In the past, individuals suffering from mental health disorders and substance addiction often needed to look for separate treatments for each condition. In most cases, the person had to get clean and sober first before his or her mental health problems were addressed.
Unfortunately, this approach hardly worked because substance abuse is often caused and exacerbated by underlying mental health problems.
The good news is that thanks to advances in the mental health and medical fields, it is now possible to treat both substance abuse and mental health disorders at the same time through the dual diagnosis treatment approach.
What Exactly is Dual Diagnosis
The National Alliance on Mental Health defines dual diagnosis as the occurrence of mental illness and substance use disorder simultaneously. It is a case where either mental illness or substance use disorder occurs first and exacerbates the other disorder.
An example of dual diagnosis is the case of a person with an undiagnosed depression or anxiety disorder who turns to drugs or alcohol to cope with the mental health condition and ends up becoming an addict. Substance abuse further exaggerates depression or anxiety leading to a circle of dependency. There are also cases where mental health disorder results from substance abuse. It is often difficult to cope with behavioral changes in the early stages of substance abuse. Guilt, fear, and loss of control due to substance abuse can easily lead to depression and other mental health issues.
Mental Health Issues That Occur in Dual Diagnosis
Here are some of the most common mental health problems that often accompany substance use disorder in dual-diagnosis cases:
Depression is a highly prevalent mental health disorder in the United States. Studies show that around 21 million adults, or 8.4% of all adults in the U.S. suffered at least one serious depressive episode last year.
Some people suffering from depression have a higher likelihood of turning to drugs or alcohol for relief. Approximately one-third of people with depression have a drug or alcohol problem as well.
Alcohol and drugs may provide temporary relief from the feelings of sadness and hopelessness that accompany depression but over time the substances only make the condition worse. They eventually lead to alcohol use disorder, drug use disorder, or dual diagnosis.
2. General Anxiety Disorder
It is normal to feel nervous or anxious before a date, work or school presentation, or any other stressful situation.
However, generalized anxiety disorder is a higher level of anxiety. GAD makes it difficult to manage your daily activities creating a severe form of anxiety. Most people often turn to drinking or using drugs to relieve the anxiety caused by GAD.
When a person cannot control high levels of anxiety without turning to alcohol or drugs, the situation may get complicated and develop into a dual diagnosis case.
3. Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar disorder is characterized by manic episodes followed by depressive episodes. There are two types of bipolar disorder; namely Type I and Type II.
Undiagnosed bipolar disorder is difficult to manage which is why many people suffering from bipolar disorder turn to drugs and alcohol.
In an effort to relieve symptoms through substance abuse, the individual risks addiction and ends up with a dual diagnosis condition.
4. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Post-traumatic stress disorder is another mental health condition often found in people with substance use disorders. PTSD is usually caused by unprocessed trauma in an individual’s life.
People who have at one time or another experienced a traumatic event such as assault, combat action, sexual abuse, and/or child abuse are likely to develop PTSD.
Many people with PTSD often turn to drugs and alcohol as coping mechanisms. The unresolved trauma has a high likelihood of leading to addiction and dual diagnosis.
Other Factors That Contribute to Dual Diagnosis
There are other factors that contribute to the development of dual diagnosis. They include genetics where a person is unable to control temperaments and other dispositions without using drugs or alcohol. Genetics also have an impact on the way your body interacts with or processes drugs or alcohol.
Personality can also lead to dual diagnosis. For instance, if you are a novelty-seeking or risk-taking individual, you could likely end up with an alcohol or drug addiction problem as well as you take your explorations to higher levels.
Environmental triggers have an impact on mental health as well. Poor living conditions can lead to substance abuse as a way of alleviating unhappiness.
Symptoms of Dual Diagnosis
In a dual diagnosis case, both mental health disorder and substance addiction have their unique symptoms. The symptoms exhibited by the individual will depend on the disorder involved.
