Dual diagnosis is a very common challenge that many addicts face. It is defined by the World Health Organization as “the co-occurrence in the same individual of a psychoactive substance use disorder and another psychiatric disorder”. Simply put, a person with dual diagnosis, also known as co-occurring disorders, or comorbidity, has both a mental health disorder of some kind along with a drug or alcohol problem. For example, a person may struggle with alcoholism and depression, or bipolar disorder and cocaine addiction. A person may also have more than one mental illness along with some type of substance abuse problem. Each case is unique and treated as such. In some cases, drug or alcohol use begins as a way of self-medicating and an addiction problem follows. Other times, the substance abuse starts first and leads to emotional or mental problems. Both conditions must be treated in order to be effective. If only one of the disorders is treated, the other will still remain, and in the case of substance abuse, relapse is more likely. Treating both diseases can be complicated, but with professional help, it is manageable. In this article, we’ll take a look at how many people are affected, and how co-occurring disorders are commonly treated.
Who Is Affected By A Dual Diagnosis?
Approximately 18 million adults in the United States suffer from a mental health disorder. Of those, about 8 million also struggle with drug or alcohol dependency. This number may be more as there are many people who have yet to seek help for one or both conditions. Many times, a person may be unaware of an underlying medical condition, and may only receive treatment for the drug or alcohol problem and not the mental illness. Research has shown that more than half of all people who are treated for addiction also have a mental illness, yet only 8% receive proper treatment. If the underlying mental illness is left untreated, the likelihood of relapse increases greatly. So who is at risk for co-occurring disorders? Anyone can develop a mental illness along with a substance abuse problem, but those with a family history of either are more susceptible. Gender may also be a factor. Studies have shown that men are generally more likely to suffer from comorbidity than women. Studies have also shown that those who suffer from certain mental illnesses, such as anxiety, panic, or mood disorders can be as much as five times more likely to also have a substance abuse problem. Certain environmental triggers, such as stress or trauma of some kind may also increase the risk.
Signs Of A Dual Diagnosis
How do you know if someone you love suffers from co-occurring disorders? In some cases, it is much easier to tell, for instance, if the person has been diagnosed with a mental illness and then develops a substance abuse problem. If there is no medical history of mental illness, the diagnosis becomes more of a challenge. The diagnostic process itself is often more complex and time-consuming, but if comorbidity is suspected, it is absolutely necessary. Some of the symptoms of mental illness include:
- having delusions or hallucinations
- feelings of despair, hopelessness or worthlessness for an extended period of time
- extreme changes in mood or behavior
- trouble maintaining employment, housing, or relationships with others
- experiencing intense anxiety if certain standards are not maintained or needing to follow certain rituals (such as locking a door a certain number of times, or taking a certain number of steps to cross a room)
- extreme changes in energy levels
- deliberately withdrawing from friends and family and refusing support
- problems with concentration, memory, or thought
- nervousness or paranoia
Physical examination and psychiatric evaluations are both used to determine what illness or illnesses a patient may have other than drug or alcohol abuse. Once a dual diagnosis is established, treatment can begin.
Treatment Of A Dual Diagnosis
Treatment for dual diagnosis often starts with detox. Once a person’s system is clear of drugs and/or alcohol, work can begin on treating both the substance abuse and other mental disorder. Before the 1990s, sequential treatment was the preferred method for dealing with comorbidity. One illness was treated, and then the next. For example, a person with depression and alcoholism would first be treated for the substance abuse, and once detox and rehabilitation were complete he or she would then move on to treatment for the depression. This method has been on the decline in recent years as studies have shown that it led to higher than normal rates of relapse. Now treatment has evolved into treating both disorders at the same time. Since every diagnosis is different, treatment varies from person to person. Recovery plans address an individual’s history of addiction as well as the specific mental disorder(s). Residential inpatient programs have proven to be successful for those with more severe afflictions.
Contact Clearbrook Today
At Clearbrook, treatment is based upon each individual’s needs, as every diagnosis is different. Patients participate in individual and group counseling and attend daily AA/NA meetings. Each patient is assigned one counselor to manage their treatment, many of whom are in recovery themselves, giving them an empathy and understanding not always found in other settings. If you or someone you know is struggling with a substance abuse problem or a co-occurring disorder, please seek help immediately.
For more than 40 years, Clearbrook Treatment Centers has been a leader in substance abuse treatment, providing quality care to the suffering individual and educating the affected family members. If you or a loved one is in need of help, please contact our Admissions Specialists today. We are available 24 hours a day to answer any questions you may have.