dual diagnosis in addiction treatment

What Is Dual Diagnosis in Addiction Treatment?

Dr. Norris Von Curl, II, MD

Dr. Norris Von Curl, II, MD

If you or a loved one struggles with addiction to drugs and alcohol, then you have firsthand experience with the challenges of substance abuse disorder. However, if you have a dual diagnosis of substance abuse disorder and a mental illness, then navigating the journey of life can be even more difficult.

Dual diagnosis in alarmingly common in people who are addicted to drugs or alcohol, and can present a host of extra difficulties. Without proper knowledge and training, it may be hard to get the help you need. Luckily, some rehabilitation centers are well-equipped to handle a dual diagnosis in addiction treatment— and start the journey toward healing.

What is a Dual Diagnosis?

Also known as having comorbidity or co-occurring disorders, a dual diagnosis occurs when you suffer from both a mental illness and a substance use disorder. Unfortunately, this challenging condition is also surprisingly common, affecting approximately 9.2 million adults in the United States. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, half of all Americans with mental illness will at some point suffer a substance abuse disorder (and vice versa).

Why is it that mental illnesses and addiction to drugs and alcohol seem to go hand in hand? In some cases, co-occurring disorders can be attributed to genetics. In other cases a traumatic or stressful environment while growing up can contribute to someone developing a mental illness — while also making them more susceptible to drugs and alcohol.

Sometimes, people with mental illnesses wind up self-medicating with drugs or alcohol, and develop substance abuse issues in that way. And because substance abuse can change and damage the brain, it can actually lead to mental illness in some people. Due to these links, those with a dual diagnosis should seek treatment for both diagnoses in order to start the journey towards healing.

What are Some Common Examples of Dual Diagnosis?

  • Depression. Some people with depression use drugs and alcohol to self-medicate. In fact, among people who have suffered with major depressive disorder throughout their lives, an incredible 57.9% also struggled with substance abuse disorder.
  • PTSD. People with post-traumatic stress disorder live through traumatic life events and then suffer with flashbacks, negative thoughts, avoidance of triggering situations, and sometimes self-destructive behavior. It’s estimated that 25% to 75% of people who go through traumatic events go on to have issues with alcohol use.
  • Anxiety. Having generalized anxiety can create a vicious cycle: individuals with anxiety may use anxiety to ease their symptoms, despite the fact that alcohol often worsens anxiety.
  • Other addictions. In addition to co-occurring with mental illness, substance abuse disorder can occur alongside addictions to activities like sex or gambling.

Dual diagnosis is also common in individuals who suffer from obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), eating disorders, borderline personality disorder, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and ADHD.

Dual Diagnosis in Addiction Treatment

If you or a loved one struggles with a mental illness, then you are twice as likely to have a substance abuse disorder. The more severe the mental illness, the more likely it is that a person will suffer from an addiction to drugs or alcohol. Because drugs and alcohol can worsen mental illness symptoms, it’s crucial to treat both the mental illness and the substance abuse disorder at the same time.

Handling a dual diagnosis in addiction treatment can take many different forms:

  • Detoxifying from drugs or alcohol in a safe and secure medical setting
  • Psychotherapy treatments like cognitive behavioral therapy that can help you or a loved one heal and cope with a mental illness
  • Inpatient rehabilitation in a treatment center experienced in dual diagnosis
  • Medications to help manage mental illness symptoms and support individuals through the withdrawal process
  • Outpatient care that helps you or a loved one navigate sober life with a mental health diagnosis

Getting the Right Treatment for Dual Diagnosis Near Fresno, California

Despite how common it is to suffer from both a mental illness and addiction to drugs or alcohol, almost half of people who have a mental illness along with substance abuse disorder do not receive any form of care. And only 7% were treated for both mental illness and substance abuse disorder.

If you believe that you or a loved one is suffering from a dual diagnosis, it’s crucial to seek rehabilitation services from a treatment center that can help with both issues simultaneously. At First Steps Recovery, our compassionate professionals create a personalized plan to help you or a loved one with dual diagnosis in Fresno, California to navigate your unique journey towards healing. Ready to get in touch? Please feel free to reach out to us today.

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