Dual diagnosis is the diagnosis of two or more disorders at the same time. Generally a combination of a substance abuse such as alcoholism or drug addiction and a mental illness, a dual diagnosis is often known as a co-occurring disorder.
Although the term “dual” connotes two disorders, in this context, it means two or more disorders. For instance, the patient may have more than one substance abuse disorder and/or more than one mental health condition. The diagnosis is made when it can be substantiated that a patient shows symptoms of both substance abuse and a mental disorder, instead of just symptoms related to one disorder.
Examples of some of the more common co-occurring disorders are combinations of depression with cocaine addiction, alcohol addiction with schizophrenia, and borderline personality disorder with multi-substance addictions. Although these are some examples, there are a number of variations of how mental disorders and substance abuse can be combined. Severity of the disorders can also vary. While the patient may have a mild mental disorder, they may have a severe substance abuse problem or vice versa. According to Psychology Today, more than half of all adults with serious mental illness are also impaired by substance use disorders. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services states that approximately 8.9 million adults have co-occurring disorders.
Compared to patients with a single condition, those who have dual diagnosis disorders are more likely to have severe and chronic medical, emotional and social problems. They are more prone to relapse than patients with just one disorder. Also, an addiction relapse often results in worsening psychiatric problems, which then may lead to further substance abuse.
The common psychiatric disorders in dual diagnosis cases include:
- Mood disorders
- Anxiety disorders
- Personality disorders
- Psychotic disorders
Mood disorders are characterized by changes in mood and include depression, bipolar disorder and mania.
Anxiety disorders are disorders that are characterized by excessive fear and nervousness, and sometimes difficulty sleeping. This group includes panic attacks, post-traumatic stress disorder and agoraphobia.
Personality disorders are indicated by dysfunctional behavior. Paranoid, antisocial, borderline and avoidance behavior are included here.
Psychotic disorders can manifest through any of the following symptoms:
- Disorganized behavior
- Impairment in reality testing
Schizophrenia is the most well-known condition in this category.
It is difficult to diagnose co-occurring disorders. That is because it is tough to distinguish what may be occurring due to substance abuse or a mental disorder. Denial is also a common problem that can interfere with proper diagnosis. If you think that you or someone you know may have co-occurring disorders, don’t be ashamed or think you are weak. Admitting there is a problem is the first step toward getting help.
Things that may affect the diagnosis of co-occurring disorders include:
- Family history
- Sensitivity to drugs or alcohol
- Symptoms when you are sober
- Previous diagnosis of substance abuse or mental illness
Treatment for Dual Diagnosis
The best rehab for dual diagnosis is integrated treatment in a co-occurring disorder program, where the substance abuse and mental illness are treated simultaneously. Recovering from dual diagnosis will take time but with courage and commitment, you can get better.
Relapses are often part of recovery, so don’t become discouraged if you have a relapse. Getting treatment for all of your disorders from the same high-end treatment facility for co-occurring disorders will help prevent relapses and help you progress forward more quickly if they do happen.
Joining a support group such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous can be a great help. These groups allow you to connect with peers who have gone through the same process you are struggling with.
Finding the Right Upscale Dual Diagnosis Treatment Center
“The best rehab for dual diagnosis is integrated treatment in a co-occurring disorder program, where the substance abuse and mental illness are treated simultaneously.”When searching for a program for dual diagnoses, make sure it is licensed and accredited. You should choose a program that uses treatment methods backed by research and that has a post-treatment plan to help prevent relapses. Make sure that the program has expertise in your type of mental illness.
SAMHSA recommends that a program do the following in the treatment of dual diagnosis:
- Help you think about the role that alcohol and other drugs play in your life
- Offer you a chance to learn more about alcohol and drugs, to learn about how they interact with mental illnesses and with medications, and to discuss your own use of alcohol and drugs
- Help you become involved with supported employment and other services that may aid your process of recovery
- Help you identify and develop your own recovery goals
- Provide special counseling specifically designed for people with dual diagnosis issues
SAMHSA offers an extensive list of licensed, certified drug treatment facilities for co-occurring disorders.
Support Group can be a safe place to get help in overcoming obstacles. Often luxury rehab programs for dual diagnosis issues include support groups during and after treatment.
You are never too old to improve your health and quality of life!