All of Your Questions about Dual Diagnosis Answered

Dual diagnosis is a term that is tossed around in the mental illness and substance addiction community quite a lot. You may have come across it in passing and wondered what it is all about.  Today, we will clear up some of the mystery for you and answer some of the questions you have regarding dual diagnosis.

What is Dual Diagnosis?

As far as addiction and mental illness are concerned, dual diagnosis is a relatively new innovation.  Until the 90s, people who showed symptoms of both drug addiction and mental illness were treated for these two things separately.  This kind of thinking usually came down to the person in question not receiving proper treatment for his or her mental illness until the addiction was under control.  As we know now, many addictions the result of someone who is experiencing a mental illness trying to self-medicate.  Often, patients would get the help they needed for the addiction but not for the mental illness which would lead them back to addiction.  It was this pattern that lead doctors and researchers to dual diagnosis treatment where patients who show symptoms of an addiction and an underlying mental disorder are treated for both at the same time.

How Does Dual Diagnosis Treatment Work

Treatment for dual diagnosis takes the most useful and most successful parts of substance abuse treatment and mental illness treatment and combines them to treat a patient with both problems.  The conditions should be treated in tandem by one counselor or set of counselors who are trained in dealing with co-occurring disorders.  The difficulty with this is that very few counselors are trained in co-occurring disorders.  According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, only about 12 percent of the people in the US who suffer from dual diagnosis actually receive treatment for both disorders.  About 4 million American people are diagnosed with co-occurring disorders.

How Can I Tell if Someone I Know Should Get Help for a Dual Diagnosis

Chances are that you might suspect the person in question of having either an addiction or a mental illness.  There is no really good way for the layperson to tell if someone needs help for co-occurring disorders.  Some of the symptoms of someone being an addict are things like suddenly abandoning friends and family for a new group, uncharacteristically reckless behavior, defensiveness when asked questions about where he or she is going or what he or she is doing, lying, and stealing.

Mental illness symptoms are much more difficult to group because they are very different depending upon the type of mental illness experienced.  Some mental illnesses come with hallucinations or delusions.  Some mental illnesses like depression are characterized by overwhelming sadness and despair.  They may have complex rituals and exacting standards when it comes to cleanliness.  Many people with mental illnesses have dramatic swings in moods and energy levels.  Dual diagnosis can only really be sorted out when the person experiencing the co-occurring disorders starts to get professional help

What Can I Do to Increase My Chances of Recovery Success?

The best thing that you can do after receiving your dual diagnosis is make sure you are in a treatment program that will treat both your mental health and your addiction.  Your dual diagnosis treatment team will know that sometimes antidepressants, antipsychotics, and antianxiety medications are the answer.  They will provide you with treatment strategies that build your confidence and your self-esteem as well as address the reasons for your addiction and the symptoms of your mental illness.  Some effective dual diagnosis therapies involve the families of the sufferers.  Often, friends and families of the sufferer take part in therapy sessions and education to help the patient and to help themselves heal from this difficult dual diagnosis.

Is There Anything Else to Know About Dual Diagnosis?

There are lots of things to know about dual diagnosis, but one of the most recent studies available claims that one of the best things that a patient with a co-occurring disorder can do to help his or her treatment along is to be active in the treatment.  Patients should participate and give feedback about their treatment rather than taking the passive approach.  This is your life and your disorders.  You will know what your body and mind are happy with and are not happy with.  Follow the advice of your treatment team, but still be active in your treatment. It can make all the difference.

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