What is Dual Diagnosis?
Have you ever asked yourself what is dual diagnosis? Dual diagnosis refers to a condition where an individual experiences one or more mental illnesses in combination with an addiction to drugs or alcohol. Most individuals with dual diagnosis turn to self-medicating, where they use drugs or alcohol in an attempt to deal with depression, anxiety and any other emotions that are painful for them to handle. However, this may lead to drug or alcohol addiction that will later require affected individuals to visit the nearest dual diagnosis treatment center for treatment.
Increasing numbers of people are being diagnoses with these two concurrent disorders. Whether that is because the mental health crisis is worsening or that people are being more carefully evaluated when entering a treatment program remains to be seen. But anyone who is living with these co-occurring disorders should explore dual diagnosis treatment.
At Next Level Recovery we understand how challenging it is to suffer from mental illness and addiction. Our professionals are passionate about helping you or your loved one finally calm the storm, and live a full and happy life, sober. Contact our SLC, Utah substance abuse recovery center at (888) 759-5846 to get the help you deserve.
About Dual Diagnosis
According to data provided by the National Alliance on Mental Health, about 8 million adults in the U.S. have a dual diagnosis, or co-occurring disorders. The symptoms of a dual diagnosis will vary according to the specific combination of disorders involved. Generally, individuals with a diagnosed mental health disorder are about twice as likely to also suffer from a substance use disorder.
It is sometimes unknown which disorder appears first, whether it was the mental health disorder or the substance use disorder. A dual diagnosis can develop either way. For example, an individual suffering from social anxiety may begin abusing marijuana for relief, then acquiring an addiction to it. Or, the marijuana use disorder became severe enough to cause feelings of paranoia that led to social anxiety.
Symptoms of a Dual Diagnosis
The symptoms of a dual diagnosis are determined by the specific combination of disorders that are present. Each combination, along with the unique features of each, will have certain associated symptoms. For example, someone with depression who also develops an alcohol use disorder with have entirely different symptoms of the individual with anxiety disorder who has developed a benzodiazepine addiction.
However, because having a dual diagnosis will further disrupt life it is good to know the common symptoms that are often evident:
- Erratic behaviors, impulsivity, high risk behaviors
- Cognitive impairments
- Moodiness, mood swings
- Declining performance at work or school
- Neglecting hygiene
- Substance abuse
- Difficulty maintaining healthy relationships
- Sudden personality changes
- Difficulty managing responsibilities and daily obligations
- Avoidance of social events, social isolating
- Financial problems
- Engaging in high-risk behaviors
- Thoughts of suicide and death
- Mounting legal problems
- Withdrawal symptoms, severe hangovers
A dual diagnosis is a complex condition that requires careful screening when an individual approaches treatment. Receiving a dual diagnosis is the result of careful screening for both mental health disorders and substance use disorders during the intake interview and evaluation process.
Some of the more common dual diagnosis combinations include:
- Depression and alcoholism
- Depression and heroin
- Anxiety and benzodiazepine addiction
- Anxiety disorder and cocaine abuse
- Bipolar disorder and alcoholism
- Social anxiety disorder and marijuana abuse
- PTSD and alcoholism
- PTSD and opioid addiction
Effects of Co-Occurring Disorders
Although dual diagnosis can affect any member of the society, research shows that men are most likely to suffer from these disorders compared to women. This condition is also common among individuals who have medical issues, socioeconomic status, jailed and prison inmates and veterans of the army. Those who are left untreated and do not understand what dual diagnosis definition means can be lonely, homeless, alienated from the community, their family, and friends. Victims are also left to face possible jail time, divorce, loss of employment, loss of child custody, drug overdoses and even untimely death on their own.
The effects of dual diagnosis on individuals and the society at large can be dire. Providing separate mental health care and other additional services may be costly to the community. Expenses even rise higher when victims go through criminal justice and healthcare systems again and again since a lot of money is required to foot the medical bills.
A dual diagnosis escalates the severity of either disorder, making a substance use disorder more serious and a mental health disorder more difficult to manage.
Signs and Symptoms of Co-Occurring Mental Health Disorders
Symptoms vary widely among those who are affected, but common signs include withdrawal from friends, family, and other social groups such as organizations, clubs, community activities, inability to obtain and keep gainful job employment and most commonly involvement in risky activities and behaviors such as driving under the influence of alcohol.
Other signs include schizophrenia where the victim develops a mental state that is constantly under hallucinations that are usually accompanied with or without delusional patterns of thought and disorganized speech as well as uncontrolled changes in normal body movement. Other possible symptoms under schizophrenia include an inability to experience pleasure, emotional flatness, problems with memory and attention.