Typical symptoms of substance use disorder include the following:
- Sudden withdrawal from close family and friends
- Lack of concentration and focus
- Starting to engage in risky behavior and activities
- Sudden unexplained behavioral changes
- Developing an increasingly higher tolerance for alcohol or the substance being abused
- Suffering from withdrawal symptoms when you’ve not used the substances or taken alcohol
- Starting to believe that you cannot function normally without alcohol or drugs
Mental health disorder symptoms may include the following:
- A constant state of confusion
- Unexplained and extreme changes in one’s mood or disposition
- Lack of focus or concentration
- Avoiding social events and activities
- Isolation or shunning away from the company of other people
- Inability to function normally at work or school
- Starting to entertain suicidal thoughts
- Loss of self-esteem and confidence
- Talking to oneself frequently
Testing for Dual Diagnosis
Dual diagnosis is diagnosed through a series of tests. This is because symptoms of substance use disorder and mental health disorder sometimes overlap making it difficult for the healthcare provider to make an accurate diagnosis.
Fortunately, most dual-diagnosis treatment centers today have many screening tools that can be used to evaluate both disorders.
The patient needs to be honest and open with the therapist or healthcare provider and provide accurate answers to identify the existing mental health disorder and get the most appropriate dual diagnosis treatment.
Treating Dual Diagnosis
Dual diagnosis treatment involves treating both substance use disorders and mental health disorders at the same time. You’ll need to cooperate with your therapist to understand how each disorder affects the other one to determine the best course of treatment for your unique case.
The first step in dual diagnosis treatment is to stop taking addictive substances. This is best achieved through detoxification to rid of toxins and reduce the effects of withdrawal.
After detox and cessation of substance abuse, preferably in an inpatient treatment center, you can then proceed with other forms of treatment depending on the mental disorder you suffer from.
Some of the most commonly used dual diagnosis treatment methods include the following:
1. Medication-Assisted Treatment
Dual diagnosis treatment may also include medication depending on the substance use disorder and mental health problem you are struggling with. There are drugs that help alleviate symptoms of each disorder or both disorders of the dual diagnosis.
A good treatment center will have FDA-approved medications on hand to aid in the treatment of depression and addiction.
2. Behavioral Therapy
Behavior therapy has been proven to safely and effectively treat dual diagnosis. Two of the most effective behavioral treatments are Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT).
CBT teaches you how you can cope with ineffective thinking patterns and make the necessary changes to lead a better life. DTC helps you to get rid of self-harm behaviors such as alcohol abuse, drug use, and suicidal thoughts and actions.
3. Support Groups
Support groups are also quite effective in dual diagnosis treatment. Support groups provide the social and emotional support you need to overcome the effects of both disorders and chart your way toward recovery.
Support groups provide the much-needed motivation to recover from both mental health issues and substance addiction. The people in your groups who have been through similar challenges as you can provide support and reassurance needed to help you through.
They’ll offer tips and advice on how to prevent and overcome triggers and deal with the challenges of everyday life.
4. Importance of In-Patient Care
If you or your loved one is struggling with substance use disorder along with an identified mental health condition, your best chances of recovery lie in a good dual-diagnosis treatment center such as Georgia Addiction Treatment Center, which offers both inpatient and outpatient treatment programs.
An in-patient care facility provides safe detox under medical supervision as well as other medical and mental health treatments including follow-up support.
Get Dual Diagnosis Treatment at Georgia Addiction Treatment Center
It may sometimes feel too overwhelming when you are dealing with both mental health disorders and substance addiction at the same time.
You often wonder what treatment program best suits your case and whether there is a treatment center with an effective program to handle your case.
The good news is that at Georgia Addiction Treatment Center, we have a team of highly trained and experienced therapists waiting to receive you and start your journey of recovery. Georgia Addiction Treatment Center is a premier dual diagnosis treatment center conveniently located south of Atlanta.
We specialize in providing the best care for patients with a dual diagnosis in our serene facility in Atlanta. Contact us today to learn more about our dual diagnosis treatment programs or to book an appointment.