What is Dual Diagnosis?

dual diagnosis treatment information

Dual diagnosis (more commonly referred to as co-occurring disorders) is a clinical condition in which someone is experiencing both a mental health disorder and a substance use disorder simultaneously – for example, depression and alcoholism. A person with dual diagnosis may battle one of each disorder, or may experience multiple substance abuse disorders and/or multiple psychiatric disorders. Every dual diagnosis case is unique.

Dual diagnosis is not limited, either. It can involve mental health issues ranging from depression to anxiety, undertreated PTSD to untreated ADHD, bi-polar disorder to panic disorder to eating disorders, along with many more. Addictive disorders can also range depending on the person. An individual with dual diagnosis may battle a heroin addiction, a drinking problem, a dependence on prescription pills, or all of the above. Dual diagnosis can happen to anyone, and more than often, occurs in those battling an addiction. Rarely do we see clients enter our program with a drug addiction and not other psychological issues, as well. Dual diagnosis – the link between addiction and mental health – is much more common than you might think.

According to national statistics, nearly 8 million people in the United States are struggling with both a mental disorder and substance use disorder. Research also shows that half of people who experience a mental illness will also experience a substance use disorder at some point in their lives, and vice versa.

With dual diagnosis, either disorder – substance use or psychiatric disorder – can develop first. Some people struggling with a mental illness, such as an anxiety disorder, may turn to drugs or alcohol to alleviate their symptoms (this is called self-medication). Others may have had a history of drug abuse, which then triggered or aggravated psychological problems. Research shows that addictive substances can exacerbate the symptoms of mental illness, while mental illness can lead to substance abuse.

What are Common Dual Diagnosis Symptoms?

No two cases of dual diagnosis are exactly the same, and as a result, symptoms will vary depending on the disorders a person has. For example, eating disorder symptoms differ greatly from PTSD symptoms, and marijuana addiction shows itself differently than a cocaine problem. There are, however, some common signs of dual diagnosis that you can look for:

  • Social withdrawal or distancing from family and friends
  • Mood swings or dramatic shifts in mood and energy levels
  • Angry, violent, or reckless behavior
  • Severe tension, stress, anxiety, or worry
  • Inability to concentrate or sleep
  • Intense or prolonged negative feelings
  • Use of drugs and alcohol as coping mechanisms for any of the above

Dual diagnosis can also sometimes be anticipated, based on some common risk factors:

  • If a person drinks or uses drugs to overcome negative feelings – stress, fear, anxiety, sadness
  • If a person has experienced a major trauma in the past (whether physical, sexual, emotional abuse), he or she is more likely to use drugs
  • If a person has a family history of mental illness, he or she has a greater likelihood of developing a mental health disorder, too

What is Dual Diagnosis Treatment?

Effective dual diagnosis treatment is comprehensive, integrated care that treats the addictive disorder(s) and the psychiatric disorder(s) at the same time and place.

You see, co-occurring disorders are completely separate entities. However, they occur in the same person, at the same time, and also affect the same areas of the brain. This intertwining of addictive and psychological disorders provokes a complex, causal relationship between them, and will worsen a person’s symptoms as a result. For this reason, dual diagnosis treatment must take a combined and integrated approach. Treatment professionals must address a person’s mental and addictive disorders at the same time, in the same place, in order to get the best possible outcome.

Because every dual diagnosis case is unique, dual diagnosis treatment can never be one-size-fits-all. The right dual diagnosis treatment center will take into consideration a person’s individual needs – mental, physical, emotional, social – and creates a tailored treatment plan to promote healing and stability in all aspects of that person’s life. Dual diagnosis treatment specialists are specifically trained in the many mental health disorders, the many addictive disorders, and the many ways that they can intertwine. They will use this knowledge when creating each individual treatment plan.

Experts recommend that dual diagnosis be treated in an inpatient, or residential, care setting, where clients have access to 24/7 watchful care and support. Dual diagnosis is complicated in nature, and someone experiencing substance use and negative thought patterns deserves this high level of care. Inpatient dual diagnosis treatment centers generally offer varied types of therapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, along with counseling, 12-step meetings, support groups, sober recreational activities, educational workshops, and other valuable social and clinical services.

Turnbridge is a recognized, inpatient, dual diagnosis treatment center in the heart of New Haven, Connecticut. Our clinicians and staff are highly-trained in treating co-occurring disorders in young men and women, from all backgrounds and of all different needs. To learn about our dual diagnosis treatment offerings, please do not hesitate to call 877-581-1793 today.