person in blue shirt talks with patient about what is dual diagnosis

What Is Dual Diagnosis?

If you’re working towards addiction recovery, you know that roadblocks and challenges can make sustainable sobriety difficult. One of the biggest roadblocks is what’s known as dual diagnosis: when a mental health concern and substance use disorder co-exist. Knowing what dual diagnosis is and what to do when you or someone you love has it can make all the difference in successful recovery.

A dual diagnosis treatment center can help. Evidence-based techniques such as cognitive-behavioral therapy and dialectical behavior therapy can be used to help treat both the mental health condition and the addiction. Medication management can also be used to help manage symptoms. In addition, holistic practices such as yoga, meditation, and mindfulness can be used to help promote healthy coping skills and strategies. As you work through a comprehensive program of care, you’ll build the skills and resources necessary to live a healthier, more fulfilling life.

An Overview of Dual Diagnosis

What is dual diagnosis? Put simply, dual diagnosis is when someone suffers from both a mental health concern and a substance use disorder. This means that the individual has been diagnosed with both a mental health issue such as depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder and an addiction to drugs or alcohol. Without proper treatment, dual diagnosis can lead to relapse.

Why do these two conditions occur together? There are a variety of reasons, but some of the most common include:

  • Self-medication
  • Genetics
  • Environmental factors

Self-medication is when a person uses drugs or alcohol to cope with the symptoms of their mental health condition. Genetics can also be a factor, as certain mental health conditions can run in families. Finally, environmental factors such as trauma or abuse can contribute to both conditions

It’s important to note that dual diagnosis is not a “one-size-fits-all” diagnosis. Each individual who experiences dual diagnosis will have a unique combination of symptoms, triggers, and needs that need to be addressed. This means that what works for one person may not work for another. It’s also important to understand that dual diagnosis is a treatable condition, and when treated properly, it can lead to a full recovery.

Understanding Dual Diagnosis Treatment

Dual diagnosis requires a treatment program that will treat both issues at once. This is often known as co-occurring disorder treatment or therapy. It may take some work to discover what the mental reasons are behind an individual’s issues. Nevertheless, experts create individualized treatment plans based on these discovered mental reasons. Medications may be used during co-occurring disorders, to treat the underlying mental condition. Frequently used Anti-anxiety medication or anti-depressants often replace the substance that the patient is currently using to self-medicate. Therapy helps the patient understand how their mental illness led to substance abuse and addiction.

Signs of Dual Diagnosis

There are signs and symptoms connected to dual diagnosis. Some of the most common ones include:

  • You use substances as a method of escape. When you feel anxious or frightened, you may use substances. Substance use self-defeats when you worry about failure.
  • You frequently use substances to “feel alive” or feel as though life is worthwhile. This is an indicator that something is otherwise missing from your life, and you’re using a substance to fill that void.
  • You started using substances as a method of dealing with trauma. Many people have traumatic experiences in their past that they didn’t want to deal with directly. Substance abuse can be a method of hiding this trauma or otherwise ignoring it.
  • You have been diagnosed with a mental illness in the past. Mental illness often needs treatment, whether it’s through medication, therapy, or both. With a past diagnosis of mental health issues, addiction masks the still current problem.
  • You feel empty or hopeless when you are sober. This is a sign that there could be something deeper wrong or that you aren’t finding your everyday life fulfilling.

If you’ve experienced some of these symptoms, you may have a dual diagnosis. This isn’t a bad thing: knowing what you have is the first step toward getting help. Of course, it’s not possible to reliably self-diagnose: you need the help of a qualified professional to determine whether you might truly have a dual diagnosis.

What to Expect from Dual Diagnosis Treatment

Dual diagnosis treatment involves a variety of approaches, including medications, counseling, and therapy. Medication is often used to treat underlying mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, or a mood disorder. Counseling and therapy can help you gain insight into what has been triggering your substance abuse. It can also help you learn how to build healthier relationships and what you can do to take control of your emotions.

Help for Addiction and Mental Health at Promises Behavioral Health

If you’re ready to start on your recovery journey and believe you have a dual diagnosis, the time to take your first step is now. Contact the experts at Promises Behavioral Health to find out more. Call 844.875.5609 or reach out online to begin working towards healing today.

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