When there is a concurrent mental health issue and a reliance on a substance (alcohol/drugs) to try and attenuate its symptoms, this is considered to be a complex inter relationship, often referred to as a dual diagnosis. A diagnosis of an underlying mental health condition, which may be anxiety, depression, trauma, affective disorder, personality disorder etc and a diagnosis of a substance dependency.
Often the source of symptoms become blurred due to the similar effects mental health conditions and substance/alcohol have on the central nervous system during use and withdrawal. This can present specific problems for trying to treat a mental health condition by making exacting qualifying observations vague, or also by the fact that alcohol and/or drugs will effect any pharmaceutical medication.
Establishing the potentiality of a dual diagnosis presentation is essential to creating an effective approach for treatment. Treatment will by necessity require a multi faceted approach which attempts to treat or manage each condition accordingly.
A common modern presentation of dual diagnosis is often seen in the form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and alcohol use. Unresolved trauma can often lead to desperate behaviour due to ongoing psychological distress. Alcohol will not solve this, but it can offer very short term relief, however, it will create destructive social issues and more if left unaddressed.