light once they are sober. Complications create obstacles, and obstacles block a person from clearing the hurdles needed to be overcome. This often makes a person feel he or she is at the mercy of the process, without hope.
Self-awareness is a pro-active measure to subdue the extra stress that comes with concurrent disorders. Addiction can create a sense of hopelessness, and hopelessness can stop someone from even trying. A person can become prone to the hopelessness that comes with each failed recovery, and this can create helplessness and the doomed mindset that recovery is impossible.
To fight this, awareness of the trap of hopelessness is intimately entwined with one’s mood. Certainly, mood is forefront on the problem list with depression and anxiety, and recognizing the slippery slope can avert the slide into the abyss where hopelessness takes over and dooms one to yet another failed recovery.
Awareness of Mood to Fight Co-occurring Disorders
All addicted persons in recovery know well about that infamous slippery slope. It is difficult to fight addiction and it can feel easier to slip back into old habits. Awareness of the warning signals can therefore go a long way to preventing relapse. Part of that awareness includes mood tracking. Attention to one’s mood can help the recovering addicted person think objectively about his or her mood—what is called “mindfulness” in cognitive behavioral therapy. This puts mood “on a shelf,” so to speak, where it can be addressed without blame or guilt, the two profitless emotions that distort one’s thinking clearly. And in recovery, clearly thinking is the only way to fight the chemistry that is waging battle for the control of your life.
Living a Drug-free Life in Recovery
Medication that puts a person addicted three steps forward but two steps backward may work during the initial treatment for addiction, but as some point—if actual recovery is the goal—one must be able to do this on his or her own, without chemical crutches. While addiction is both physical and mental, the recovery it requires shifts primarily into the mental. As such, it can benefit from using mental approaches. This becomes increasingly true when co-occurring mental disorders complicate one’s life path, because mental strategies in recovery both can prevent relapse into addiction and mitigate the mental disorder at the same time.
Putting Pen to Paper—Where the Mood Journal Comes In
Countless self-help books—in business, dieting, morality, etc.—stress the importance of setting goals. They also espouse the written listing of those goals. Why? Because writing and thinking are two different things—done in different parts of the brain—and evoking different thought processes.
Keeping a mood journal not only uses different parts of the brain to get you to your same goals, but it raises the awareness of one’s moods such that triggers for relapse can be identified, labeled, and put on that same objective shelf that mindfulness allows.
When done properly with pen and paper or an electronic mood tracker, mood journaling can be the difference maker in a person maintaining sobriety in recovery, and may even help highlight underlying causes for substance use in the first place.
This guest post was written by Dr. Gerard M. DiLeo from SubstanceAbuse.com
Dr. Gerard M. DiLeo is a Certified Life Care Planner (CLCP), medical doctor, and published medical author at McGraw-Hill. He has contributed health articles to newspapers and regional magazines for over 30 years, and is part of the medical writing team at SubstanceAbuse.com
During his practicing medical career, Dr. DiLeo worked at the University of South California (USF) as the Director of Pelvic Pain. At USF Dr.DiLeo was part of a team of inventors who created the electronic catheter stethoscope (eCath). He has also worked in private practice, achieving the esteemed position of Chief-of-Staff twice.