What is Dual-Diagnosis?
When a person has dual diagnoses they suffer from both mental illness and substance use disorder. People who suffer from both can use substances to self-medicate the symptoms they are suffering from caused by their mental illness. When a person is suffering from dual-diagnosis both conditions need to be treated together. It is hard when someone who has a mental illness and substance abuse to determine what factor is the primary problem. This is why most professionals would recommend treating them at the same time to ensure the person is being treated for any possible problems. There are many different diagnosed mental health disorders.
Mental Health Disorders
Some of the most common mental health disorders that are seen in conjunction with addiction are:
- Depression-those who struggle with depression are fighting against a persistent feeling of loneliness, pessimism and worthlessness.
- Anxiety-anxiety can be a normal response for people in response to stressful situations. However, anxiety becomes a problem for people when their fear, worry and distress become their normal state and leave it hard to navigate daily living.
- Bi-polar disorder-people who suffer with bi-polar disorder, struggle with two intense emotional states, meaning that they typically feel manic or depressed. Bi-polar disorder can cause dramatic shifts in mood and impacts a person’s daily functioning.
- Personality disorder – this is a class of disorder that people experience maladaptive patterns in behavior, cognition, and inner experience which is displayed in many different ways. In short, a personality disorder is a deviation from what a “normal” personality would display.
- Posttraumatic stress disorder-PTSD is a severe psychological response to some traumatic event that has occurred.
- Schizophrenia-a disorder that affects a person’s ability to think, feel, and behave clearly.
Signs and Symptoms of Dual Diagnosis
When people are struggling with dual diagnosis, they have both substance abuse as well as a mental health diagnosis. In order to understand what that may look like, it is important to be able to spot different signs and symptoms of dual diagnosis. The following are signs and symptoms of dual diagnosis:
- Overeating or not eating
- Low to no energy or extremely high energy
- Feeling helpless or hopeless
- Having unexplained aches and pains
- Feeling like you don’t matter
- Feeling unusually foggy, confused, worried, upset or angry
- Yelling or fighting with people that are closest to you
- Mood swings
- Relationship issues
- Hearing things
- Inability to do daily functioning
Why is Dual-Diagnosis Treatment Important?
When substance abuse treatment centers came around, they were strictly treating people for substance use disorder. When America stopped jailing those with mental illness and opened up mental health facilities, those facilities strictly treated people suffering from mental illness. Now, we are seeing treatment advertised as dual-diagnosis. What does that mean and why is it important? It is important because someone who struggles with dual-diagnosis needs to be treated for both problems at the same time. It is also important because the staff at dual diagnosis facilities are trained to understand the differences between mental illness and substance use disorder and whether or not someone is suffering from both.
For example, if someone enters treatment and reports having conversations with themselves and hearing voices. Prior to dual diagnosis, this patient might be quickly diagnosed as being psychosis or having schizophrenia. Upon further investigation, the counselor might learn that this person primarily uses methamphetamines which is a side effect of long-term use. That same client reports having traumatically lost his parents at a young age and dealing with depression since he was 12. Now the diagnosis might switch to substance use disorder with depression and PTSD. If that same client was sent away for mental illness only, he would not be addressing the methamphetamine use. If he was sent away for strictly substance use disorder, he may not be addressing his mental health which could be the root cause of why he uses methamphetamines in the first place.
For best possible outcomes in treating people with dual-diagnosis, the following must occur:
- Specialists in both substance use disorder and mental health work together to make sure that both mental health and substance abuse is being treated together
- Prescription medication may be needed
- Psychotherapy will play an important role in the treatment process
- Loved ones should be included in treatment plan to make sure the correct information is being used in treatment
Finally, education dual diagnosis is key. Both mental illness and substance abuse are preventable conditions. Clients and loved ones should be educated on all the information there is available in preventing continued substance abuse or interference with mental wellbeing. Understanding what you might be up against is half the battle. Learning to rely on professionals for the best and up-to-date information is important. Help is available and treatment is possible.