Another common symptom is bipolar disorder where affected individuals experience relatively bouts of an unusually excitable state which is commonly referred to as mania. Some victims may develop longer bouts or major depressions. Mania symptoms include reduced sleep, jitteriness, increased talkativeness, and an inflated sense of self and elation. Depression symptoms can include a change in appetite, down mood, changing sleep patterns, feelings of sadness with or without worthlessness and suicidal thoughts.
Because a dual diagnosis has the capability of enhancing a mental health condition, it is wise to be aware of the warning signs for suicide. Rates of suicide have increased dramatically over the past decade, becoming a serious societal concern. The warning signs for suicide include:
- Prolonged and persistent sadness, signs of hopelessness
- The individual conveys the opinion that his or her loved ones are better off without them
- Isolating behaviors
- Successive setbacks that occur, such as relationship problems, loss of employment, financial difficulties
- Appear to be giving away prized possessions
- Making end of life arrangements
- Saying goodbye to loved ones and friends
- Acquiring the means by which to commit suicide, such as a firearm, rope, pills
Individuals who struggle with depression or bipolar disorder particularly will be at a higher risk for suicide if the substance disorder is alcoholism.
Dual Diagnosis Treatment
Treatment for a dual diagnosis should be sought at an expert dual diagnosis treatment program. These programs are staffed appropriately to manage the psychiatric component of care. Co-occurring disorders treatment provides patients with well-organized plans that are designed to address their mental health and addiction problems. Initially, mental illness and drug abuse were treated separately, and all treatment programs were generally under one-size-fits-all approaches that did not take into consideration individual personalities, weaknesses and strengths of patients.
Mental health experts of the past also believed that it was necessary to treat drug addiction disorders before moving on to psychiatric illnesses. However, modern-day treatment options are more effective and address both disorders simultaneously. The modern methods of treatment of dual diagnosis include:
- Detox services. Detox and withdrawal is the first step in the recovery process. It is necessary to complete detox before proceeding on with the active therapy portion of rehab. Withdrawal symptoms will be closely monitored and medications provided to ease discomfort.
- Individual therapy. Therapy is an essential core element for treating co-occurring disorders. The therapist guides the individual in exploring sources of emotional pain, and then helps them resolve these. There may be unresolved trauma issues or a history of sexual or physical abuse that has contributed to the dual diagnosis.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy. CBT provides an opportunity for clients to identify how thought distortions or negative self-talk may lead to the substance use behaviors. Once these are acknowledged, the therapist can guide the client toward replacing the negative thoughts with affirming and productive thoughts. Other evidence-based therapies used in dual diagnosis treatment include dialectical behavior therapy, motivation enhancement therapy, and behavior modification.
- Group therapy. Group therapy in rehab supports peer interaction and is an important source for bonding and accountability. Family-focused group sessions are another intrinsic treatment element for individuals in treatment for a dual diagnosis.
- Medication management. Medications may be a core treatment element for a dual diagnosis. Pharmacotherapy is used to help stabilize the manifestations of the mental health disorder, which allows for better engagement in both the addiction recovery and the psychiatric therapy. In addition, medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is sometimes appropriate for some substance use disorders to support early recovery.
- Nutritional counseling and fitness. Key to restoring overall health in recovery is establishing new healthy habits. Clients are coached on dietary choices and nutrition, and daily exercise is encouraged.
- Art and music therapy. Some individuals resist opening up during talk therapy sessions, feeling uncomfortable with revealing their innermost feelings. These clients may benefit from art and music therapy, avenues that provide creative outlets for emotions, as well as help reduce stress and induce a sense of calm.
- Aftercare. Individuals recovering from a dual diagnosis face a more challenging journey. They must try to manage their psychological wellness effectively so they do not relapse back into substance abuse. By engaging in aftercare activities, such as living in sober living, attending weekly therapy sessions, and participating in a local 12-step group, their chances of success are greatly enhanced.
Next Level Recovery is a Online Therapy and Dual Diagnosis Treatment Center
Our qualified experts at Next Level Recovery work closely with each patient and their family members to create a customizable and proven treatment plan that will help them achieve ultimate healing. As you visit or take your loved ones to our dual diagnosis treatment facility, you can expect optimal treatment results. Every affected individual has a unique relationship with his or her mental health and substance abuse issues and we’re here to provide the help you need.
Are you or your loved one struggling with co-occurring disorders in Salt Lake City, Utah? Make a no-obligation appointment with Next Level Recovery today to explore our dual diagnosis treatment programs. We are here to help you overcome your addiction to drugs or alcohol and help you take back your life. We offer financing options and accept insurance. Give us a call at (888) 759-5846.
6771 South 900 East
Midvale, Utah 84047