Dual Diagnosis – The Deadly Combination of Mental Illness and Addiction

Addiction and mental health conditions were earlier treated separately. This is why patients suffering from mental disorders and substance abuse could not get the help they wanted and needed.

Fortunately, now, people suffering from dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorders can get treated for both the mental health ailment and addiction simultaneously.

Integrated Therapy for Dual Diagnosis

Integrating treatment for both mental ailment and addiction results in more successful recovery, and reduced treatment costs since both disorders are being treated at the same time. While it is not known which of the two problems triggers the other, treating only one will not yield lasting results, since both fuel each other.

Dual Diagnosis

There are many issues that may trigger co-occurring disorders. For example, anyone who experiments with drugs early in life may hurt the still-developing brain, triggering a mental health condition later. Similarly, anxiety or traumatic experiences can result in drug or alcohol abuse.

Mental Health Disorders that may co-exist with Addiction

• Generalized Anxiety Disorder – Individuals with general anxiety disorder may use drugs or alcohol to cope with their anxiety, without realizing the development of dependence.

• Bipolar Disorder – A large percentage of all those diagnosed with bipolar disease have been found to abuse alcohol and drugs.

• ADHD – ADHD sufferers may try to control their symptoms with alcohol and drugs. Since many of them have prescriptions for stimulants, they are susceptible to drug abuse.

• Borderline Personality Disorder – More than two-thirds of all individuals diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder have been found to abuse drugs or alcohol.

• Eating Disorders – Individuals with eating disorders are often battling feelings of insecurity and inferiority. This can lead to alcohol or drug misuse.

• Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – The brains of those suffering from PTSD secrete less endorphins. They are likely to look towards drugs and alcohol to find happiness.

For individuals struggling with substance abuse to achieve complete recovery, underlying mental disorders have to be treated too. If not, the psychological and emotional issues may trigger re-dependence or relapse.

Signs of Dual Diagnosis

The signs of dual diagnosis change based upon the mental health disorders and the extent of dependence. But common signs include –

• Self-harming thoughts or behaviors
• Impulsive actions
• Poor personal hygiene
• Loss of interest in social activities previously enjoyed
• Disillusioned thinking or diminished thought
• Money problems or issues managing finances

The only way to know for sure is to consult an addiction expert at a reputed rehab that offers individualized care. For long-term recovery, the co-occurring mental health disorder needs to be addressed too.