Many people can live their lives and enjoy their family and friends. They go out and have a drink here and there and never struggle with substance use disorder or sobriety and never give it a second thought. For others, they feel the world spinning out of control and have no idea what to do. Substance use has taken over their lives, and there is no turning back. The “DAD effect” is when someone struggles with depression, followed by substance use (addiction), then denial (DAD). Being aware of DAD and understanding it will help determine the best support required.
Dealing With Negative Emotions
What makes managing a substance use disorder so tricky for some people are negative emotions, which can range from sadness to judgment or fear. Life can be messy and throw all sorts of challenges at people. Whether suffering from loss, financial problems or relationship issues, processing, and dealing with emotions tied to these events is necessary. Those who allow themselves space to experience the emotions feel better, and those who process their sadness also persevere beyond their own boundaries and struggle less. Rather than avoiding tough feelings, the healthier choice is to process them and seek to deal with them appropriately. Depression and substance use disorder often go together because a person may feel depressed and drink or use substances to cope, or the other way around. Mental health disorders can be impacted by the use of substances and compounded by the overuse of substances or alcohol.
Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder
Millions of adults have mental health challenges and substance use problems. They drink or use substances to cope with the symptoms of the challenges they face. When substance use is combined with depression, these conditions amplify each other. If one disorder is treated without the other, recovery becomes less likely. Emotions can be complicated and often have several layers to them. The way people feel due to an event or action comes down to how they interpret or label experiences and how they choose to react. Negative experiences are viewed as “bad” and to be avoided resulting in them never being addressed and contributing to self-medication and substance use. Shame and stigma build around them from a young age. Substance use becomes more than coping at that stage, it becomes about self-harming behavior.
How to Cope
People who are dealing with trauma or issues from childhood find it impacts how they deal with emotions as an adult. Children may not realize they are dealing with negative feelings. As an adult, however, they find that they never developed the positive coping skills they needed. They might:
- Avoid negative emotions, stuff them down, or act out.
- Pass judgment on others and focus on other people’s faults. They find it easier to pick on others than deal with their own issues.
- Keep opinions quiet and be “nice,” being a people pleaser, and doing what they feel they need to, to get by in life.
- Struggle with mental health issues and not be sure how to handle it as they get older.
- Turn to substances or alcohol as a coping mechanism.
People who have experienced a struggle or challenge may feel depressed for a time, but it should resolve within a specified timeframe. Depression that lingers for an extended period is probably chronic and needs additional support. Finding the right help is vital, but it takes overcoming fear of sharing the story. Denial is about the person with substance use disorder’s perception. If they are struggling with a substance use disorder, they may feel they are under a lot of excess stress. Facing problems early on and quickly is essential. Self-awareness is a tool people can learn, so they know when things are harmful to their mental health, and finally get back on track again.
The most effective way to overcome DAD is to face the problem head-on. Whether it is depression, a substance use disorder, or both, the person likely needs to find some positive coping strategies but also some medical and psychological support. Depression is not always the only mental health issue that is ongoing. Quite often, myriad things co-occur, which need attention at the same time. Writing a different ending to your story means first seeking help from the right places to find support.
Whenever someone reaches out for support, they should be met with unconditional love and guidance. To do otherwise means they may be more likely to struggle with their mental health issues and substance use disorder than another person might. The right place is critical for someone to seek help for dual diagnosis. It is a specific protocol that someone needs who is working through mental health and substance use disorder issues at the same time. Help is available, but it means releasing denial and the need to keep going in their present trajectory if they want to find support and success in recovery.
Ashley Addiction Treatment is an innovative treatment program located on Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay. Ashley provides support for professionals seeking help with addiction. We are able to help people with co-occurring disorders and offer confidential treatment programs to meet your needs. Please reach out to us today at (800) 799-4673.