Treating addiction involves much more than just addressing people’s alcohol or drug consumption. When addicts are provided with the right treatment, it may assist them in recovering from addiction and maintain balance in every sphere of their lives.

Many addicts suffer from both substance abuse and mental health disorders. When a person has both conditions, it is commonly referred to as a dual diagnosis. When overcoming severe physical and psychological issues, it is necessary to know what dual diagnoses are and the treatment methods that are available for such co-occurring disorders.

What is a dual diagnosis?

A dual diagnosis is a phenomenon where a person simultaneously experiences both substance use disorder (such as alcohol or drug use) and a mental illness (such as bipolar disorder, anxiety, or depression). Either of the problems may develop first.

Some people think that the consumption of alcohol and drugs is the key to soothing their mental illnesses, but studies reveal that such substances may further worsens their mental health symptoms. The condition of dual diagnosis has various components, which may make it difficult to find integrated care.

Dual diagnoses are common. According to a survey, around 7.9 million Americans had both a substance abuse disorder and a mental illness in 2014.

How do mental illness and addiction relate to each other?

Drugs play a significant role in modulating how the brain and body function. They create changes in mental health, altering how a person feels, thinks, and acts. The interrelations between body and mind create the complexity of addiction due to environmental, biological, and personal factors.

Remember that the simultaneous existence of substance abuse and mental disorders does not necessarily mean that one condition leads to the other. While one condition may cause another or make the other worse, the disorders may occur independently of each other.

It is not possible to diagnose mental illness until the symptoms have reached a specified level. But subclinical symptoms may provide hints about when, why, and how such dual diagnoses occurred.

Symptoms of dual diagnosis

A co-occurring disorder is associated with a complete set of unique traits, and understanding these symptoms is the key to finding the right treatment and recovery options. Mental health clinics have included the use of screening tools to identify potential risks for alcohol and drug abuse. Some commonly observed symptoms include:

  • Drastic changes in behavior and risky behavior
  • Consumption of substances despite dangerous conditions
  • Increased distance between friends and family members
  • Loss of control over drug and alcohol use
  • Inability to function without using substances

Various other symptoms may also occur and may be observed on a case-specific basis. Some of initial warning signs may include sudden mood changes, the inability to make informed decisions, and the development of suicidal thoughts.

Treatment for dual diagnosis

Not seeking timely and effective treatment for a dual diagnosis may lead to the erratic behavior and turbulent relationship issues with loved ones. If you think you are suffering from similar disorders, first ask yourself, “Do I have an alcohol problem?”

If you think that you do, explore various online sites for probable symptoms of a dual diagnosis and appropriate treatment options. Arrange a consultation with a physician to discuss your feelings, actions, and behavior. Work with the physician to decide which treatment options may be suitable for you. Some common treatment plans include:

  • Inpatient rehabilitation
  • Supportive housing
  • Detoxification
  • Self-help, peer assistance, and support groups
  • Psychotherapy
  • Medications

Treatment for dual diagnosis does not end inside the four walls of a rehab center. Activities such as traveling are healthy ways to take your mind off your addictive past and keep your inner peace in check. The important thing is to seek help in the first place. 

About the author: Stephanie Clarke has written about addiction and other topics for various sites.

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