Dual Diagnosis: Addiction and Mental Health

A person who suffers from addiction to alcohol or drugs is likely to have a dual diagnosis. This means their addiction is accompanied by at least one mental illness. Understanding how often both situations occur and how to treat them helps those in need of assistance to understand their addiction and mental health and the options available to them.

Dual Diagnosis Is a Common Occurrence

A lot of people think that developing an addiction at the same time they experience a mental health problem means they are incredibly unlucky. Dual diagnosis actually happens to millions of people. Approximately half of the people who struggle with a substance use disorder are determined to also have at least one mental health diagnosis. At the same time, about half of people who deal with mental health issues also develop an addiction to alcohol or drugs. 

This dual diagnosis is also called a co-occurring disorder. Going back a few decades, many treatment professionals and facilities did not understand the correlation between addiction and mental health. Modern-day changes mean that the frequency of occurrence has become well-known. The majority of treatment programs offer help for those dealing with dual diagnoses. 

Dual Diagnosis Mental Health Conditions

Many different types of mental illnesses fall under the heading of dual diagnosis. These can include:

  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
  • Borderline Personality Disorder
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Eating disorders
  • Schizophrenia
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
  • Agoraphobia
  • Postpartum Depression

What Addictions Can Be Part Of a Dual Diagnosis?

A person may be addicted to more than one substance while qualifying as having a dual diagnosis. For some, this means addiction to both alcohol and a drug. Others have developed an addiction to more than one drug. The substances a person with dual diagnosis may be addicted to include the following:

  • Alcohol
  • Cocaine
  • Heroin
  • Opioids
  • Methamphetamine
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Stimulants
  • Marijuana
  • Hallucinogens
  • Inhalants
  • Over-the-counter medications

Treating Addiction and Mental Health Concurrently

There was a time when many clinicians believed that a person should receive treatment for one condition before tackling the other one. A program might want someone to address their addiction before they would treat them for their mental illness or believe a person’s mental health had to be managed before they could treat the addiction. 

A better understanding of dual diagnosis that developed shows that treating both conditions at the same time offers the best results. Many times, one situation exacerbates the other, often becoming cyclical. It makes sense to take them both on at the same time.

How Addiction and Mental Health Trigger Each Other

People with an addiction often report turning to excessive use of alcohol or drugs in order to help them deal with their mental illness. For example, an individual who experiences a great deal of anxiety may begin binge drinking in order to lessen the symptoms. Without meaning to do so, an addiction to alcohol can develop. 

Another person might deal with depression and start using stimulants or opioids to try to assuage their symptoms. These situations commonly happen when a person either does not realize they have a mental illness or when the approach they are taking to treat it does not work. 

On the flip side, a person who finds themselves dealing with the illness of addiction may find it contributes to developing mental illness. For example, alcohol is viewed as a way to elevate a person’s mood and have fun, but it is actually a depressant. Abuse of alcohol can cause depressive symptoms, which then make a person want to apply more alcohol to relieve them. 

The various side effects of both addiction and mental illness can trigger each other. A person who experiences a sleep disturbance due to their mental health may use narcotics that either cause sleepiness or keep them awake for extended hours. Someone who develops a sleep disturbance because of drug abuse may then find their symptoms such as anxiety and depression worsen. 

What to Do If You Have a Dual Diagnosis

If you suspect you have a dual diagnosis, the first step involves getting a confirmed diagnosis. A person can make an appointment with their doctor or a licensed counselor who can make the call. The next step is to come up with a plan for treatment. The physician or therapist can help with suggestions for the type of programs to investigate, as well as likely provide some referrals to professionals and facilities that treat dual diagnosis.

Deciding on a treatment plan that involves moving into a residential facility means doing some prep work for it. A person who is in the process of getting diagnoses, finding treatment, and preparing to enter it can often use assistance. They can ask a trusted family member or friend to help them take care of several tasks, including:

  • Make phone calls and appointments related to getting a diagnosis
  • Drive them to appointments
  • Gather information from treatment centers
  • Help contact insurance companies to determine treatment coverage
  • Provide a sympathetic ear if they need to vent about their fears or concerns
  • Make a to-do list to ensure everything gets done before leaving for treatment, such as laundry, cleaning out the refrigerator, and packing
  • Update family members and friends about where and when a person is seeking treatment, on an as-needed basis
  • Help arrange for things needed while a person is away for treatment, such as childcare, pet sitting, and house sitting
  • If the residential program allows it, offer to email, call, snail mail a letter, or visit the person while they are in treatment

Dual Diagnosis Treatment in Texas

Casa Colina offers a luxury rehab experience for men only near the Dallas metroplex. You will feel at home while you take part in a residential program designed to help men suffering from a dual diagnosis of addiction and mental illness. We provide holistic and equine therapy, along with experiential therapy, such as art, massage, music, and meditation. We keep your family in the loop so they can understand your progress and support you.

Contact Casa Colina today and let us answer any questions you have about our program. 

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