What Does it Mean to Have a Dual Diagnosis?
Dual diagnosis is a term used to describe when a person struggles with a co-occurring mental health condition and substance use disorder at the same time. For example, someone who struggles with bipolar disorder and alcohol use disorder is said to have a dual diagnosis.
In some cases, the mental health condition comes first. People who struggle with mental illnesses like depression, anxiety, and even eating disorders are at an increased risk of substance abuse and addiction due to the difficult symptoms they experience. Someone with depression may begin abusing drugs or alcohol to cope with feelings of sadness or hopelessness, while someone with anxiety may use substances to calm their nerves or socialize with others. Regular substance abuse, or in this case, self-medication, can progress into a substance use disorder.
At the same time, people who become addicted to drugs and alcohol are at an increased risk of developing symptoms of mental illness. Frequent drug and alcohol abuse can alter brain function and cause chemical imbalances, both of which can eventually turn into a mental health condition.
Regardless of which disorder comes first, it’s crucial that people seeking recovery receive comprehensive, integrated care that addresses both their substance abuse and mental health.
How Common is Dual Diagnosis?
Dual diagnosis is considered extremely common. In fact, some studies estimate that more than 17 million U.S. adults live with a co-occurring mental health and substance use disorder.
Within the treatment realm, more than half of people with a substance use disorder also have a mental health condition. These numbers are even higher in adolescents. National surveys have found that more than 60% of adolescents in substance abuse treatment also meet the diagnostic criteria for at least one mental health condition.
Types of Co-Occurring Mental Health Conditions
All mental health conditions are unique and treated differently. Some of the most common mental health conditions that exist alongside addiction are:
- Depression – Approximately 16.5% of people with depression have an alcohol use disorder and 18% have a drug use disorder.
- Anxiety disorders (including OCD, PTSD, phobias, and other anxiety disorders) – More than 20% of people with anxiety disorders also have a substance use disorder. Approximately 46% of people with PTSD also have a drug or alcohol use disorder.
- Personality disorders – Between 35-73% of people with personality disorders have a substance use disorder.
- Bipolar disorder – up to 40% of people with bipolar disorder will experience a substance use disorder and 58% will experience an alcohol use disorder at some point in life.
- Eating disorders – 50% of individuals with eating disorders abuse drugs or alcohol, and up to 35% had a substance use disorder.
- Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) – 15% of adolescents and young adults with ADHD also have a substance use disorder and up to 11% of individuals with a substance use disorder also have ADHD.
- Schizophrenia – Up to 50% of people with schizophrenia have a drug or alcohol use disorder.
If you or a loved one are struggling with co-occurring disorders, know that a dual diagnosis addiction treatment center in California can help. Contact Arise Treatment Center today to speak with a team member about starting treatment.
Signs and Symptoms of Dual Diagnosis
Recognizing a dual diagnosis isn’t always easy because many symptoms of mental illness mirror the symptoms of substance use disorder. For example, both conditions may involve symptoms such as:
- Isolating from friends and family
- Rapid mood swings or behavioral changes
- Unpredictable behaviors
- Dangerous or risky behaviors
- Loss of interest in things you once enjoyed
If you suffer from a substance use disorder and a mental health condition, you may also experience:
- Abusing a medication that you were prescribed
- Using drugs or alcohol to cope with symptoms of depression or anxiety
- Continuing to use drugs or alcohol even though they are causing your mental health to decline
- Feeling as though you need drugs or alcohol to function
- Having a fear of what life will be like if you stop taking drugs or alcohol
Treating Addiction and Mental Health at the Same Time
The symptoms of addiction and mental health issues are overlapping, and many of the treatments are the same, too. As a result, many addiction treatment centers offer integrated care that treats both conditions simultaneously. This is extremely important because leaving mental health undiagnosed and/or untreated and only treating the substance use disorder can ultimately lead to relapse.
If you get sober, but you don’t treat your mental health condition, your symptoms will continue to bother you. They may become so severe that you turn to drugs or alcohol to cope, ultimately continuing your addiction. At the same time, seeking treatment for mental health but failing to disclose substance abuse issues can also lead to negative treatment outcomes. Your mental health can’t improve if you are still abusing mood-and-mind-altering substances.
When you seek treatment for both conditions at once, you can truly recover from addiction and get your mental illness under control.
How Does Dual Diagnosis Addiction Treatment Work?
Before starting treatment, you will undergo a comprehensive assessment that aims to understand your situation, provide you with an accurate diagnosis, and inform the clinical team about your treatment needs. This assessment is used by dual diagnosis rehab facilities to curate a custom-tailored treatment plan just for you.
Dual diagnosis treatment involves the following elements:
Detox is the first obstacle you have to overcome. Because withdrawal symptoms can be painful, especially if you have co-occurring disorders, it’s always recommended to detox in a medical facility. During inpatient medical detox, staff will monitor you 24/7 and administer medications that ease your symptoms.
While mild addictions can sometimes be treated on an outpatient basis, people experiencing a mental health condition can benefit more from a residential inpatient rehab program. During inpatient rehab, you will receive 24-hour care, support, and intensive therapies that are designed to meet your personal needs. The goal of inpatient rehab is to diagnose and treat the root cause of your addiction.
Although medication cannot cure mental illness, it can provide symptom relief. If you aren’t taking medications already, you may be prescribed medication for your symptoms during treatment. For example, depression is often treated by prescribing an antidepressant or SSRI and bipolar disorder is often treated using mood stabilizers or antipsychotics.
Psychotherapy, or behavioral therapy, is a major part of treatment for both substance abuse and mental health. Therapy addresses underlying trauma, buried emotions, and unhealthy coping mechanisms. Types of therapy used during dual diagnosis treatment include, but are not limited to:
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
- Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)
- Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
- Assertive Community Therapy (ACT)
- Group processing sessions
- Family behavior therapy
During residential treatment, you will live among other patients who have the same goals as you. However, you may benefit from long-term supportive housing in the form of sober living. Sober living homes provide safe, structured, and sober environments for people in early recovery. While sober homes are not a form of formal treatment, they can help support you by promoting abstinence and healthy behaviors after you leave rehab.
Self-Help and Support Groups
Living in addiction recovery with a mental health condition can be challenging and isolating. Support groups and self-help groups can provide you with a place to meet other like-minded individuals. These groups encourage you to discuss your difficulties, celebrate your achievements, and get support from people who know what you’re going through.
Dual Diagnosis Addiction Treatment in Vista, California
At Arise Treatment Center, we understand that everyone is unique and that recovery is not a one-size-fits-all situation. That’s why we approach treatment with individually-tailored care plans and a comprehensive clinical approach. Throughout your experience with us, we are committed to working alongside you to make sure your needs are met.
If you or a loved one are struggling with a co-occurring mental illness and substance use disorder, please don’t hesitate to reach out to a team member about your treatment options. We’re always here to help.