Dual diagnosis disorders refer to disorders that arise in tandem with each other. Individuals diagnosed with a substance use disorder may also have a co-occurring mental health disorder. This condition is known as a dual diagnosis.
In some cases, a person might not even realize they have a mental health condition until they decide to go for treatment for their substance use disorder. On receiving the diagnosis for their substance use disorder, the mental health professionals might realize that they also have a mental illness. Mental health conditions and substance use disorders frequently occur together, and many rehab centers specifically look for clues of dual diagnosis in their patients.
A Brief History of the Term Dual Diagnosis
Originally coined in 1980 to refer to complex cases with components of both addiction and mental disorders, dual diagnosis is now relatively common in rehab centers. Unfortunately, it can be challenging to deal with a dual diagnosis due to the close relationship of the two conditions the patient may have.
In the past, mental health professionals would deal with one of the two conditions and leave the other alone. This didn’t help over the long term, and many individuals with dual diagnoses returned to drug use, fueled by their secondary condition. Eventually, mental health professionals decided that a combined approach was the only way to ensure that their patients could battle addiction over the long term.
What Is A Co-Occurring Disorder
Co-occurring disorders are another way of labeling dual diagnosis. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) uses the term co-occurring disorders instead of dual diagnosis in their literature. Individuals who have co-occurring disorders usually have to undergo more intense therapy to ensure that both of their conditions are dealt with in tandem.
These individuals are more vulnerable to substance use disorder and suffer from the consequences of this problem more severely than those who are just addicted to a substance. Among the issues that an individual with a dual diagnosis might encounter include more intense psychiatric symptoms, increased aggressive behavior and violence, and poor personal hygiene, to name a few.
Co-occurring disorders can lead to several complications for a person. Not only would it exacerbate the symptoms of addiction or the propensity to become dependent on a drug, but it could cause much more damage over the long term.
Possible Signs of a Dual Diagnosis
When one considers the amount of substance use disorders there are compared to the amount of potential mental illnesses that abound, it’s clear that there are many combinations. This fact makes it difficult to pinpoint any single set of symptoms that can be used to determine whether a person is suffering from a dual diagnosis problem. Each individual is unique, and so too is how their dual diagnosis may present. Some of the symptoms that may suggest a co-occurring disorder include:
- Poor performance at work or school
- Inability to manage one’s finances
- Impulsive or erratic behavior
- Refusal to seek treatment or comply with doctor’s orders
- Delusional thinking and cognitive impairment
- Neglecting personal hygiene and health
- Avoiding social gatherings or events that once were enjoyable
- Difficulty in managing daily tasks and responsibilities
- Sudden changes in behavior (mood swings)
Because of the unique ways that a dual diagnosis problem can present, it may take quite some time for a medical professional to tease it out of the patient. Many of these symptoms can overlap with the signs of substance use disorder. For example, impulsive or erratic behavior is also a sign of methamphetamine addiction. Usually, mental health professionals ask a few pertinent questions that can help them figure out whether the issue is a dual diagnosis or due to a substance use disorder. The questions focus on pinpointing whether their feelings are due to taking the substance or whether they feel that way even when sober. A co-occurring disorder might be the logical diagnosis if the feelings persist beyond the substance’s presence.
How Common Is A Dual Diagnosis
While most people might not think a dual diagnosis often happens in a rehab center, statistics show otherwise. Approximately one in four patients that check into a rehab center may suffer from dual diagnosis disorders. Many estimates show an ever-larger volume of overlap between individuals who have mental health issues and deal with substance use disorder together. There is also a massive prevalence of dual diagnosis affecting prison inmates. Dual diagnosis is a common occurrence because of how easy it is for a person who has a mental illness to self-medicate themselves. At the same time, there’s no real clue whether the mental illness comes first or the substance use disorder. The final result is still a co-occurring disorder.
Using an addictive substance as a self-cure can lead to the individual becoming addicted through no fault of their own. At the start, they might not even be aware that they’re using the substance as a means of managing their mental illness. The only thing they are aware of is that taking the drug or alcohol allows them to deal with less of the symptoms of their mental condition. Quite often, the individuals who encounter these situations come from a background that has a stigma attached to mental health issues. Because they could not openly speak about their mental health, they took the only path they saw as viable to them.
The Mental Disorder and Addiction Connection
It’s well known by now that mental health disorders and substance use disorders are closely related. However, one may not necessarily cause the other. They could both occur simultaneously due to independent events triggering at specific times. Prolonged use of drugs like methamphetamine or alcohol can lead to psychotic episodes in patients. On the other hand, a person with a latent and unknown mental health condition may consider self-medication the best approach to dealing with their situation. These cases lead to addiction and eventually a spiral that draws the person deeper into dependence on the substance as a means of symptom management.
