It’s not uncommon for those who struggle with substance abuse to have some form of mental illness. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, approximately 37% of individuals who are dependent on alcohol or drugs have a severe mental health disorder. In rehabilitation, this dual diagnosis requires integrated care for recovery to be a success, and a dual diagnosis treatment center is the best place to receive this type of mental health care.

What Is a Dual Diagnosis?

A dual diagnosis refers to someone who abuses alcohol or drugs and has received a diagnosis of some form of mental illness or co-occurring substance use disorder (SUD).

Some of the most common mental health disorders that accompany substance abuse include bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), social anxiety disorder (SAD), major depressive disorder and dysthymia disorder. When examined by a mental health professional, the client is found to have two very distinct disorders that can be treated separately.

Many times, the symptoms of substance abuse can mimic mental health disorders. Many individuals will self-medicate, which leads to a vicious cycle of drug and alcohol addiction accompanied by depression or mania.

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Signs of a Dual Diagnosis

A dual diagnosis must be made by a medical or mental health professional, but there are a variety of symptoms to look for. These include:

  • Withdrawal from family and friends
  • Depression or a constant down feeling
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Engaging in risky behaviors
  • Extreme mood swings
  • Increased tolerance to the drug or alcohol
  • Lack of personal hygiene
  • Inability to control drug and alcohol use

How Common Is a Dual Diagnosis?

Nearly half of all individuals who abuse alcohol and drugs have a mental illness or struggle with a mental health disorder. This equals approximately 17 million adults in the United States. Unfortunately, for most, the addiction is usually treated in inpatient or outpatient treatment while the mental disorder goes untreated. A dual diagnosis treatment center can ensure the individual gets adequate help for both illnesses, which can increase their chances of a successful recovery.

Dual Diagnosis vs. Co-Occurring Disorders

A dual diagnosis and co-occurring disorders are very similar. Co-occurring disorders occur when an individual has two or more health conditions at the same time. For someone with a substance use disorder, mental health issues are a result of the drug or alcohol abuse. One can’t occur without the other, so they require simultaneous treatment.

Types of Co-Occurring Disorders

There are many mood swings and emotions that can manifest themselves during substance abuse, including poor self-esteem, sadness, guilt and irritation. These symptoms are different from mental health problems. When an individual stops drinking or using drugs, these symptoms can go away over time. Co-occurring disorders are mental health disorders that receive an official diagnosis. Some of the most common include:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder may cause individuals to be triggered by events, such as being in a crowded place and attending specific events. It can cause panic attacks, sleep disturbances and an inability to function.
  • Bipolar disorder is a mental health issue caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. It’s marked by extreme episodes of depression and mania.
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) develops after intense trauma or a life-threatening event, including war, abuse and accidents. Many people with PTSD use alcohol or drugs to alleviate the symptoms of extreme stress.
  • Personality disorders appear differently in everyone, but those affected may have a difficult time maintaining relationships and controlling their emotions. They may go from being extremely happy one minute to sad the next.
  • Eating disorders an occur when an individual obsesses over their weight. They may exercise excessively, count calories or use diet pills regularly. Anorexia and bulimia are the two most well-known eating disorders.
  • Schizophrenia is a mental health condition that causes hallucinations, psychosis and delusions. Most individuals who’ve been diagnosed with schizophrenia have a difficult time separating fantasy and reality.

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Mental Health Consequences of a Dual Diagnosis

A dual diagnosis can be difficult to treat. Most often, it’s not treated well enough, which can lead to mental health consequences. Some of the consequences of a misdiagnosis include lack of hygiene, improper medication, increased risk of suicide or self-harm and even an increased chance of risky behaviors, which can lead to jail time.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment

According to the Mental Health Services Administration, treating two or more substance abuse and mental conditions at once can be challenging. Most often, co-occurring disorder treatment requires hospitalization in a dual diagnosis treatment center, where an individual receives care in a safe, structured environment. Both inpatient and outpatient care may be given. Treatment may include screening, psychiatric evaluations, individual and group therapy sessions, family support groups and learning life education skills. Some treatments include a 12-step program that walks you through every step of the recovery process.

Ongoing Care for Mental Illnesses

Aftercare services for a dual diagnosis vary depending on the individual, but the goal is to address the mental illness to prevent relapse. A continuum of care may include outpatient treatment, continuation of a 12-step program, support groups, therapy and physician visits. Mental health treatment may last for months, years or even a lifetime, depending on the severity of your mental condition.

If you’re looking for a dual diagnosis treatment center for substance abuse and mental health disorders for you or someone you love, the Recovery Life Group can help. Contact us at (301) 686-3233 today for more information on what we have to offer, or fill out our form and someone will get back to you as soon as possible to help you get started on treatment.