Mental illness and repeated misuse of drugs or alcohol are often strongly connected and can happen simultaneously. The National Alliance on Mental Illness explains there is a term used to describe a person having both a mental illness and substance abuse disorder: co-occurring disorders or dual diagnosis.
Unfortunately, more than 9.2 million adults in the U.S. experience both of these issues, and the numbers are constantly changing since 2018.
Mental health and substance abuse are difficult enough to handle individually, let alone when the two occur together. If you or someone you love suffers from dual diagnosis, you need to seek specialized treatment. Here are some things you need to know about dual diagnosis, to help ease your mind.
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Dual diagnosis is not uncommon
Many studies indicate mental illness and substance abuse are strongly related, regardless of which condition develops first. This makes dual diagnosis a prevalent issue because there is no way to know for sure if one of these illnesses can trigger the other.
While it is true that illnesses such as depression and anxiety can trigger substance abuse, or substance abuse can lead to mental illnesses, this does not mean that one happens because of the other. Common risk factors such as genetics, stress, or traumatic events can trigger these conditions to occur together.
Symptoms of these conditions are often similar
Mental health disorders and substance abuse can happen for a variety of individual reasons, but what makes them difficult to identify is the fact that both share similar traits.
For example, both a person battling substance abuse and one struggling with a mental health disorder can exhibit severe mood changes, risky behavior, thoughts or statements of self-harm, as well as avoid activities they previously enjoyed.
Dual diagnosis is challenging to treat
Specialists often struggle to find the right type of treatment for people suffering from either one of these issues, but when you put them together, things can become even more challenging. One thing that makes dual diagnosis so difficult to treat is that it is often very hard to identify exactly where certain symptoms come from.
Take, for example, a patient battling both drug addiction and depression. Because symptoms are often similar, there is no way to know for sure where a certain problem comes from. This is why you need to find a good dual diagnosis treatment center, where experts can help with treatment.
Both conditions need to be treated simultaneously
Substance abuse and mental health disorders can influence one another. For treatment to be as effective as it should, both issues should be treated at the same time. The type of treatment that should be applied is decided by the therapist, in accordance with the patient’s needs. Prescribed medication and behavioral therapy are often the most common forms of treatment.
A person struggling with dual diagnosis can often be recommended detox programs as well, to help keep substance abuse under control. For other instances, inpatient treatment centers are the best solution to tackle both problems.