A 2014 study by the National Institute of Mental Health found that almost 8 million Americans were not only suffering from a psychiatric disorder but were facing issues with substance abuse simultaneously. 

We call this ‘dual diagnosis’ and, sadly, it is not a rare phenomenon. Read on to find out more about what is dual diagnosis and the available treatments.

What is Dual Diagnosis

Dual Diagnosis, also known as ‘comorbidity’ is when an individual presents an addiction to drugs or alcohol and has a mental health diagnosis at the same time. Dealing with just one can have a significant impact on a person’s life, but when the two are present simultaneously, further issues often arise.

It is quite possible that someone suffering from mental health issues might begin to use drugs or alcohol to alleviate the symptoms of their condition. And, at the same time, prolonged substance abuse can trigger any underlying predispositions for psychiatric illness. The continual use of substances such as alcohol can also worsen the symptoms of mental health issues as well as create new ones. 

Just as the possible causes for a dual diagnosis can overlap, so can the symptoms. This is one of the most difficult things about creating a dual diagnosis. It can be extremely difficult to determine whether the individual’s mental illness or their drug addiction is causing a specific problem, as the symptoms often overlap.

Symptoms of Dual Diagnosis

Due to the countless possible combinations of substances and mental illnesses that can be present, most dual diagnosis cases present themselves uniquely, and can be difficult to spot.

Here are some of the common symptoms that might be displayed:

  • Mood swings and aggressive behavior
  • Trouble with cognition and concentration
  • Issues at work or with the law 
  • Pre-existing mental illness prior to the substance abuse problem
  • Withdrawing socially
  • Experiencing delusions or hallucinations
  • Experiencing feelings of mistrust or paranoia

Treatment for Dual Diagnosis

Regular drug rehab centers are not usually equipped for dual diagnosis patients. Dual diagnosis patients have a high suicide rate and can often display violent tendencies. Accessing a true dual diagnosis treatment for the individual is paramount to their recovery.

Because the psychiatric illness and the addiction can become so deeply intertwined it is crucial that the treatment integrates both simultaneously.

There are a number of key underlying factors that need to be addressed during treatment for dual diagnosis in order for therapy to be successful.

  • Identifying the underlying causes for both the mental illness and substance abuse in the individual. 
  • Gain a better understanding of the complex relationship between mental illness and addiction.
  • Identify means of coping with emotional distress without resorting to drugs or alcohol
  • Increased risk of overdosing when prescribing drugs if substance abuse continues 

Due to the complicated and often volatile nature of a dual diagnosis, an inpatient facility is often recommended.

Specialized facilities can provide a wide array of dual diagnosis treatment options to ensure that both conditions are treated simultaneously and holistically. 

The Value of Holistic Care

Once we’ve established what is dual diagnosis, treatment is much more than simply treating the symptoms. For a lot of people, therapy includes helping an individual to rebuild a life, whilst creating new patterns of behavior. Kindness, compassion, and empathy are as important as medical expertise.

Take a look at the rest of our site to find out more. 

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