Mental health conditions don’t have any particular cause, but a person may be more inclined to develop them if their parents had a mental illness. The tipping point may occur if the person decides to use drugs or alcohol. Becoming addicted to these substances could be the impetus needed to drive a person into a full-blown mental illness. For individuals who have a mental illness already, drugs and alcohol exacerbate the problem and make it difficult (if not impossible) to quit on one’s own. Rehab centers that deal with dual diagnosis patients have specific methods to help patients cope with their co-occurring disorders.
The Risk of Self Medication for Dual Diagnosis
Mental health disorders can be harrowing for a person to deal with. The condition always seems to lurk on the edges of the person’s psyche. Alcohol, for example, provides calm and tranquility to a person when they’re drunk. For people who have a latent mental illness, it may mean that they finally get their brain to stop prodding them. In such a case, the person will continue to drink to escape the constant fear and worry they have while sober.
Unfortunately, self-medication can lead to an increase in mental health symptoms just as quickly as it could lead to relief. Self-medication may lead to issues with addiction and dependence. Over time, these issues may even culminate in admission to emergency rooms for overdoses and may affect other aspects of the person’s life. Self-medication is a deadly road to walk because it’s so easy for a patient to go too far. The real risk of self-medication is that the patient will experience the worst parts of addiction while never truly being free of their mental illness.
Choosing A Facility for Dual Diagnosis Treatment
Dual diagnosis is difficult to overcome, but it’s by no means impossible. When choosing a center to help with their dual diagnosis, part of the issue many individuals encounter is determining what works and what doesn’t. Thanks to modern psychological analysis and diagnosis methods, there’s an integrated treatment path that patients can be a part of. A rehab center like South Shores Recovery incorporates a multi-faceted approach to dealing with dual diagnosis. It doesn’t matter whether a person’s mental health condition came first or resulted from their substance use disorder.
An integrated approach deals with both of these conditions together. The treatment for the mental health problem will encompass therapy and regular visits with a mental health professional. Depending on the type of mental health condition the individual is suffering from, there may also be medication. The substance use disorder will require a person to go through detox and have a group or one-on-one counseling to help them deal with the psychological aspects of addiction. Behavioral therapy works well in these settings since it gives the person the tools to deal with their negative mental state.
A Treatment Plan as Unique As The Client
No two types of dual diagnosis disorders are precisely the same. Because human beings are unique in their mental makeup, it is hard to have a “one-size-fits-all” solution to a problem as prevalent as dual diagnosis. A professional treatment center realizes this and tailors their treatment to deal with the specifics of a person’s dual diagnosis. A good treatment plan should have the following key characteristics:
- The treatment plan addresses both problems dynamically. It doesn’t hope to help you by simply solving one problem.
- You should have a say in the decision-making process for the plan. The medical professionals should consult you about what you are comfortable with and what you would prefer not to do.
- Treatment should include basic education about your conditions and how to overcome them. A treatment plan shouldn’t be a black box where the medical personnel isn’t telling you why they’re doing something.
- A treatment plan should teach healthy coping skills and strategies to help the patient minimize their substance use disorder triggers. Furthermore, it should give the patient the tools to deal with the stresses of everyday life.
Does Insurance Pay for Dual Diagnosis Care
Insurance companies cover mental health illnesses and may pay for a certain portion of your co-occurring disorder care. They also cover rehab (up to a point) for individuals with a substance use disorder. The search for a treatment location should consider this since some insurance providers don’t like to use out-of-network rehab for their clients. Depending on the plan and the type of health insurance a patient has, they may be limited in what they can access from a rehab center. Some rehab centers, like South Shores, are in-network partners with some of the largest insurance providers in the country. This can streamline a patient’s visit and make for a much simpler process overall.
A partnership like this benefits the patient because they can directly liaise with the rehab center. Seamless check-in enables the patient to get the help they need quickly, while the rehab center takes care of the details of payment and reimbursement. There may be out-of-pocket expenses to consider as well. In such a case, a patient may need the support of friends and family if they can’t cover it themselves. An alternative that a patient may want to consider is getting a loan to cover the cost of rehab. Many rehab facilities offer loans to individuals who don’t have health insurance to give them the care they need to recover.
Achieving Recovery from Co-Occurring Disorders
As scary as co-occurring disorders are, they aren’t the end of the world. A patient can recover from these disorders with the proper treatment. Staying drug or alcohol-free over the long term requires dedication. But in some cases, it also requires the support of a rehab center. Therapy can help, but only if it deals with both problems simultaneously.
Integrated treatment is the best approach to dealing with these types of disorders. Contact the dedicated Admission team at South Shores Recovery today if you’re ready to experience the complete, comprehensive treatment of a co-occurring disorder. We’ll be glad to help you overcome your condition, and our staff are ready and waiting to start you or your loved one on the path to recovery today!