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What Is a Dual Diagnosis Disorder?

woman discusses dual diagnosis with doctor

Addiction is dangerous on its own but is especially dangerous when coupled with a disorder such as depression. People who suffer from depression are more likely to also suffer from an addiction disorder. Conversely, those with an addiction are more likely to suffer from depression. This can result in a treacherous downward spiral.

The bi-directional nature of addiction and mental health concerns makes it extremely hard to treat one without treating the other. Thus treatment of these co-occurring illnesses is best handled within a dual diagnosis treatment program. Managing and treating both issues is vital in the recovery process. If they are not both dealt with, relapse is more likely to occur because of triggers. And since many people who struggle with addiction in the United States also have a diagnosable mental health condition, it makes sense to explore the benefits of dual diagnosis treatment.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

It is estimated that 18% – 28% of Americans struggle with an anxiety disorder. Among those suffering from GAD, 33% – 45% of these individuals also have a substance abuse disorder. The symptoms of a generalized anxiety disorder include the following:

  • Pervasive, irrational fears
  • Fears that affect functioning
  • Worrying about worrying

Anxiety can also aggravate the withdrawal process and prevent people from seeking treatment. Sobriety is harder to maintain if the GAD has not been treated. Dual diagnosis treatment can help people manage depression and move forward in their recovery.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Drug and alcohol abuse is common among those suffering from PTSD as it is often a form of self-medication. Unfortunately, self-medication offers no cure. Eventually, people who are self-medicating find their addiction is creating new problems in their life.

It is estimated that approximately 8% of Americans will have PTSD throughout their lifetime. 50% of people struggling with PTSD abuse alcohol. Sadly, these men and women are also are three times more likely to develop a drug addiction. Addiction and trauma go hand in hand, so most people who develop substance use disorder have experienced trauma. Getting treatment for PTSD is essential in the recovery process for many people.

Simultaneous Treatment Is Necessary

Since both disorders often mirror and overlap one another, individuals must receive treatment that addresses their mental health and substance use problems. An effective treatment plan requires a proper diagnosis. It is important that clients are not overly medicated in early recovery as this can make a correct diagnosis harder. Symptoms of alcoholism and drug abuse are similar to mental health symptoms.

Treatment must deal with both illnesses. Addiction treatment, with little to no attention given to mental health, is rarely effective. Wellness is obtained by addressing both disorders. A personalized treatment plan must manage the delicate balance of treating each disorder.

Tell Your Psychiatrist if You Have a History of Addiction

Comprehensive treatment requires a team composed of both medical and clinical professionals. Medical staff should include both physicians and nurses. Clinical staff should be an equal combination of both master’s level clinicians and chemical dependency personnel. Ideally, the team has specific training in the treatment of co-occurring mental health disorders.

The majority of sufferers fare best from an inpatient rehabilitation center that provides 24/7 monitoring of both their physical and mental health. An inpatient setting provides for better medication control, as well as the additional observation time required for an accurate diagnosis. This allows the development of an integrated treatment plan to meet the specific needs of the client.

Providers should incorporate numerous areas into treatment. Therapy and counseling should address mental health and emotion regulation, physical health and nutrition, spiritual engagement, personal enrichment, life skill cultivation, and relationship skills.

Develop a Plan for Ongoing Support

Inpatient treatment is only the beginning of treating and caring for those suffering from both addiction and mental health illness. Since co-occurring disorders may exacerbate one another, continued care for these should be sought. Post-treatment care and monitoring decrease the chances of relapse of substance use and mental health symptoms. Many patients benefit from extended residential care or sober living program.

The 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) estimates that 9.2 million Americans suffer from co-occurring disorders. While many people find much relief from the 12–step work and support groups, others require additional support and care. Patients benefit from psychotherapy that provides the individual with an understanding of how their behaviors and beliefs impact both illnesses. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is particularly effective for dual diagnosis patients as they learn new coping strategies and shift ineffective thought patterns.

Healing Starts at Our Texas Rehabilitation Ranch

SAMSHA’s statistics indicate that most patients entering into addiction treatment have co-occurring disorders. Thus the client needs to obtain an accurate diagnosis. An effective treatment program treats both illnesses concurrently. Focus on 12-step work, emotional and therapeutic work, and mental health treatment are all essential parts of a dual diagnosis treatment program. Treatment centers must have appropriately skilled personnel and a treatment program that provides exceptional care for all individuals.