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What is Dual Diagnosis Care?

A person with dual diagnosis, also known as a co-occurring disorder, has both a mental illness and a substance use disorder (SUD). Dual diagnosis care specializes in treating both the mental condition and the SUD at the same time.

Dual diagnosis is extremely common. People with mental illness are much more likely to develop a SUD than people without. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), approximately 9.2 million adults in the United States had a co-occurring disorder in 2018.

It’s crucial to treat both mental illness and SUD in a patient with dual diagnosis. Treatment must address each co-occurring disorder for the patient to achieve full recovery.

What Causes Dual Diagnosis?

Co-occurring disorders share many possible causes and risk factors, usually a combination of internal and external influences. These causes and risk factors include:

  • Genetics – A family history of mental illness or SUD makes you more likely to experience one or both. Exposure to substances as a fetus can also influence your likelihood of dual diagnosis later in life.
  • Environmental factors – Family history can also come into play here since being around substance use while growing up can normalize it. Mental illness can also be influenced by your environment, such as exposure to certain chemicals, trauma, stress, etc. 
  • Gender – Men are more likely than women to require treatment for dual diagnosis. 
  • Low self-esteem or self-image – If you’re dealing with shame or low confidence in who you are or how you look, you may be more likely to develop mental illness or SUD.

Even though mental illness and SUD often occur alongside each other, that doesn’t mean that one is the cause of the other. However, they influence each other and share the above risk factors and causes.

Symptoms of Dual Diagnosis

The feature that defines dual diagnosis is the simultaneous presence of a mental health disorder and a SUD. The symptoms of mental illness vary widely depending on the disorder, but SUDs often share common signs, such as:

  • Increased tolerance to the substance
  • Withdrawal symptoms
  • Self-isolation or avoidance of friends and family
  • Engaging in risky behaviors 
  • Sudden changes in behavior
  • Using substances under dangerous conditions
  • Interference with attendance at or quality of work
  • Financial issues

If you see yourself in these symptoms or suspect you are dealing with a SUD, you can seek help for it today.

Common Co-Occurring Disorders in Dual Diagnosis

Dual diagnosis can involve any combination of two or more mental illnesses and SUDs. Some of the most common mental illnesses seen in dual diagnosis include:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Major depressive disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Conduct disorders
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

Some of the substances that are often involved in a co-occurring SUD could be:

  • Alcohol
  • Tobacco
  • Marijuana
  • Opioids
  • Stimulants
  • Hallucinogens
  • Other prescription drugs

How to Treat Dual Diagnosis

The most common treatment for dual diagnosis is integrated intervention. Integrated intervention weaves together treatments for both co-occurring disorders since they feed into each other and typically can’t be isolated.

Treatment will look different for every individual, as their dual diagnosis will present uniquely. Typical treatments utilized in integrated intervention include:

  • Detoxification – The first step to recovering from any SUD is to detox. Inpatient detoxification usually involves living at a treatment center where trained professionals can monitor you 24/7. Inpatient detox is usually more effective than outpatient since it provides a structured environment with support.
  • Inpatient Rehabilitation – A period of rehab usually follows a detox. Again, medical professionals recommend an inpatient approach to have the support and structure to help you get through this challenging period. An inpatient treatment center provides you with medication, therapy, support groups, and more.
  • Medication – Medications are often used in tandem with other treatment methods, such as therapy. They can help reduce mental health symptoms and cravings for substance use. 
  • Psychotherapy – Counseling or mental health therapy is frequently a significant portion of integrated intervention. It involves working with a mental health professional to learn more about themselves, their thoughts, and behaviors. It can help change patterns of thinking and behaving.

Your treatment will depend largely on what co-occurring disorders you’re experiencing, but it will almost always involve these four components.

Self-Help and Support Groups

Beyond formal treatment, you can find other sources of help and healing for your dual diagnosis. 

Support groups are often formed during rehabilitation and can continue long past your inpatient portion of the recovery process. They can help you connect with other people struggling with the same situation and keep you on track when it gets difficult.

While self-help should never be a substitute for professional treatment, there are many ways you can contribute to your recovery at home. Some common self-help techniques to maintain your recovery from dual diagnosis are:

  • Journaling
  • Mindfulness or meditation practices
  • Healthy habits such as nutrition and exercise
  • Returning to or acquiring a new hobby

Self-care and self-improvement can support your recovery efforts in combination with professional medical treatment.

How to Seek Treatment for Dual Diagnosis

Seeking help for any mental illness or substance use disorder can be daunting. When you’re dealing with both, it adds an extra layer of challenge to access the support you need to heal.

The staff of trained, experienced professionals at Jackson House Addiction Treatment and Recovery Centers are well-versed in providing dual diagnosis care. We offer many different approaches to co-occurring disorders and recognize that the treatment plan for no two people will look the same.

Getting started with finding the treatment that’s right for you at Jackson House is simple. You can learn more about what we treat and research our treatment programs for a better understanding of how we can help. 

We specialize in substance use disorders and we can help you find sobriety. Our holistic approach involves detox, working with psychiatrists and therapists, and recovery meetings. You’ll get the support you need to treat your dual diagnosis and leave with the tools to maintain your recovery in the long-term.

Reach out and start your healing journey today!

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