Treatment Center For Mental Illness, Dual Diagnosis and Substance Abuse

May 7, 2016 - - 0 Comments

What is the basic definition of dual diagnosis?

Dual diagnosis is the term used when a person has a mental health disorder such as depression or bipolar disorder (also known as manic depression) and a problem with alcohol or drug and substance abuse.  A person with dual diagnosis needs has two separate illnesses, and each illness needs its own treatment plan.

Accordingly to the National Alliance on Mental Illness roughly 50% of individuals with severe mental disorders are affected by drug and substance abuse.  Thirty seven percent of alcohol abusers and 53% of drug abusers also have at least one serious mental illness.  Of all people diagnosed as mentally ill, 29% abuse either alcohol or drugs.

Mental_IllnessAlcohol or drugs are often used to self-medicate the symptoms of depression or anxiety. Unfortunately, substance abuse causes side effects and in the long run worsens the very symptoms it initially numbed or relieved.

The symptoms of a mental health condition also can vary greatly.  Knowing the warning signs such as extreme mood changes, confused thinking or problems concentrating, avoiding friends and social activities, or thoughts of suicide, can help identify if there is a reason to seek help.

It’s important to note that the defining characteristic of dual diagnosis is that both a mental health and substance abuse disorder occur simultaneously.  Because there are many combinations of disorders that can occur, the symptoms of dual diagnosis vary widely.

Alcohol and drug abuse also interact with medications such as antidepressants, anti-anxiety pills, and mood stabilizers, making them less effective.

Alcohol, drug and substance abuse can increase underlying risk for mental disorders and can make symptoms of a mental health problem worse.   Mind disorders are caused by a complex interaction of genetics, the environment, and other outside factors.  If you are at risk for a mental disorder, alcohol, drug and substance abuse may push you over the edge.

The chicken or the egg

So which comes first, the mental health problem or drug and substance abuse?

Addiction is common in people with mental health problems.  But although substance abuse and mental health disorders like depression and anxiety are closely linked, one does not directly cause the other.

In a dual diagnosis, both the mental health issue and the addiction have unique symptoms that may get in the way of an individual’s ability to function, handle life’s difficulties and relate to others.  This can happen in no particular order – either mental illness or substance abuse can develop before the other.

To complicate the situation further, the double disorders also affect each other and interact.  When a mental health problem goes untreated, the drug and substance abuse problem usually gets worse as well.  And when alcohol or drug abuse increases, mental health problems usually follow suit.

The connection between mental illness and the use of addictive substances is apparent and needs to be addressed.  One of the most common issues connecting mental illness and drug and substance abuse is the intention of patients to medicate the mental health conditions that they find disruptive or uncomfortable by using alcohol and drugs.

This can result in the following examples of coping behavior:

  • A depressed patient using marijuana to numb the pain.
  • A patient suffering from social anxiety who drinks to feel more comfortable in social situations.
  • The patient who struggles with panic attacks and takes Xanax or Valium in order to calm the symptoms or stop the attacks before they even begin.
  • Using Adderall, cocaine or crystal meth to increase their drive to get things done.

Unfortunately, drugs and alcohol often do little to address the underlying mental health symptoms and ultimately create a whole new slew of problems. At the same time this increases the severity of the original mental health symptoms.

Substance abuse can also contribute to mental health problems because of the effects drugs have on a person’s moods, thoughts, brain chemistry and behavior.

A chain reaction

In broader terms it can range from someone developing mild depression because of binge drinking, to someone’s symptoms of bipolar disorder becoming more severe when that person abuses heroin during these same periods.  When these symptoms continue after the drugs wear off, then it can indicate a dual diagnosis disorder.

Men are more likely to develop a co-occurring disorder than women.  Other people who have a particularly high risk of dual diagnosis include impoverished or homeless, military veterans and people with more general medical illnesses.

There’s clearly a connection between substance drug and substance abuse and mental health disorders, and any number of combinations can develop, each with its own set of unique causes and symptoms.

The untreated symptoms of a mental health disorder can cause the patient to be unable to remain clean and sober, and untreated drug and substance abuse issues can make mental health treatment ineffective.

Appropriate intervention and dual diagnosis treatment methods are imperative.  It’s important that the patient enroll in a treatment program that addresses both problems at the same time.

With proper treatment, support, and self help strategies, you can overcome a dual diagnosis and reclaim your life.

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