Dual Diagnosis Treatment
In 2011, 17.5 percent of adults with a mental illness had a co-occurring substance use disorder (also called dual diagnosis), the U.S. National Survey On Drug Use And Health revealed. At the time, there were an estimated 7.98 million people with a dual diagnosis of substance misuse and a mental disorder—so if you’re reading this wondering if you’re alone, you aren’t.
It’s a common occurrence for a person with a drug addiction to experience mental health issues as well. A mental health disorder can show up before or after you develop an addiction, but the main objective is how do you treat it?
Your addiction can be different from the person who came before you and from the person who will come after you. The same goes for pairs of substance and mental disorders. Therefore, they must all be treated differently—there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to dual diagnosis treatment.
How Did I End Up With A Substance Use Disorder?
A substance use disorder doesn’t always start off with negative consequences, but as your life becomes more focused on drugs or alcohol, the problems begin to occur. Someone who drinks moderately, or has tried drugs once or twice, may be able to leave substance abuse alone when they notice it alters their life in a negative way.
If you’ve tried getting drunk or high but decided it wasn’t for you, you most likely walked away with no serious repercussions other than the occasional hangover. While we don’t condone either of those things, for a lot of people, perhaps even you, this is where a substance use disorder begins.
It may start off small with missing a few classes or perhaps sleeping through your alarm and being late for work. As time progresses, those missed classes may result in flunking out and the missed days at work may eventually turn into loss of a job.
These consequences are only the beginning and perhaps you already know this. You may have even lost loved ones because of your drinking or drugging, or perhaps you’ve even experienced failing health. A substance use disorder is based on impaired control, social impairment, substance misuse and pharmacological criteria.
How To Tell If A Loved One Has A Dual Diagnosis
It can be painful trying to determine if you or someone you love has a dual diagnosis or even an addiction.
Most people don’t just come out and say “Mom, I think I might need to be looked at for dual diagnosis.” It usually isn’t that simple. One way to figure it out is to sit down with a therapist and get honest about the symptoms.
This is a confusing time for a lot of people and there may be unexplained fatigue, depression, anxiety attacks, anger, delirious behavior and even hallucinations. Here are some of the other symptoms that are characteristic of a dual diagnosis:
- Feeling sad or depressed
- Loss of energy/constant exhaustion
- Loss of motivation
- Changes in appetite and sleep patterns
- Frequent isolation
- Pessimism (always seeing the bad in ideas or people)
- Anxiety and fear that something bad is going to happen
- Inability to concentrate or make choices
- Irritability, hostility and anger
- Suicidal thoughts and other strange behaviors
- Feeling worthless
- Unexplained aches and pains
- Panic attacks
What Does A Dual Diagnosis Mean?
If you’re suffering from a dual diagnosis, you have a substance use disorder as well as a mental health disorder. You may have started experiencing bouts of anxiety, panic, or depression as a result of using illicit drugs, alcohol, or even prescription medications. It’s important to know which disorder came first to help with treatment, but the top priority is to treat both disorders.
One of the biggest challenges to both patients and treatment professionals is when only one condition is treated. If you keep taking drugs or alcohol while receiving treatment for a mental disorder that’s fueled by addiction, your treatment will likely be ineffective. If you suffer from a dual diagnosis, you’ll be advised to stop using drugs or alcohol while receiving treatment.
It can be hard to understand why you’re stuck with an addiction and why you have to stop partying when all of your friends get to keep having fun. You might feel like you’re no fun or that you have no sense of humor without drugs or alcohol, but that is far from the truth. The reality is that the people who care about you miss the old you.
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Also, you aren’t alone. In 2013, there were approximately 22.7 million people who sought treatment for a substance use disorder involving alcohol, illicit drugs or prescription drugs. The others fighting addiction don’t understand why they were dealt this hand either.
What’s more, a dual diagnosis doesn’t happen to everyone who has a substance use disorder, but people with a mental health disorder are more likely than people without one to fall into substance abuse, according to the Substance Abuse And Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
Each person is different from the next, and the symptoms of addiction can happen on an individual basis. Treatment is no different and should be based on each individual’s needs. Most dual diagnoses occur with the following mental disorders:
- Bipolar Disorder
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
- Depression Disorder
- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
- Anxiety Disorder
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
Because the signs of each of these disorders are so complex, and the signs of addiction so varied, it can be difficult to determine if someone has a dual diagnosis. That’s why it’s so important to understand and recognize the signs of each in order to seek help.
