Understanding Dual Diagnosis

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For millions of people who suffer from addiction, a co-occurring mental health disorder is at the root of their substance abuse problems. Dual diagnosis, or co-occurring mental health disorders which occur in conjunction with an addiction to drugs or alcohol, can lead to a number of difficult problems for the patient and will likely make treatment a long and difficult process. Both the addiction or substance abuse problem as well as any mental health conditions that the patient suffers from must be treated in order to ensure recovery, and although this may sound like a simple and routine process, getting to the bottom of a dually diagnosed condition and providing effective treatment and care can be a very difficult process.

What is Dual Diagnosis?

The first step to coping with dual diagnosis and to getting help is to understand what a dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorder is. When an individual is addicted to drugs or alcohol and he or she also suffers from a mental illness such as anxiety, depression, schizophrenia or bi-polar disorder they are considered to have a dual-diagnosis or co-occurring condition. Two conditions that are affecting the patient at the same time and which must, therefore, be treated at the same time in order to provide effective recovery.

Does Mental Illness Cause Substance Abuse?

While some think that mental illness is a potential cause for substance abuse, there are no key relations to the two. The only real relation is in the fact that many people turn to drugs or alcohol as a means of self-medicating a substance abuse problem. For instance, an individual may already suffer from anxiety and they may drink or use drugs to calm their anxiety. The problem with self-medication is that it often makes matters worse, escalating the anxiety or mental illness problem.

Does Substance Abuse Cause Mental Illness?

In some cases, mental illness can result from substance abuse but for the most part, substance abuse is not likely the actual cause for mental illness. In fact, most of the time, when mental illness is present in addition to substance abuse the illness was already a factor long before the drugs were used it just went unnoticed until a substance abuse problem escalated the situation.

Treatment for Dual Diagnosis

If you or someone you know is suffering from two conditions at once, there is help available. Most addiction treatment centers provide specialized treatment for dual diagnosis which includes medication and therapy to help with mental illness as well as proper treatment for addiction. By treating both conditions at the same time, the patient is able to fully recover and have a greater chance at staying sober now that their mental health and physical health are both intact.