Dual Diagnosis (i.e., comorbid disorders) is a label for individuals who are diagnosed with both a substance abuse disorder and mental illness concurrently. Mental illness or substance abuse disorder may develop before the other. Often, individuals who are experiencing issues with mental health choose to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol in order to improve their mental state and decrease their symptoms. Studies have shown that drugs and alcohol often make the symptoms of mental illness worse and this leads to substance abuse issues. There are over forty treatment centers in the state of Delaware that work with and treat individuals with a dual diagnosis.
Dual Diagnosis: An Overview
Dual diagnosis is more common than one would expect. Statistics show that approximately 7.9 million individuals are experiencing substance abuse disorders and mental illness concurrently. Over half of these individuals who have a dual diagnosis are males. The symptoms of dual diagnosis vary due to the different combinations of substances and mental illnesses that may occur together. The symptoms of substance abuse disorder include:
- Losing control over substance use
- Withdrawal from family and friends
- Unanticipated and sudden changes in behaviors
- Increased engagement in risky behavior
- Feeling as though a drug is needed to feel normal and function
- High tolerance development and symptoms of withdrawal
The symptoms related to mental illnesses also vary and are very broad. There are certain warning signs including:
- Suicidal ideation
- Extreme changes in mood
- Issues with concentration
- Feeling confused
- Avoidance of social activities
- Avoiding family or friends
Treatment for Dual Diagnosis
The treatment that is most successful for individuals with dual diagnoses is an integrated form of treatment. Integrated treatment includes treatment for both the substance abuse disorder and the diagnosed mental illness. Best practices require that both substance abuse and mental illness are treated simultaneously. Medical and psychological professionals will inform you how your substance abuse disorder and mental illness affect each other. From there, your treatment provider will develop an individualized treatment plan to treat both disorders. Treatment plans often include the following:
- Inpatient Rehab
- Sober Living
- Attending support groups
Detox is the initial stage of rehabilitation in cases of dual diagnosis. Detox involves medical professionals monitoring patients around the clock for up to a week. The medical staff may choose to taper the substance that was being abused or administer an alternative drug in order to make the detoxification process safe and more comfortable for the patient. After detox, individuals typically enter inpatient rehab, which also provides psychological and medical care around the clock. Inpatient rehabs offer support, therapy, health, and medication services in order to treat substance abuse disorders and their underlying cause. After completing inpatient rehab, patients may enter a supportive housing environment (i.e., sober living home). These homes are often located within residential substance abuse treatment centers. They are intended to help individuals who are trying to avoid relapsing or individuals who are newly sober. These homes are a good place to receive support, while also being able to have independence.
Medications may also be prescribed to individuals with dual diagnoses. These medications are most often prescribed to treat mental health conditions. There are also medications that are prescribed to aid individuals in easing the withdrawal symptoms they may feel during detox and afterward encourage recovery. Psychotherapy is also a vital part of the dual diagnosis treatment process. Most often, individuals are treated through cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). This type of therapy allows for individuals with dual diagnosis to change their negative thinking patterns and learn new coping skills, which allow for an increase in the chance they are able to maintain long term sobriety.
Individuals with dual diagnoses may also choose to attend support groups. Having a dual diagnosis may feel isolating and challenging at times. Attending support groups may allow for individuals to meet with others who are experiencing similar issues. These groups may also foster a sense of community and allow individuals to vent their frustrations and concerns as well as share their success. If you or a loved one are seeking treatment for dual diagnosis, please call us at 302-842-2390.