Dual Diagnosis Treatment Could Have Saved Amy Winehouse’s LifeAugust 31, 2018 - Dual Diagnosis - 0 Comments
Understanding Dual Diagnosis. When singer Amy Winehouse died in 2011, her many fans were shocked and heartbroken. However, not many people were very surprised. The sad truth is that Winehouse had been on an apparent downward spiral for several years, falling victim to a variety of addictions. She was known to abuse alcohol, cocaine, benzos, pills, and any other drug that she could find. Even heroin and Xanax found a way into her life.
As a result, the intensely talented and beautiful Winehouse was transformed into a shambling mess who aged decades in just a few years as she lost hair, teeth, weight, and her life. While her music remained strong, her live shows deteriorated as her behavior grew more erratic than it was before her addictions took over. Sadly, most people assumed that this kind of death was all but inevitable for the woman who sang “Rehab” and proudly declared that she did not need help beating her addiction.
The even sadder reality is that Winehouse’s death did not have to happen. If she had been willing to thoroughly detox and could get the negative drug influences out of her life, her recovery from alcohol and cocaine addiction could have been a reality. She could have even moved past benzos, pills, and heroin to become a healthy and relevant pop star with a lifelong career of hits. And, as someone who successfully beat addiction, the intelligent and well-spoken Winehouse could have become an inspirational, rather than tragic, figure.
While it wouldn’t have been a smooth recovery, it was one that could have happened with the help of high-quality psychologists and addiction experts. That’s because Winehouse suffered from what addiction specialists call co-occurring disorders. Hers were particularly powerful and drove her to a lifetime of drug and alcohol abuse. However, a focused and skilled treatment with dual-diagnosis could have taught her the coping mechanisms that she needed not only to overcome her dependencies but to become a happier person with stronger mental health.
Psychological Problems Were Behind Some of Amy’s Finest Music and Her Toughest Addictions
Pop singers with psychological problems are nothing new. Some of the most beautiful music of all time came from tortured people who used their art as a cry for help. Winehouse was no different. While her debut “Frank” was relatively subdued in comparison to “Back to Black,” it was clear by her behavior that something was wrong. Winehouse’s songs intelligently and soulfully charted a sensitive character who felt lost in her world and who needed help to overcome her demons.
Those demons became even more troubling when her addictive behaviors became more public. A drunk or stoned Winehouse became a common tabloid fixture, as these rags mocked her unstable behavior. Part of this was due to her looks. Though Winehouse was a strikingly good-looking woman, she was not a conventional beauty. When her career started, she was a curvaceous woman in a pop world dominated by the petite. As a result, magazines called her “fat” (though she was not) or even claimed that she was ugly. Winehouse took these barbs to heart and experienced significant mental health problems as a result.
Rather than reaching out for mental-health treatment, she instead turned to alcohol and drugs to cope with her feelings of insecurity and self-doubt. Even worse, her drug use started to fuel deeper mental-health problems that had been hidden for years. For example, Winehouse’s body started getting covered with tattoos as she became increasingly aggressive towards the press and even her fans. At more than one show, she just refused to sing and was booed off the stage in an impaired state.
Her behavior and symptoms got even worse as she started to suffer real physical deterioration because of he drug use. Her teeth began to rot, and some fell out of her head. This changes caused further transformations to her physical appearance. And rather than take a calm and comforting approach to this deterioration, newspapers and tabloids continued to mock her. Some tactless individuals even started a “death clock” for the increasingly unhinged Winehouse. Even worse, she was surrounded by sycophants who did nothing but support her destructive behaviors. Her managers, knowing that she was suffering, continued to push her to tour to increase her success.
The real tragedy here, beyond Winehouse’s early death, is the fact that it was all so unnecessary. She was suffering from real mental-health problems that required a skilled treatment method to manage. But she was wrapped up in the sky-high world of superstardom and didn’t have time to slow down. And as her dependencies worsened, it became increasingly clear that Winehouse had bipolar disorder. This disease and addiction often go hand-in-hand for a multitude of reasons.
And while Winehouse is far from the first person to fall into this cycle, her example is particularly illustrative because it was so public when compared to other cases like it. People with bipolar disorder may fall into a destructive cycle if they try to self-medicate, as Winehouse did, by using drugs or alcohol to take the edge off of their hard-to-control mood swings. Sadly, the first thing that Winehouse needed was rehab, not the last.
Bipolar Disorder is Commonly Associated With Drug Use and Dependency
Individuals with bipolar disorder often suffer from a variety of symptoms that make their behavior hard to control. Mood swings are just a part of what makes life so difficult for people who experience severe bipolar disorder. For example, people with bipolar disorder may experience:
- High moods during which they feel capable of taking over the world
- Low points of intense depression that are hard to shake
- Self-control problems that are difficult to manage
- Extreme anxiety predicting their next mood change
- Unpredictable behaviors fueled by control problems
- Severe abuse problems that won’t go away
All of these problems were apparent with Winehouse as her drug use worsened. Showing up at a show over an hour late wasn’t uncommon. Sometimes she didn’t show up at all. And in one interview, she might seem like she was ready to take on her drug use and fully recover. In the next, she might be combative or depressive and impossible to console.
