A dual diagnosis means that a person suffers from a drug or alcohol addiction and a mental health disorder. Dual diagnoses, or co-occurring disorders, aren’t so cut and dry, though. They can be tricky to recognize because the drug and alcohol use can blur the lines of normal behavior for the individual. For example, if Kate is abusing alcohol and then suffers from bouts of depression, is it really the alcohol causing these feelings? Or could it be depression?
Because it’s difficult to make a dual diagnosis, it’s important to choose a treatment center that has experience in this area. Some treatment centers only look at the addiction portion. However, if the person does not have the underlying condition addressed, it’s more likely that they will relapse. That’s because it’s very difficult to expect someone with, say, depression to stop using drugs and alcohol to mask their feelings when the depression hasn’t been treated.
How Common is a Dual Diagnosis?
The National Institute on Drug Abuse states that substance abuse and mental health disorders frequently occur together. It’s estimated that about one-third of all people experiencing mental illness and about half of the people living with severe mental illness abuse drugs and alcohol. The people most at risk for having a co-existing condition include those of lower socioeconomic status, military veterans, those with medical illnesses and men.
The most common illnesses that go hand in hand with substance abuse are post-traumatic stress disorder, personality disorders, anxiety, depression and schizophrenia.
What are the Symptoms?
With a dual diagnosis, both a mental health disorder and substance are present. The symptoms of a dual diagnosis do vary because there are many types of mental illnesses out there. A person suffering from depression may act very differently than someone with anxiety, for example. In a general sense, here are the symptoms to watch for:
- Withdrawal from friends and family
- Sudden changes in behavior
- Extreme mood changes
- Confused thinking
- Problems concentrating
- Suicidal thoughts
- Avoiding social activities
- Engaging in risky behaviors when under the influence
- Using substances under dangerous conditions
- Loss of control
Choosing a Dual Diagnosis Treatment Center
If you believe that you or a loved one is struggling with a substance abuse problem and a mental illness, it’s critical that you choose a recovery center that is experienced in treating both problems. True healing cannot begin until both problems are addressed.
At The River Source, each patient receives a full-assessment upon being admitted to treatment, and this is where we often make the diagnosis. From here, our counselors and doctors put together a personalized treatment regimen that takes both problems into account.
Why Inpatient Treatment is Best
Residential rehab facilities are best in these instances because more intensive treatment is required. Many patients need time away from their current environment in order to better understand themselves and their condition.
Luckily, assigning a name to the problem helps a lot of patients. Some come into recovery thinking they are abnormal and having a reason why they feel the way they do is validating. When they can deal with their “depression” or “personality disorder,” it’s much easier than trying to work through strange and erratic emotions.
Also, by treating the mental illness, the addiction becomes easier to treat as well. Some patients find that they don’t need to continue using drugs or alcohol when their depression or anxiety is managed. Others better understand where some of their dark emotions come from and how to manage them.
Once treatment is completed, it’s very important that the patient follows through with their aftercare plan, which will likely include medications to treat the mental illness and coping mechanisms for dealing with stress and anxiety.
It may also be recommended that the patient attends therapy. Psychotherapy is a large part of treating a dual diagnosis and helping people cope with the condition and change ineffective patterns of thinking. Self-help and support groups are also beneficial and offer safe, supportive environments where people can share their frustrations, successes and community support.
Treating an addiction is very difficult, as you probably are already aware. Throwing a mental illness into the mix stirs things up even more. But, it’s important to look on the bright side. If you or a loved one has an underlying problem, wouldn’t you want to know about it? Wouldn’t you want to get the help that is needed to feel better and have the energy to commit to treatment? Wouldn’t you want the best chances for success in recovery?