What Does it Mean to Have a Dual Diagnosis?

What Does it Mean to Have a Dual Diagnosis?

Having a Dual Diagnosis refers to comorbidity, a medical term that describes co-occurring disorders. If someone has a substance use disorder and a mental health condition at the same time (e.g., both substance abuse and depression), then he has this condition. Co-occurring disorders occur quite often; in fact, the Journal of the American Medical Association reports that 29 percent of those diagnosed with a mental health illness also have a substance abuse disorder. The report also states that thirty-seven percent of alcohol abusers, and fifty-three percent of drug abusers, have at least one serious mental health illness.

The following mental health conditions commonly co-occur with substance abuse disorders:

  • Bipolar disorder
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Antisocial personality disorder
  • Obsessive compulsive disorder
  • Depression
  • Panic disorder
  • Schizophrenia

If you struggle with any of the aforementioned problems, then drug abuse may be even more dangerous for you.

What Forms First, Substance Abuse or Mental Health Issues?

It is difficult to know whether the substance abuse or mental health issue formed first, because so many variables factor into both problems. From genetics and biology to environment and family history, many issues make it very difficult to pinpoint the exact cause of either disorder. On one hand, a pre-existing mental health illness can prompt substance abuse, because people may take drugs to self-medicate their symptoms. For example, someone may abuse alcohol to calm her nerves, to reduce social pressures and to combat other symptoms of anxiety. As people continue self-medicating their symptoms, they can soon develop tolerance and chemical dependency to the substances they abuse.

On the other hand, abusing alcohol and other drugs lay the foundation for a mental health disorder to form. Drugs and alcohol are chemical substances that alter the brain’s chemistry and structure. As they interfere with the brain’s normal function, the greater the risks are of mental health issues.

Regardless of which issue comes first, it is difficult to treat co-occurring disorders. It is very easy for individuals to fall into the vicious cycle of self-medicating the symptoms of one disorder while consequently triggering the symptoms of the other. The problem is that breaking free from this vicious cycle is harder and harder as time goes on.

How to Treat a Dual Diagnosis Disorder

When someone has a Dual Diagnosis, he is best suited to integrated treatment, which address both addiction and mental health at the same time. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration defines integrated treatment as the “process of merging separate clinical services to meet the individual’s substance abuse, mental health and other needs.”

By combining psychological and addiction treatment, medical professionals can uncover the root cause(s) of substance abuse while also addressing mental health concerns. Treating both issues simultaneously has proven to cause progress more quickly, and it also paves the way to lasting recovery. In other words, integrated treatment explores the relationship between co-occurring disorders while preparing people for long-term recovery from both disorders.

How to Learn More About Dual Diagnosis Treatment

If you would like to learn more about Dual Diagnosis treatment, call our toll-free, 24 hour helpline to speak with an admissions coordinator. Our staff are happy to answer your questions and to provide you with all the information you need to foster recovery. If you are ready to find treatment, they can help you find the right program and services for your unique needs.