Dual diagnosis, also referred to as co-occurring disorders, is a broad category that refers to the occurrence of a substance addiction and a mental illness simultaneously. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, approximately one-third of all individuals suffering from a mental illness will also experience substance abuse. That number goes even higher in individuals suffering from severe mental disorders, with as many as half in this category also experiencing substance abuse.
Why is Dual Diagnosis so Common?
There are different factors that could play into the prevalence of dual diagnosis seen by treatment facilities today. First, people with a mental illness may turn to substances to reduce the symptoms of their condition. Known as “self-medicating,” this choice may seem helpful at first, but ongoing substance use and abuse will eventually exacerbate the mental illness as well. Substance abuse can also increase the risk for mental illness, particularly in people with a family history or other factors that could increase their likelihood of developing a mental illness.
Common Illnesses Associated with Dual Diagnosis
Any mental illness can accompany substance abuse, but the most commonly conditions include:
- Anxiety disorders (PTSD, obsessive-compulsive disorder, generalized anxiety)
- Mood disorders (bipolar disorder, depression)
- Personality disorders (borderline personality disorder)
- Eating disorders (anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating)
How is a Dual Diagnosis Treated?
Treatment of a dual diagnosis is much more complex than treating substance abuse alone. Both the addiction and the illness must be effectively addressed if treatment and recovery are to be successful. The first step is often to address the addiction, since getting off the drugs or alcohol is necessary in order to deal with the mental illness in a meaningful way. However, if the mental illness is not also treated, the symptoms that might have led to the substance abuse may still be present, jeopardizing the ongoing success of the addiction treatment.
There are a number of elements that might go into treatment of a dual diagnosis:
This process is typically done on an inpatient basis, and requires 24/7 monitoring by a staff member specifically trained in detox. Detox may involve weaning a person off the substance slowly, or providing a medical alternative to the substance to lessen the negative effects of withdrawal. It usually takes a number of days before the person is ready to proceed to the next phase of treatment.
Rehabilitation is also typically more effective on an inpatient basis, allowing the staff to work closely with the individual on both the substance abuse and the mental illness. Rehabilitation will likely include medication, therapy, medical services and other types of support.
Psychotherapy will look slightly different for each individual, as staff strives to meet the specific needs and goals of each person. As a general rule, cognitive behavioral therapy tends to be the most effective for those dealing with a dual diagnosis.
Although West Coast Recovery Centers prefers to work individually with each person that comes to us for treatment, there are situations where support groups are helpful as well. People struggling with dual diagnosis need to know they are not alone – others are also sharing similar struggles and these individuals can help one another work toward better health and sobriety.
Dual diagnosis is a complex diagnosis that requires a specialized treatment plan. At West Coast Recovery Centers, our individualized approach to treatment is highly adaptable to dual diagnosis, as we are equipped to meet all of our patients right where they are at. To learn more about out dual diagnosis treatment options, contact West Coast Recovery Centers at 442-333-6199.