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Dual Diagnosis

 

Dual diagnosis is the term given for a person who has a drug or alcohol addiction and a co-existing mental illness. According to figures released by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, more than 50% of people with an addiction also have at least one mental health disorder.

It’s not known whether the mental health issues trigger the pattern of addictive drug use, or whether the symptoms of mental illness were caused by abusing certain types of drugs.

For example, stimulant drugs such as crystal meth can cause severe changes in the brain’s chemistry that can trigger symptoms of profound depression. Abusing marijuana over a period of time can induce symptoms of psychosis, while abusing alcohol can trigger symptoms of depression.

Commonly Linked Mental Illnesses and Addiction

Many people with untreated or poorly-treated mental health disorders have a higher tendency to self-medicate. Some turn to drugs or alcohol in an effort to alleviate the symptoms of mental illness, while others use drugs to try and regain a level of control in their lives.

Some commonly linked disorders include:

Eating disorders and addiction: it’s common for people with compulsive eating disorders to use drugs or alcohol to create a false sense of confidence, to numb painful feelings and emotions, or to promote weight loss.

Depression and addiction: there is a long-standing link between depression and alcohol. People with existing symptoms of depression may turn to alcohol to temporarily boost mood. Yet alcohol is a depressant that acts directly on the central nervous system that can worsen existing symptoms of depression and trigger symptoms in others.

Anxiety and addiction: addiction is commonly linked with anxiety and panic disorders. Anxiety disorders cause significant distress that can cause many people to turn to alcohol or drugs to find temporary respite or to help them calm down. Yet many types of drugs can trigger anxiety and panic attacks and make existing symptoms worse.

OCD and addiction: obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is an extreme form of anxiety disorder in which a person feels irrational fears that cause them to engage in compulsive rituals. Studies indicate that more than 25% of people receiving treatment for OCD also have a co-existing substance abuse disorder.

PTSD and addiction: post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is commonly linked to drug or alcohol addiction, as people seek artificial ways to escape from painful or traumatic memories, flashbacks, nightmares, or thoughts.

What Treatments Are Available for Dual Diagnosis?

Treating a person with dual diagnosis requires a carefully-considered combination of treatments and therapies that address both conditions simultaneously. Treatment needs to address the symptoms of addiction at the same time as treating the underlying mental illness.

Integrated dual diagnosis treatments in Utah are determined by making a thorough assessment of each individual patient before determining which combination of treatments and therapies are likely to be most effective.

The person may be prescribed with medications to treat the co-occurring mental illness. Behavioral therapies gears specifically towards dual diagnosis begin work on correcting the dysfunctional attitudes behind the addictive behavior and replacing self-destructive behaviors with positive habits and new coping skills for living with a mental illness without turning to drugs or alcohol to cope.

Intensive treatment also includes teaching each person to identify their own unique addiction triggers and then work on building a strong relapse prevention plan. Attendance at group support meetings for people with dual diagnosis is also strongly recommended.

Importance of Aftercare Services after Dual Diagnosis Treatment

Completing rehab treatment for dual diagnosis is a significant achievement, but the journey to recovery is long-term. Most rehab facilities in Utah offer a broad range of aftercare services, including referrals for and access to counselors, addiction specialists, support groups, and a range of other recovery resources designed to help people in recovery to live healthy, productive lives free from substance abuse. Please do not hesitate to pick up the phone and speak to an addiction specialist when you are serious about your sobriety.