Dual diagnosis is when a person has a substance abuse problem and at least one mental health disorder that are co-occurring. One does not necessarily have to precede the other and there is no causation in the definition of a dual diagnosis. Mental health disorders can be caused by addiction and substance abuse just as much as an addiction can be caused by a mental health disorder.
While virtually any mental health disorder can co-occur with a substance abuse problem or addiction, some are more commonly diagnosed than others. Depression is often part of a dual diagnosis. Individuals may use illegal drugs or prescription drugs that create a euphoric state and promote a sense of self-confidence and well-being as a form of self-medication. These drugs can exacerbate an undiagnosed mental health disorder, or can cause a mental health disorder by the way they affect brain chemistry.
Additionally, anxiety disorders are often connected to addiction. Schizophrenia has been shown to co-occur quite often with crystal meth addiction, and actually may be a contributing cause to the emergence of schizophrenic symptoms and behaviors in those with a predisposition. Manic depression (bipolar disorder) is yet another disorder that commonly occurs alongside an addiction problem. And the substances abused can coincide with either manic or depressive periods in an attempt to counteract the chemical imbalances occurring inside the person's brain. If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse and a mental health disorder, call Queens Drug and Alcohol Treatment Centers at 347-923-9703. We can help you find treatment centers.
One of the best and most used forms of treatment for dual diagnosis patients is psychotherapy. Psychotherapy is essentially a form of individual, group, or family therapy that addresses both the mental health disorder and substance abuse issues that patients face. Therapists should be trained and certified in both addiction and mental health treatments so that both can be addressed simultaneously. Oftentimes, a cognitive-behavioral psychotherapeutic approach is taken in treating patients and addresses a person's perceptions of themselves and the world around them, and delves into the personal reasons behind addiction and mental health disturbances.
In addition to psychotherapy, psychopharmacology is often also utilized in dual diagnosis treatment protocols. Psychopharmacology is essentially the exploration and implementation of prescription medication to treat mental health disorders. These medication regimens must be carefully selected and monitored by a psychiatrist and physician to ensure that the person with a substance abuse problem does not form any chemical dependence or addiction to any medications for their mental health disorders.
Behavioral management is also another important aspect of treating a dual diagnosed recovering addict. This technique involves developing coping mechanisms for situations and instances in which temptations or triggers are present to avoid any form of relapse.
Behavioral management can include going to a support group meeting rather than imbibing in an abused substance, of practicing breathing exercises when they begin to feel overwhelmed or anxious, or even of calling a designated sponsor or counselor to coach them through difficult moments.
While substance abuse is quite often thought to be a mental illness, it is a common misperception. However, the truth of the matter is that substance abuse and addiction in and of themselves are not mental illnesses, they can co-occur with various mental illnesses. Knowing which mental health disorders commonly co-occur with substance addictions and how the two are treated together can help you and those you love overcome a dual diagnosis.