What Does it Mean to Have a Dual Diagnosis?


Addiction is primarily a disease that centers in the mind and body, that being said, it is also a completely multifaceted illness that affects a person throughout several different layers of their being. Studies and experience have shown that addiction does not always refer to just drugs and alcohol, but can also manifest in eating, sex, gambling, love, video games, shopping, and even strange behaviors and compulsions. That being said, there is an increasing rise of dual diagnosis cases in the addiction field which have led to a more comprehensive view of the reality and severity of addiction.


What is Dual Diagnosis?

Dual diagnosis is the term that is used when a person suffers from any range of mood or thought disorders, as well as suffering from a substance abuse addiction. The disorders can range from anxiety and depression to bulimia and anorexia. For a long time, people had underestimated the necessity of treating both the mood disorder AND the addiction and focused only on the addiction. This has, in turn, led to a harder and longer recovery process for people who suffer from dual diagnosis. However, over the last few decades, researchers and treatment centers have started to increase the focus on treating both aspects of the illness, and it has shown rapid and long-lasting recovery for sufferers.


How Common is Dual Diagnosis?

Mood disorders and addiction are both treatable illnesses that can affect anyone of any age, race, ethnicity, or social background. They are not a product of only poor upbringing or low tax bracket people. In fact, studies have shown that mental illnesses and addiction are just as common in people who are considered wealthy, as people who reside on the lower end of the economic spectrum.


About a third of all people suffer from mental illnesses and about half of people living with severe mental illnesses also struggle with substance abuse. The numbers are similar in the addiction community where about a third of all alcohol abusers and more than half of all drug abusers report experiencing a mental illness.


Co-occurring addiction and mental illness are more common in men than women and are also reported to be very high in military veterans and throughout people who suffer from a more generalized medical illness.


What Does it Look Like?

Since addiction can exhibit itself on such a broad spectrum throughout sufferers, and mental illnesses are often the same way, having a dual diagnosis can present itself in many different ways. However, there are some common symptoms that do occur to keep an eye out for. Many of us are already aware of the signs of addiction; using substances in dangerous ways, loss of control over the amount that is ingested, using despite the desire to stop, but when there is a mental illness present, many of the common signs of addiction can be amplified. For example, when an addict also suffers from a mental illness, they can experience extreme bouts of depression or anxiety where they use drugs to calm the mind, rapid and intense mood swings, sexual promiscuity and taking part in other reckless behaviors, and even experiencing delusions or paranoid hallucinations.


For many young people in recovery today, it is common to have been diagnosed with depression, anxiety, ADHD, and bipolar since early teenage years. It has become an increasing issue in our society for doctors to be too quick to diagnose children with mental and mood disorders, so many people in recovery now have been taking prescription medications for years. This can make it difficult when they are trying to get sober, and many of the most common prescriptions for mental disorders can have addictive qualities, such as Adderall, Xanax, and Valium.


The Treatment Process

While recovering from a dual diagnosis can be more challenging for those who suffer from them, there have been great strides in the studies and techniques that many drug and alcohol treatment centers provide. For example, there are countless centers around the country that specialize only in patients who suffer from a dual diagnosis. This allows a more specialized and individualized approach for each patient who walks through the door.


The primary goal when treating dual diagnosis is to first remove the drugs from the body and then to focus more on the mind. If a person has been taking benzodiazepines for the last few years, they will need to closely monitored during the detox process as the withdrawal from benzos can be potentially fatal. This is usually done by weaning the person off of their medication and then replacing it with one that is not addictive.

As for the mental state, it is imperative that both illnesses are treated at once. When only the substance abuse is treated, the changes of recovery are lower due to the untreated mental disorder. Drug and alcohol treatment and dual diagnosis centers will provide a separation from the drugs and alcohol, allowing the mind to begin to clear. In treatment, a person will have access to individualized treatment plans, solo and individual group counseling, and will learn techniques on how to manage the emotional and physical aspects of their diseases.


The chances of achieving strong sobriety are largely increased by a thorough treatment plan and through intensive work with therapy and counseling. The next step is to decide if you are ready to change your life for the better, and to jump right into it. Getting help can be scary, and for people who already suffer from mood disorders, a million different fears and anxieties can pop up telling someone to not get help. However, when we as addicts finally admit that we can no longer do it on our own, we can start our journey to living a new life free of addiction. We will always experience difficulty with our mood disorders, but it is a whole lot easier to face ourselves when we have a sober head.


Finding the Right Treatment Center For You

If you believe you have a problem with drugs or alcohol and want to seek help, then call the professionals at Evolutions Treatment Center today at 1-800-795-8527. We can help you find the right treatment you need in order to finally overcome your addiction and get you on the path to recovery. Our trained staff knows exactly what you are going through and can give you the tools you need in order to finally overcome your addiction. So don’t delay, call us today.


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