A dual diagnosis is a substance use disorder and a mental illness that are simultaneously occurring. This condition is extremely common in people who are experiencing a substance use disorder. It is so common, in fact, that nearly 50 percent of substance users also have a mental illness. Individuals who allow a dual diagnosis to continue can begin experiencing a multitude of negative consequences in their lives.
Mental illness is something that is actively part of the world of addiction. Some people with untreated mental illnesses can easily find themselves abusing drugs to self-medicate their symptoms. Others abuse drugs to drown out the pain and distress their mental illness is causing. The most common mental illnesses that co-occur with a substance use disorder include:
- Bipolar disorder
- Panic disorder
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Personality disorders (e.g. borderline personality disorder, antisocial personality disorder)
Mental illnesses like these can be grueling to cope with on their own, never mind alongside a substance use disorder. When a mental illness is being ignored and addiction is raging on, both conditions can get worse.
Symptoms of a Dual Diagnosis
People with a dual diagnosis can quickly start exhibiting symptoms related to their condition, including:
- Withdrawing socially
- Abrupt behavioral changes
- Mood swings
- Abusing substances in dangerous circumstances
- Abusing substances despite suffering consequences of that abuse
- Inability to control substance use
- Confusion or “mental fog”
It is important to note that symptoms often vary based on the type of mental illness and substance of abuse. These symptoms are the most common, baseline symptoms that the vast majority of people with a dual diagnosis experience.
Dual Diagnosis Treatment
History shows that dual diagnoses were not treated comprehensively in the past. In fact, providers would rarely agree to treat mental illness in patients if they were still abusing drugs. That is not how dual diagnoses are treated today.
People experiencing a dual diagnosis need some level of treatment to start appropriately managing their condition. If you have a dual diagnosis, a professional (like a doctor or therapist) can help you get the care you need. The first step in beginning your dual diagnosis treatment is to determine which level of care meets your needs best.
Dual diagnosis treatment is offered in a multitude of different settings, including the following:
- Residential rehab — Residential rehab is the top-tier of treatment for a dual diagnosis. If you enroll in residential rehab, you will live at the facility while conducting your therapy.
- Partial hospitalization programs — A partial hospitalization program, or a PHP, will require the majority of your time and effort. You will continue living at home while participating in a PHP, but you will spend the majority of your time at the facility.
- Intensive outpatient programs — An intensive outpatient program also affords you the ability to live at home during treatment. You will go to the facility several times a week and participate in therapy sessions. Unlike a PHP, an IOP does not require the same level of commitment.
- Outpatient treatment — Outpatient treatment requires you to go to the facility a few times per week. During that time, you are going to participate in therapy sessions (mostly group therapy).
Determining what type of program is best for you is half the battle. As you begin your treatment, the true work is going to begin.
Therapies and Medications
Going from active addiction to recovery is never easy. At this time, you are likely feeling various emotions and contemplating what your next step will be. The core foundation of almost all treatment programs is therapy, which is going to allow you to get right to the root of your dual diagnosis. Identifying the origins and causes related to your dual diagnosis gets the gears moving in the right direction.
There are several evidence-based therapies that are effective in treating dual diagnosis. One of the most common therapies used in treatment settings is cognitive-behavioral therapy.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy, or CBT, is a therapy effective in helping alter negative behaviors for good. Through CBT, you will be working on analyzing your emotional responses and how they affect your behaviors. You will spend time challenging those responses in an effort to modify your reactionary behaviors to support your recovery. In addition to cognitive behavioral therapy, your dual diagnosis treatment can include individual therapy and group counseling. In each one of these settings, you will be gaining strength on a personal level and support from others. The length of time you spend in certain therapies and the frequency of them is going to depend on your needs.
Therapy is not the only way to treat a dual diagnosis. Medications are also effective in helping to address the mental illness component. Depending on what your mental illness is, your therapist may recommend a medication that can help treat your symptoms. When you combine therapy and medication in dual diagnosis treatment, you stand the best chance of successfully recovering.
You are unique in your treatment needs. Therefore, your treatment plan will be tailored to those needs. Dual diagnosis treatment traditionally approaches treating this condition with integrated intervention. Integrated intervention is the act of treating both a mental illness and a substance use disorder simultaneously. It is because of this approach that you will be able to develop a strong standing in your recovery.
Do You Need Dual Diagnosis Treatment?
If you are struggling with a substance use disorder, a mental illness, or both, reach out to us now. We understand how complicated living with a dual diagnosis is and we can help treat it. You do not need to continue living a life that is unnecessarily difficult. You possess the power to overcome the challenges you are facing because of your dual diagnosis. All you need to do is ask for help.
So, do not wait any longer. Pick up the phone and contact us right now. We can help.