I’ve always been an anxious person. I’m used to people calling me a “worrier” or an “over thinker.” For most of my life, I just thought it was a personality trait or a quirk.
It’s not uncommon for me to worry about the same thing and not be able to just let it go. I always have something to stress about. I thought it was just in my nature.
So I started drinking. When I was drinking, I wasn’t worrying anymore. It felt like an escape. I could finally relax.
Until, of course, the alcohol eventually started causing problems in my life. I started forgetting responsibilities and deadlines because I was constantly hungover.
It started causing problems at work, in my marriage, and with my kids. My children had seen me blacked out on the couch more than once.
So I decided I needed to work on my sobriety for myself and my family. I decided to seek treatment, where I learned that the root cause of my addiction was directly related to my worrying.
It turns out, I was using substances to self-medicate the symptoms of my anxiety.
I learned more about myself than I ever expected. I learned that I had generalized anxiety disorder and even discovered what contributed to the development of my mental illness.
When you have both a mental illness and substance use disorder at the same time, it’s called a dual diagnosis.
Dual Diagnosis, Explained
It’s very common for mental illness and addiction to occur simultaneously. In 2018, 9.2 million adults in the United States had a dual diagnosis.
In general, of those with a mental illness, about half also have a substance use disorder at some point. The reverse is also true.
More specifically, one third of people with a mental illness also have a substance use disorder. The same is true for half of those with a severe mental illness.
The same can be said for those with an addiction. Of alcoholics, one third also have a mental illness. The same is true for half of drug users.
There are several reasons why dual diagnosis is so common. One explanation is that substances are used to cope with the symptoms of a mental illness, also known as self-medicating.
Another reason is that mental illness and addiction share some of the same risk factors including stress, trauma, and the parts of the brain impacted. Also, some drugs cause users to experience symptoms of a mental illness.
Unfortunately, substances only worsen the symptoms of mental illness.
Common treatments for dual diagnoses are inpatient rehabilitation and different forms of therapy.
But how is dual diagnosis treatment different from addiction treatment?
What Are Dual Diagnosis Treatment Programs and Recovery Like?
Dual diagnoses require integrated intervention during treatment. This means that both the mental illness and the substance use disorder get addressed and treated at the same time.
A dual diagnosis is different for everyone. There are many different possible combinations of mental illness and substance use interactions. Additionally, there are different underlying causes and ways that dual diagnoses occur.
As a result, programs should be individualized. Depending on how each condition impacts the other and the client’s unique background and needs, a treatment plan will be developed.
Each program will be different based on the individual, but common treatment options for dual diagnosis includes:
- Detoxification, or “detox”
During medically-supported withdrawal, clients get monitored by medical professionals who handle withdrawal symptoms and mental health concerns.
- Inpatient rehabilitation or residential treatment
When mental illness and addiction are combined, it is often beneficial to have around-the-clock care. During residential treatment, clients live at a treatment facility for 30 days or more. Residential treatment provides the structure and support needed to treat both conditions, including therapy, medication, and education about the conditions.
- Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)
These programs combine FDA-approved medication, counseling, and behavioral therapies.
Therapy helps clients understand the underlying issues of their mental illness and addiction. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a common method that aims to help clients identify how their thought patterns influence their behaviors and beliefs. It is very effective for treating both mental illness and substance use disorders.
- Support Groups
Support groups are designed to help individuals facing similar circumstances and situations cope through mutual sharing and support. It helps people realize that they aren’t alone and to develop a community to help them with what they are going through. It is also a good way to get advice, referrals, and friendships.
Group therapy is similar but has some key differentiators. Group therapy consists of those struggling with the same issues, builds community, and helps people realize they aren’t alone. Group therapy is a component of many treatment programs, including dual diagnosis treatment.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the difference between comorbidity and dual diagnosis?
Dual diagnosis specifically refers to the presence of both a mental illness and a substance use disorder occurring at the same time. On the other hand, comorbidity refers to a person experiencing any two or more disorders either at the same time or subsequently. Comorbidity also means that both illnesses worsen one another.
How are dual diagnosis patients treated?
Dual diagnosis patients are treated with integrated intervention. This means that both the mental illness and substance use disorder are treated and addressed during treatment.
What are the five most common mental disorders?
The top five most common mental disorders include anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia/psychotic disorders, and dementia.
At Serenity Lane, we have many programs and treatment options for dual diagnosis. Our nursing staff, physicians, psychiatrists, and assigned counselors collaborate to design the best treatment plan for the needs of each individual patient. Find the information and solutions you need by giving us a call at 800-543-9905.