Dual Diagnosis: An Overview

dual diagnosis

When a person has both a mental disorder and a drug or alcohol problem, they are considered to be dually diagnosed. It is not uncommon for people to experience both conditions—about 50% of people who have a mental or substance use disorder end up suffering from the other at some point in their lives. Co-occurring disorders include, but are not limited to: anxiety, bipolar disorder, depression, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), schizophrenia, mood disorders, and personality disorders. Individuals that suffer from one or more mental health disorder often misuse substances such as marijuana, alcohol, prescription drugs, opioids, and others.

Some co-disorders have a direct correlation to each other, which can increase a person’s chances of receiving multiple diagnoses. They may develop from different causes but still interact with each other. Co-disorders are developed by:

  • One diagnosis directly causing another
  • One disorder may indirectly lead to the other (i.e., self-medicating)

Regardless of how the disorders are developed, an interaction between the two conditions can intensify both.

Challenges in Treating a Dual Diagnosis

A person with a dual diagnosis faces several struggles that can be difficult to overcome without treatment.  Co-disorders increase the risk of criminal behaviors, impulsivity, homelessness, and destructive behavior. As of 2018, over 9.2 million adults in America suffer from co-disorders. Because drugs are becoming more widely available and socially acceptable, the population of people with a dual diagnosis has significantly expanded. Many people begin to self-medicate their disorders, which leads to an increase in hysteria, criminal activity, and more diagnoses.

Treatment Methods

Several behavioral treatments can help you manage your co-disorders. Managing two disorders requires specialized treatment plans, so you must seek service programs that are tailored to provide accurate and effective treatment for you. Your designated program should teach you how to employ techniques that hone in on the change process and identify variables that cause psychological distress and substance use. The goal of treating individuals with a dual diagnosis is to promote independence, develop healthy coping skills, and overcome substance abuse.

What Type of Treatment Is Right for Me?

Identifying the treatment program that is best for you will depend on the severity of your co-disorders, the type of medication you currently use or will use to manage the disorder, your level of independence, and the need for detox or 24-hour supervision. Extreme cases benefit from residential programs. However, mild to moderate cases of dual-diagnosis can be treated in outpatient programs where you will be able to participate in therapeutic groups, receive individual counseling, and engage with others that may have similar disorders without having to be under strict monitoring.

What Does Treatment for Dual-Diagnoses Look Like?

Treatment for co-disorders uses a combination of behavioral therapy, medication, and treatment for substance use disorders. Behavioral therapy is effective in addressing dual diagnoses. Therapeutic methods like cognitive-behavioral therapy or dialectical behavior therapy are commonly used in treatment programs and have proven to be highly effective in treating both mental health and substance abuse disorders individually and simultaneously. Medication is not always required when treating co-disorders, but it can be useful in some cases. Medication can be used to treat certain disorders as well as the symptoms of those disorders.

Why Should I Get Treatment for a Dual-Diagnosis?

Treatment for co-disorders combat mental health issues and substance abuse disorders not as independent disorders, but as issues that are interconnected. Receiving treatment for both issues helps you become sober and stay sober. In fact, not treating both disorders at the same time puts you at greater risk for relapsing.

Treatment programs also offer support in the form of individual therapists and individuals that you encounter in group therapy. Going to treatment can provide you with a host of effective services including family therapy, medication management, substance abuse care, group support, and substance abuse education and monitoring. Working with the trained professionals in treatment programs provides you with specific care and support that is tailored to you and your needs.

Treating a dual diagnosis with inpatient treatment provides you with long-term, intensive care. Inpatient treatment programs remove you from the people, places, and things that trigger substance abuse disorder while also providing you with a safe space to go through medically-assisted detox. You also are able to participate in innovative therapeutic methods such as art, exercise, and music therapy.

On the other hand, outpatient treatment programs give you the flexibility to receive specialized treatment for a dual diagnosis without having to remain at a facility. Outpatient treatment allows you to participate in both one-on-one and group therapy while allowing you the flexibility to maintain your other obligations such as work, family, or academic obligations.

Outpatient treatment increases your ability to understand and manage your co-occurring disorders. Many times, when someone is dually diagnosed, there has to be an extra precaution to ensure effective treatment and prevent relapse. People with co-occurring disorders need to seek treatment (and medication) that specifically addresses both disorders or they greatly increase their chances of relapse. A combination of behavioral therapy, substance abuse treatment, and medication can help you cope with your dual diagnosis and keep you sober. We want to help. Valiant Living provides a variety of services for men who are struggling with addiction in an environment where you feel safe. We also treat any co-occurring mental illness which may be contributing to your substance abuse. We offer both inpatient and outpatient services to best assist you where you are at in the recovery process. If you or someone you love is suffering from a dual diagnosis, contact Valiant Living at (303) 952-5035 and speak with one of our friendly staff members.