Those problematic behaviors are all common with people who have bipolar disorder. Even worse, they make drug use a more common risk in those with it. That’s because individuals with bipolar disorder may try to self-medicate to feel better. Perhaps they think that drinking heavily or using Xanax, cocaine, or heroin helps to mitigate the problems caused by their mood changes. Or maybe they go out, party, and use those drugs as a way of ignoring their mental-health issues.
Whatever the reasons for her increased drug use, it is evident that Winehouse had fallen into a co-occurring disorder from which she never escaped. Drugs and alcohol became not an outlet for fun but a way to control her mood. Unfortunately, she was both physically and mentally dependent on them to feel happy and healthy. All of these situations created a cycle that Amy never did crack. But she could have with help.
Could She Have Been Saved?
In retrospect, it is simple for people to say that Amy Winehouse was impossible to save. They may believe that she was suicidal and that she used drugs to kill herself. Others have argued that she experienced irreversible brain damage because of her heavy substance abuse. Often, people say these things and shake their head, wishing that they could have done more to help.
These kinds of behaviors are common because people want to believe that they would do better if faced with this experience. They may also wish to excuse themselves for any neglect they may have committed against somebody in a similar situation. Maybe they made fun of Winehouse after she lost teeth or, even worse, did nothing to help a friend in a similar case.
Most people would like to believe that they wouldn’t act this way if faced with abuse as severe as Amy’s. Unfortunately, millions of people do every day. Those affected by a loved one’s drug abuse often try to mitigate the damage to their own lives by checking out of their loved one’s business or writing them off as impossible to save. It is understandable that people have felt this way because they were trying to protect themselves, but it doesn’t excuse it.
Unfortunately, people in Amy’s circle may have written her off or done little to help her out. As a result, Winehouse didn’t have the support she needed to overcome dependency, and it destroyed her. But it wasn’t impossible to save her. There are millions of people around the world who have experienced that kind of abuse disorders and who have survived. A vast majority of them needed dual-diagnosis to recover.
How Dual-Diagnosis Could Have Helped Her Survive
Dual-diagnosis is a powerful way for people with mental-health disorders to recover from drug dependency. It breaks the tight bonds that these co-occurring disorders have on each other and shakes people free from their influence. Dual-diagnosis is particularly crucial for bipolar disorder because it is explicitly designed to teach people how to understand their behaviors fully.
For example, if Winehouse had somehow been able to get into this kind of rehab treatment, she could have learned how to cope with her feelings of insecurity in a more constructive way. Methods such as meditation and positive reinforcement could have built a better personal image that would help mitigate the damage those feelings were having on her everyday life. Just as importantly, it could have helped her to better understand her early symptoms of mood swings and other bipolar problems.
For example, Winehouse could have learned how to spot a downward turn in her emotions and to prepare herself accordingly. Instead of turning to alcohol, benzos, pills, or cocaine, she could have asked friends to support her through a rough period. Winehouse could have even learned behavior-modification techniques to move her away from these destructive behaviors and to more positive ones. For example, she could have learned to do what Fiona Apple claims she does when she feels sad or depressed.
When these feelings hit Apple, she claims that she sits down at the piano and starts writing music. Though Apple is known to drink and has been caught using marijuana, her drug use has never spiraled to the level that it did with Winehouse. Musically expressing herself was not a problem for Amy, and learning to convert her negative impulses into creatives one more regularly could have helped her get over all of her dependencies.
Beyond healing a person’s mind, dual-diagnosis is also designed to help a person physically detox from their drug use in a healthy and healing residential environment. For example, Winehouse could have received replacement medications to manage the potency of her many dependencies. Then, she could have stayed in a residential center, continued to get mental-health help, and met a strong support group who could have helped her overcome her addictions positively and productively.
Of course, we’ll never know for sure if Winehouse would have ever recovered from the damage that drug use had done on her body and her mind. Recovery isn’t just about quitting but about rebuilding your life and your health. That said, there is an excellent chance that high-quality care could have gotten Winehouse back out of the black and into the light.
Do You Have an Amy Winehouse in Your Life?
If you or someone you know is on a downward spiral similar to Amy Winehouse’s, you need to take steps to mitigate the damage it is causing and seek help. Talking to a dual-diagnosis expert is a significant first step because they can diagnose you with dependency on heroin, pills, or even medicines like Xanax. They can then find out if you have any mental-health issues contributing to this dependency.
With their skilled and caring help, you can walk the sometimes narrow path of dependency recovery and become a happier and drug-free individual. A residential visit is particularly beneficial because you will be removed from the relapse triggers that make it so hard for you to quit. Recovery in a residential environment isn’t always easy, but it is often the most effective way to heal.
If Winehouse could have gotten dual-diagnosis and learned how to stay away from the people and places that compelled her to use, she could be on a world tour right now. We’d probably all be singing her latest hit single and would remember her not as a case of dependency run amok but as an inspirational case of recovery. And with the same help, you too can beat your co-occurring disorders and be happier and healthier.
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