Signs Of An Addiction
Just like the disorders themselves, signs of addiction vary from person to person. Here are some common signs to look for:
- Taking more drugs/drinking more than you intended
- Inability to stop drinking or doing drugs, even when you want to
- Shirking responsibilities
- Ignoring hobbies and activities that used to interest you
- Slips in school attendance or work performance
- Increase in willingness to take risks (usually to obtain drugs or alcohol)
- Trying to hide your substance abuse from people close to you
- Tolerance: no longer feeling the effects of a substance when you take it
- Withdrawal: experiencing physical symptoms when you don’t have access to or try to stop taking the drugs
Not everyone experiences these signs of addiction, but many people don’t get help until it gets to this point. Some never receive help at all. For many struggling with addiction, they also suffer from a mental illness.
Signs Of A Mental Health Disorder
Mental illnesses don’t fit into a single, neat category, so there’s no set of symptoms that describes all mental health disorders. Many of them display similar characteristics, though, like the following:
- Not wanting to spend time with friends or family, or avoiding them altogether
- Extreme fear or anxiety (to the point of excess)
- Feelings of extreme sadness
- Consistent confusion or trouble concentrating
- Shifting mood changes without warning, especially random bouts of euphoria
- Severe and prolonged feelings of anger and irritation
- Changes in sleep patterns, eating habits and sexual activity
- Trouble with relationships/trouble relating to others
- Substance abuse
- Experiencing multiple physical maladies without a cause or explanation
- Suicidal thoughts
- Increasing inability to deal with pressure, stress or to function in daily life
Can Addiction Lead To A Mental Health Disorder?
It’s true that having a mental illness doesn’t guarantee you’ll develop a substance use disorder, or vice versa. But having one disorder could contribute to development of another.
Imagine you have a mental health disorder and you experience bouts of depression, anxiety, mood swings, violent outbursts and more. In looking for a way to cope with these episodes and feelings, you might turn to drugs or alcohol. This is often how addiction starts.
The same is true if substance abuse comes first. If you already struggle with addiction, you might feel low, guilty or even ashamed. When you begin lying about your addiction, or trying to cover it up, you might suffer extreme anxiety or worsened depression.
Having addiction doesn’t mean you’ll definitely develop mental health issues, but it increases the likelihood. Mental health issues increase your chances of falling into addiction.
This is especially risky if you take addictive medications for your mental health disorder. Some prescription drugs are addictive even when taken as prescribed, so it’s important you follow directions with great care.
Alcohol, Prescriptions And Illicit Drugs Commonly Abused In The United States
Certain drugs can result in addiction and other health complications, even if the drug is prescribed. Substances can alter your thinking, decision making, ability to operate a vehicle and even your likelihood of contracting a sexually transmitted disease. The side effects from the following drugs are often similar to the symptoms of a mental health disorder:
- Prescription Opioids
- Amphetamines: Molly and Ecstasy
Dual Diagnosis Is Treatable
We know it can be really hard to stop using drugs or alcohol, and that’s why during holistic treatment the mental health disorder and physical addiction are both addressed. At Addiction Campuses, the idea that an addiction is a moral failing is discouraged.
We believe that addiction is a spiritual malady, along with a mental and physical affliction. Each drug addiction is unique and requires professional guidance and treatment. Here are some of the treatment approaches that may be helpful for a dual diagnosis:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
- Dialectical Behavioral Therapy
- Mindfulness and Stress Management
- Recreational Art and Adventure Therapy
- Life Skills Training
- Group Counseling
- Individual Counseling
- Family Therapy
- Spiritual Guidance
The programs offered at our treatment centers focus on the individual and their addiction. The professionals in our community make it a priority to give you the help you need—because they care about you. There’s no doubt you still have questions, and we can answer them.
We Have A Treatment That’s Right For You
If you believe that you have all of the signs of a dual diagnosis, and want to learn more about the healing power of a rehab treatment, contact our addiction specialists today. We want to help with your success and we’re willing to go to any length to see you there.
Addiction Campuses will provide you with an evidence-based treatment for recovery and help you get your life back on track. Don’t wait to call, because your future self is counting on it. We’re here for you 24 hours a day.
Depression And Bipolar Support Alliance—Dual Diagnosis And Recovery
National Alliance On Mental Illness—Dual Diagnosis
National Council On Alcoholism And Drug Dependence—Signs And Symptoms
National Institute on Drug Abuse—Comorbidity: Addiction And Other Mental Illnesses
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration—Co-occurring Disorders