How to Recognize that You Are Not Defined by Your Diagnosis

How to Recognize that You Are Not Defined by Your Diagnosis

Having a mental illness or substance abuse diagnosis often carries a stigma that, for some people, can inhibit recovery. If you realize that you do not have to be defined by your diagnosis, then you will have achieved an important part of the rehab process. However, getting to this stage in your recovery journey takes times and patience. At first, you may believe that you will always be known for your actions while you were under the influence of drugs, or you will think that no one will forget your behavior before being treated for mental illness. But it is possible to rise above the stereotypes of your diagnosis if you remember what makes you unique and use that knowledge to be the person you really want to be.

Drug Addiction Defined

The National Institute on Drug Abuse defines addiction as a chronic, relapsing brain disease that is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use in spite of harmful consequences. In short, drug addiction is a disease that requires medical and psychological treatment. Addiction often causes the following symptoms:

  • Needing more of a prescription drug to get the same level of relief
  • Needing more of a prescription drug before the next dose is due
  • “Doctor shopping” to get new prescriptions for the drug
  • Engaging in illegal behaviors, like stealing, to get and use the drug
  • Participating in dangerous activities, like driving, while under the influence of the drug
  • Buying drugs on the street because a prescription has run out
  • Changes in physical appearance, especially in the area of personal hygiene
  • Changes in relationships and withdrawal from family members

As a disease that cannot be cured with solely willpower, drug addiction affects every part of a user’s life. Relationships may end, families may endure challenges, jobs and careers are lost or put on hold and people die all from the disease of addiction. If you know that you or a loved one struggles from a medical condition rather than just a behavioral issue, then you can empower yourself in your journey to get and stay clean from drugs.

Mental Illness Defined

According to the Mayo Clinic, mental illness refers to a wide range of disorders that affect mood, thinking and behavior. Depression, anxiety, schizophrenia and eating disorders are all mental illnesses, and addictive behaviors that lead to drug and alcohol abuse are also considered mental illnesses. It is often difficult to diagnose whether a mental illness causes an addiction or whether the addiction caused the mental illness to surface, because these two issues often go hand in hand. For people who have a personal or family history of mental illness, then it is vital to recovery to treat both conditions simultaneously. Dual Diagnosis treatment is the best choice for patients with mental illness symptoms and addiction.

If you suspect that you or your addicted loved one suffers from mental illness, then look for the following signs:

  • Sadness or depression
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Confused thinking
  • Excessive fears, worries or extreme feelings of guilt
  • Withdrawal from friends and activities
  • Extreme fatigue, lack of energy or problems sleeping
  • Delusions, paranoia or hallucinations
  • Inability to cope with daily problems or stresses
  • Inability to relate to people or situations
  • Suicidal thinking

If you or a loved one struggles with any of these symptoms of mental illness, then it is time to get help.

Living Above a Diagnosis

People who struggle with a mental illness or addiction often see themselves only through the lens of their diagnosis. However, it is important to remember that you had a life before your illness, and the person you were is still very much a part of you. In spite of your disease, you are unique and have something of value to contribute to the world. It is still possible to find yourself or to become the person you want to be, and this thought can powerfully motivate your recovery.

In the case of mental illness, a diagnosis can actually provide a sense of relief , because it validates that there is a name and a reason for how you feel. With a diagnosis comes treatment, and with treatment comes healing; it may mean a lifelong commitment to medications, psychotherapy and behavior modification, but, as with other diseases, proper management can offer new life and a new hope. And with the promise of a future, it is easier to rediscover your sense of self-worth.

For those who struggle with addiction, getting the right treatment can mean freedom from the control of drugs and alcohol. There is no need to feel shame for getting the help you need—according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 22 million Americans suffer from addiction, and 23 million are living in long-term recovery, which means they have overcome the hopelessness associated with the disease. You are more than your addiction or diagnosis, and are not alone in your struggles.

Find Help for Mental Illness and Addiction

If you or a loved one struggles with mental illness and/or drug addiction, then know that we are here for you. Our admissions coordinators are available 24 hours a day to answer your questions and to help you find professional treatment. Call our toll-free helpline now for instant support.