What is Dual Diagnosis?

A person who has been diagnosed with both a substance use problem and a mental health disorder is known to have a dual diagnosis, which is sometimes referred to as co-occurring disorder, dual disorder, or co-morbidity. People with co-occurring disorders (dual diagnosis)  must overcome difficult obstacles. For example, compared to people with mental or substance use problems alone, they have higher rates of relapse, hospitalization, homelessness, and HIV and hepatitis C infection.

It can be rather challenging to tell which disorder developed first, making a diagnosis more challenging because symptoms of one disorder might be masked by or accentuated by those of the other. According to estimates, more than 50% of people with a significant mental health diagnosis also struggle with drug or alcohol addiction.

Understanding the Causes of Dual Diagnosis:

Many ailments fall under mental health disorders, sometimes mental diseases. A wide variety of mental health conditions—disorders that impact your emotions, thinking, and behavior—are called mental illnesses, sometimes known as mental health disorders. Depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, eating disorders, and compulsive behaviors are a few examples of mental illnesses.

Many people occasionally struggle with their mental health. But when symptoms linger and put you under a lot of stress and limit your ability to carry out regular chores, it becomes a mental illness.

When the subject is unable to regulate their consumption of alcohol or drugs, whether they are legal or illicit, they are labeled with a substance use disorder. 

Use persists even when severe adverse outcomes occur, such as challenges at home, work, school, and health concerns. In addition, because alcohol and drugs impair various brain functions, substance use disorders are a subset of mental health disorders.

Both disorders significantly impact a person’s capacity to carry out everyday responsibilities successfully and responsibly.

  • The subject is unable to recall the last time they experienced complete happiness in life without the aid of drugs or alcohol.
  • The person started abusing alcohol or drugs in an effort to get over tension, fear, and worry. 
  • The patient has previously gone through trauma. 
  • There is a history of mental illness in the subject’s family.
  • The person has withdrawn from friends, family, and those who assist.

How Do Mental Health Problems and Substance Abuse Affect Each Other?

It’s never easy to deal with substance misuse, alcoholism, or drug addiction, and it’s even worse when simultaneously dealing with mental health issues.

When one has co-occurring disorders, their capacity to perform at work or school, maintain a stable home life, cope with challenges in life, and form relationships may be hampered by both the mental health issue and drug or alcohol addiction, each of which has its distinct symptoms. 

The fact that the co-occurring disorders also have an impact on one another complicates the problem further. For example, substance misuse worsens when a mental health issue is left untreated. And when drug or alcohol misuse rises, mental health issues typically follow.

What conditions involving mental health and substance misuse generally co-occur?

There are numerous possible combinations between mental health and substance use problems. However, substance addiction and mood or anxiety problems are the most frequent combinations. According to studies, at least 50% of those addicted to drugs or alcohol also experience emotional, psychological, or mental disorders.

Several mood disorders frequently co-occur with substance use disorders:

  • Bipolar disorder
  • Depressive disorder in adults
  • Dysthymia disorder (consistently depressed mood for at least two years and at least two other symptoms)

With alcoholism or drug abuse comes the following anxiety disorders:

  • Disorder of generalized anxiety
  • Disorder of compulsive behavior
  • Social anxiety disorder
  • PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder)

In addition to substance misuse, other mental health diseases that may co-occur with it include schizophrenia, ADD, ADHD, and personality disorders.

Symptoms of a dual diagnosis:

It can be challenging to recognize a dual diagnosis. It takes time to distinguish between potential mental health disorders and drug or alcohol problems. The mental health issue and the misused substance, whether alcohol, illicit substances, or prescription pharmaceuticals, affect the signs and symptoms.

Some widely known symptoms are:

  • There are changes in appetite or fluctuations in weight.
  • Violence, rage, or recklessness.
  • Alterations in sleeping habits (insomnia or excessive sleep).
  • Extreme anxiety or stress.
  • Intense or enduring feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, and despair.
  • The internal anxiety that particular actions or practices can only calm down.
  • Sudden changes in energy levels or mood.
  • Utilization of alcohol and drugs as coping techniques.
  • Confusion.
  • Inability to concentrate.
  • Eating or sleep problems.
  • Inability to function in daily life.
  • Changes in sex drive.
  • Unexplained physical pain.
  • Exaggerated expressions of sadness, fear, worry, or anger.

Hallucinations, delusions, paranoia, and suicidal thoughts are examples of severe symptoms.

Treatment for dual diagnosis:

A person with a dual diagnosis must manage both ailments. One must give up alcohol and drugs for the treatment to be effective. Medicines and behavioral therapy are possible treatment options. Assistance groups can also provide social and emotional support. They serve as a forum for exchanging advice on handling everyday difficulties.

Medication, individual or group counseling, self-help techniques, dietary modifications, and peer support can all be used to treat mental health issues.

Detoxification, controlling withdrawal symptoms, behavioral therapy, and support groups to help you stay sober are all possible treatments for substance misuse.

 Even in the most extreme circumstances, recovery is still feasible with the right treatment program, even though treating dual diagnosis makes therapy more difficult.

There is always room for optimism. Treatment options exist for mood disorders and alcohol and drug abuse issues. People with substance use disorders and mental health issues can and do recover from co-occurring disorders, but it requires time, effort, and courage.

Addiction-related health problems can be challenging to manage. Rehab facilities are incredibly beneficial in the treatment of substance addiction. Psychologists can offer assistance in helping patients overcome addictions, cope with stressful situations, and manage their chronic conditions. If the behavior has reached an acute addiction and is causing distress, or disrupting your life, talk to a doctor or mental health care professional.

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