Dual Diagnosis: Diagnosis and Treatment
With this guide, learn about the details of dual diagnosis, why it occurs, and how it is treated.
Table of Contents
What Is Dual Diagnosis?
It’s no secret that substance use and mental health are interconnected. The good news is that mental health and substance use disorders are treatable. If you or someone you know is struggling with a dual diagnosis, it’s essential to seek help. There are many resources available, and with treatment, people can live healthy and happy lives.
Dual diagnosis is a common term used to describe an individual with both a mental health disorder and substance use disorder. For instance, if a person is diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and alcohol use disorder, they qualify for dual diagnosis treatment.1
Learn More About Co-Occurring Disorders
How Common Is a Dual Diagnosis?
What Comes First: Substance Abuse or Mental Health Problems?
In contrast, dual diagnosis is defined as two disorders co-existing independently, not because of one or the other. Suffering from a mental health and substance use disorder can lead to health issues, impairment of life skills, injuries, loss of life, and legal ramifications. Unfortunately, although treatment is effective, many people do not have access to or receive care for their co-occurring disorders.2
Why Do Substance Use Disorders and Mental Disorders Occur Together?
Dual diagnosis mental health and substance use disorders are frequently co-occurring. Many addiction professionals and public health researchers have dedicated their careers to studying the dual diagnosis relationship. Thus far, it appears there are three explanations for dual diagnosis disorders.
Common Risk Factors
Mental Disorders Can Contribute to Drug Use
Substance Use and Addiction Can Contribute to the Development of a Mental Disorder
Signs of Substance Use Disorder
Guilt, shame, and minimizing are significant challenges in addiction. If you or a loved one are struggling with substance and alcohol use disorder, there are physical, behavioral, and psychological warning signs to look for:4
Abrupt Personality Changes or Changes in Behavior
Socially Isolating Self from Family, Friends, and Favorite Activities
Unable to Control Drug or Alcohol Use
Financial or Legal Problems
Building a Tolerance So More Is Needed to Achieve the Desired Effect
Experiencing Withdrawal Symptoms if Substance Is Not Used
Signs of a Mental Health Disorder
Recognize the Signs
Inability to Concentrate
Eating and/or Sleep Problems
Inability to Function in Daily Life
Changes in Sex Drive
Unexplained Physical Pain
Fluctuating Mood, Bouncing Between Highs and Lows
It is important to remember that seeking help from a mental health professional when experiencing any of these symptoms can be very beneficial. They are equipped with the tools needed to treat and guide patients to recovery and a better life.
Why Co-Occurring Disorders and Dual Diagnosis Are Treated Differently
Mental health and addiction treatment centers offer various levels of care and therapies to treat individuals with co-occurring disorders and dual diagnoses. The following section will discuss standard therapies available at dual diagnosis and integrated treatment centers.
Common Therapies Offered at a Dual Diagnosis Treatment Center
Evaluation and Diagnosis of Mental Health Disorders
An individual must visit a dual diagnosis treatment center to complete a mental health assessment to receive proper treatment. A trained and licensed mental health professional accurately diagnoses existing mental health disorders.
Individuals with a substance use disorder and mental illness can significantly benefit from family therapy. Interpersonal conflict and the challenge of caring for someone with a dual diagnosis are excellent reasons for patients and their loved ones to participate in family therapy. Many dual diagnosis rehab facilities offer family therapy to their clients.7
Individual therapy or psychotherapy is a critical component of any effective co-occurring disorders and dual diagnosis treatment plan. During individual therapy sessions, clients process events, learn coping skills, address maladaptive thinking patterns, and create treatment plans.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is an effective talk therapy for dual diagnosis clients. During CBT, the client and therapist work together to identify and work through ineffective thought patterns.
Mental health medications play a critical role in treating co-occurring disorders and dual diagnoses. Various drugs can treat mental illness, alleviate withdrawal symptoms, and promote sustained substance recovery. Medication management is also used during medical withdrawal and detoxification processes.
Assertive Community Therapy
Assertive community treatment (ACT) is a type of therapy commonly used to help people with mental health and substance use disorders. ACT services can include psychiatry, nursing, social work, vocal rehabilitation, and substance use treatment. The principle behind ACT is that patients will receive around-the-clock care and support while residing at home. Improved quality of life, independent functioning, and lessening the burden of care on loved ones are three primary goals of ACT.8
Integrated intervention or treatment is a method in which a person receives care for substance use and mental illness at the same time. This form of treatment is the most common delivery method for individuals in dual diagnosis therapy.
What is Integrated Treatment?
What You Should Know About Dual Diagnosis
Dual Diagnoses Are Very Common
Dual Diagnosis Has Adverse Physical Effects
Dual Diagnosis Has Social Effects
Dual Diagnosis Treatment Is Complicated
There is a wide range of dual diagnosis-specific challenges in drug and mental health rehab. Dual diagnosis rehab facilities face the unique challenge of treating multiple disorders without aggravating any courses of treatment. For example, a patient with stimulant use and bipolar disorder may need detoxification, inpatient rehabilitation, sober support, psychiatric treatment, and medication management. Dual diagnosis treatment programs have the infrastructure to coordinate this complex level of care.12
The Dangers of Self-Medication
Many people attempt to treat or mask their mental illness by using drugs or alcohol. The following sections will discuss common examples of self-medication.
Drinking Alcohol to Feel Less Anxious
Taking Excessive Amounts of Benzodiazepines to Ebb an Oncoming Panic Attack
Using Marijuana to Numb the Emotional Pain
In the long term, marijuana use can worsen mental health problems and result in cannabis addiction. Self-medicating with marijuana can also interfere with prescribed medications, harm a person’s memory, and result in learning deficits.
Smoking or Injecting Cocaine to Increase Energy
Recovery With J. Flowers Health Institute
If you or someone you know is suspected of struggling with multiple disorders simultaneously, drug and mental health rehab can provide the necessary resources for recovery.
J. Flowers Health Institute is a treatment center that provides a wide array of services for individuals with co-occurring disorders and dual diagnoses. Contact J. Flowers Health Institute to learn more about our world-class evaluation, detoxification, continuing care, and wellness programs.