Individuals who are caught in the grips of an addiction to drugs and/or alcohol often struggle with the symptoms of a mental health condition or conditions at the same time. When these two concerns exist alongside one another, it is known as dual diagnosis. For some individuals, the symptoms of a mental illness can trigger the abuse of substances as a way of falsely alleviating the distress and turmoil caused by the presence of such an illness. Unfortunately, when this is the case, a person can quickly become trapped in the seemingly never-ending cycle of substance abuse and ultimately experience the worsening of mental health disorder symptoms. Furthermore, the abuse of substances can cause the onset of mental health disorder symptoms if a person possesses a genetic predisposition for a condition, or if the resulting effects of substance abuse causes the person to experience the symptoms of such disorders as well. Depressive disorders, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder are examples of mental illnesses that frequently exist alongside substance use disorders that involve the abuse of opioids, meth, cocaine, alcohol, or another licit or illicit substance.
It is important for a person battling dual diagnosis to receive proper treatment so as to avoid adverse effects or worsening symptoms of his or her presenting concerns. In seeking effective dual diagnosis treatment, an individual’s functioning, health, emotional well-being, and general outlook on life can be vastly improved.
It is estimated that more than 17 million Americans suffer from some form of mental illness. Among those individuals, it is believed that one-fourth of them are also battling substance abuse and addiction at the same time. Recent research reports that only 50% of those afflicted by dual diagnosis receive treatment and that the treatment those individuals receive likely only cares for one of their presenting concerns. Studies also show that people who receive treatment that addresses and treats both substance use disorders in conjunction with mental health conditions produce the most favorable outcomes for individuals who receive it.
Signs and Symptoms of Dual Diagnosis
When a person is suffering from dual diagnosis, it is important to be aware of the fact that he or she is grappling with both substance use disorder symptoms and mental health condition symptoms. Depending on the substance(s) that is being abused and the mental illness afflicting the individual, the signs and symptoms of dual diagnosis can vary. Consulting with a professional who is able to accurately identify dual diagnosis is one of the most beneficial things that can be done to help someone suffering from such concerns.
If you question whether or not someone in your life is suffering from dual diagnosis, noting the presence of the following signs and symptoms can help you identify your loved one’s needs and assist you in determining the type of treatment that is required to help him or her:
- Missing school
- Absences from work
- Engaging in risky activities
- Lying or omitting details about one’s activities or whereabouts
- Possessing drug paraphernalia
- Demonstrating instigative or aggressive behaviors
- Demonstrating erratic or impulsive behaviors
- No longer participating in activities that were once enjoyed
- Weight loss
- Weight gain
- Increase or decrease in one’s level of energy
- Damage to vital organs
- Injection sites due to drug use
- Smelling of alcohol or another drug
- Poor hygiene
- Appetite changes
- Inability to concentrate
- Hindered ability to make sound decisions
- Suicidal ideation
- Feeling invincible
- Unprovoked hostility
- Drastic shifts in mood
Effects of Dual Diagnosis
When an individual is suffering from dual diagnosis, it is imperative that treatment is sought in order to avoid numerous adverse effects. By seeking treatment, the following are among the various consequences that can be prevented:
- Interaction with law enforcement, which could lead to incarceration
- Worsening mental health or onset of additional mental health concerns
- Polysubstance abuse, which could lead to the diagnosis of additional substance use disorders
- Deteriorating physical health
- Financial strife
- Dysfunction within interpersonal relationships
- Poor academic performance, which could lead to academic failure or expulsion from school
- Declined occupational performance, which could lead to job loss or chronic unemployment
- Demise of meaningful relationships, including divorce
- Suicidal ideation
- Suicide attempts, which could lead to untimely death
Why Seek Treatment for Dual Diagnosis
When a person suffers from a substance use disorder or a mental health condition, he or she is likely to experience a great deal of turmoil if treatment is not sought. However, the presence of both of these types of concerns within an individual’s life carries the potential to cause monumental devastation if effective care is not received. A dual diagnosis can be quite complex and trigger a whole host of negative outcomes. Depending on the type of addiction and mental illness that are present, the effects can include an inability to acquire or maintain employment, perform well in school, and avoid engagement in criminal activity. Additionally, those suffering from a dual diagnosis may experience the demise of meaningful relationships with loved ones and isolation from peers. Furthermore, the ongoing abuse of drugs and/or alcohol can result in the worsening of mental illness symptoms, which could perpetuate the vicious cycle of substance abuse. Fortunately, there are treatment options that exist that can greatly improve the lives of those who are afflicted by dual diagnosis.
One of the most effective and appropriate methods for healing and recovering from dual diagnosis is by engaging in residential treatment. Within residential treatment, individuals battling dual diagnosis can receive the comprehensive care required to treat all of what ails them. If a person is in need of detoxification services to rid his or her body of the substance(s) that have contributed to the development of an addiction, residential treatment can afford such an individual with the ability to receive these services. Additionally, people who receive detox within residential care can have an abundance of support from a variety of professionals who are on hand to monitor this process and make the transition to additional programming more streamlined than in other settings.
Life-changing mental health treatment is also accessible to dual diagnosis sufferers so that healthy coping skills can be learned at the same time as beneficial recovery skills. Individual, group, family, and experiential therapies are also offered within residential treatment and can help those afflicted by dual diagnosis understand their conditions and establish strategies for how to manage them in the present and future. Medication management services are also available in this type of treatment and can be beneficial in alleviating mental health disorder symptoms when they cannot be managed by coping skills alone. By electing to engage in residential treatment, dual diagnosis can be efficiently treated and sufferers of such conditions can come to realize happier, healthier lives.