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What Is Dual Diagnosis?

In short, dual diagnosis is a diagnosis of both a mental health condition as well as a drug or alcohol abuse problem. Many times, a person might self-medicate to overcome a mental health issue, and this can lead to addiction and abuse. Over time, drugs and alcohol become a cause of more mental health issues and long-term negative effects.

There are a few names that coincide with dual diagnosis disorder. These are comorbidity and co-occurring disorders. You can use any terms to describe someone who has both a drug or alcohol addiction and a mental health issue as well. There are slight differences between them, and you may want to know the difference if you’re seeking treatment.

There are various mental health issues including depression, anxiety, ADHD, that when combined with alcohol or drug abuse, would be a dual diagnosis disorder.

Common Dual Diagnosis Disorders:

ADHD: If someone has ADHD, they may have started on a prescribed stimulant to deal with their ADHD. These drugs can lead to an addictive over use after a period of time. ADHD can also lead to attempts of self-medication with other drugs to help ease both the ADHD and addictive behavior.

Bipolar Disorder: About half of bipolar disorder patients suffer from addiction. The manic highs, depressive lows, and mood shifts with this mental health disorder, leads users to self-medicate in order to reduce the disorder’s effects. Over time, alcohol and drug abuse can damage someone’s mental and physical state. Self medication may seem to provide short-term relief for those with bipolar.

Borderline Personality Disorder: Two out of three BPD sufferers have self-medicated and turned to substance abuse at one time, to solve the issue.

Depression: If someone suffers from depression, they may try to self-medicate using drugs or alcohol. In the short term, this may feel like they are blurring out the problem. However, over time the additional use of drugs is much worse than just the depression alone.

Anxiety Disorder: People who suffer from generalized anxiety disorder may self-medicate in order to relieve the symptoms. Sometimes addictive prescription medications that treat anxiety can lead to a dependency on the drug and further self-medicating.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: People who have unwanted obsessions, which lead to increased anxiety, depression, and sometimes leading to drug abuse.

PTSD: Those that suffer from PTSD have fewer endorphins, leading to more depressive states, and more alcohol and drug use. Almost 75% of veterans who had PTSD said they used alcohol repeatedly.

Schizophrenia: Those suffering from Schizophrenia may experience a multitude of symptoms. Those symptoms may include delusional thinking and hallucination, visual, auditory and sensory. People who decide to self-medicate using substances for their condition often find themselves in an even worse condition.

There are so many combinations of dual diagnosis disorders, since there are so many mental disorders and multiple drugs that vary in degrees of severity on both ends. It’s almost difficult to see what’s causing the problem, especially if it’s become a self-reinforcing loop.

Drug Addiction Can Be Defined As A Mental Illness

Drugs and alcohol can change your brain, warp your thinking, affect your physical body, and how you interact with the world. When you already suffer from a mental illness or disorder, the same parts of your brain that are affected by the disorder are being affected by the drugs.

Addiction disease causes you to have uncontrolled cravings and compulsions for a certain substance. Even if you know the drugs and alcohol will cause more problems than you know, the addiction has been known to take over you unless you seek out treatment.

The drugs that may have started as self-medication slowly turn into a cause of mental disorders. Thus, ultimately causing the underlying issue to compound on itself, and it’s easy to get caught in a loop. In the short term, the drug or alcohol user feels a little better, but long-term effects will cause damage to one’s physical and mental health.

Physical Signs of Drug Addiction & Mental Health Disorders

If someone is showing withdrawal symptoms like sweating, flushes, tremors or increased anxiety and aggression, then they could struggle with addiction. A person could have bad sleeping patterns or experience weight loss or gain. They might have a lack of personal hygiene and have dilated or red pupils.

Individuals may express paranoid or anxious behaviors and suffer a loss of motivation. They will isolate themselves and could have money problems and refer to selfish, self-centered behaviors more often than is normal.

Co-Occurring Vs Dual Diagnosis Disorder

What is a dual diagnosis disorder when compared to co-occurring disorder? Dual diagnosis describes a person having two occurring conditions, physical, mental, and drug or alcohol addiction, at the same time. Co-occurring better describes situations where the person may have a mental disorder that leads to drug or alcohol addiction, and vice versa. The term can also refer to someone who has cancer, hepatitis or other diseases alongside an addictive disorder.

Whatever you call it, dual diagnosis, co-occurring disorder, or comorbidity, it’s important to seek the right treatment in order to have the best chances to recover.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment Centers

Dual diagnosis is difficult to treat, as there are many symptoms mixed at once. Treatment often takes a long time because of the complicated nature of dual diagnoses. Not to mention figuring out what is the actual cause. There’s no quick fix to this type of diagnosis, and careful treatment will move at a slow pace to suit the person involved.

It’s important to work on both the mental health problems and the drug addiction and see where the triggers and behaviors are. Having a dual diagnosis leads to a cycle of self-destruction that’s hard to come out of. Mental illness that led to substance abuse then worsened the mental illness, creating a heavier dependence on those substances.

If you or someone you know is suffering from a dual diagnosis of mental health issues alongside addiction problems with drugs or alcohol, then reach out to us and we’ll see what treatments will best suit your needs.

Buckhead Behavioral Health is a luxury addiction treatment facility and drug rehab in Atlanta, Georgia. Offering individualized treatment, the multidisciplinary staff at Buckhead Behavioral Health offers evidenced-based practices to help individuals recover from addiction in a safe and structured setting free from distractions. Learn more about our admission process and begin the road to recovery now.

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