What Is Dual Diagnosis? A Simple Guide to Dual Diagnosis

by Adam Torkildson

Are you interested in how more than one health issue can affect someone simultaneously? Do you want to know the symptoms of such a condition and how to treat it?

If so, then it's time you know about dual diagnosis. What is dual diagnosis? This condition occurs when someone experiences a mental illness and a substance use disorder at the same time.

These two issues can occur at once or one leading to the other. This can result in a challenging recovery process. 

Follow this simple guide to learn everything you need to know about dual diagnosis.

1. What is Dual Diagnosis?

Dual diagnosis is sometimes referred to as "comorbidity." This is because of the two health issues occurring at once. Either the mental illness or substance abuse disorder can occur first.

When the mental illness arrives first, some patients may turn to substances as self-medication for their symptoms. Yet, these drugs can make symptoms worse.

Long-term substance abuse can result in mental and emotional symptoms. These symptoms can then lead to mental health issues.

Common mental health issues with dual diagnoses include depression and bipolar disorder. Patients may also experience anxiety and trauma-based disorders.

Substances that are often abused include alcohol, painkillers, heroin, cocaine, and stimulants.

2. Facts and Statistics

Understanding dual diagnosis requires knowing the specific numbers of how it affects patients. For example, over 50 percent of people suffering from mental disorders are also affected by substance abuse.

Only 34 percent of American patients with this issue get treatment for just the mental health issue. About two percent received treatment for just the substance abuse disorder.

Underlying mental health issues affect 78 percent of people dealing with addictions.

Around 24.6 million Americans suffer from a substance abuse disorder, according to the SAMHSA. About 5 million of them also suffered from a co-occurring mental health issue.

3. Symptoms

Symptoms are also important when it comes to dual diagnosis. On the substance abuse side, there's the feeling of needing the drug for daily function.

Patients may also develop a high tolerance to substances. There is a chance that they might lose control over their use of these substances.

Mental health symptoms include trouble concentrating, confused thinking, and sudden changes in behavior. Patients may also avoid friends, family, and social activities, as well as think about suicide.

Those suffering from dual diagnosis may also start to engage in dangerous behaviors. They could also use substances under dangerous conditions.

4. Treatment

Treatment options for dual diagnosis vary from medicine to the involvement of loved ones. 

Medication, for example, can help ease withdrawal symptoms during recovery.

Psychotherapy comes in handy as a science-based dual diagnosis treatment. Patients can learn how to change ineffective patterns of thinking that make it easy to abuse substances.

Supportive housing and inpatient rehabilitation provide appropriate locations and schedules for patients. They include support, medication, therapy, and health services that target specific issues.

Integrated intervention is the best treatment for dual diagnosis. It focuses on both substance abuse and mental health disorders.

The process involves using the right physical treatment and providing emotional support. This support can come from professionals and loved ones.

Dual Diagnosis Explained

What is dual diagnosis? The answer requires understanding what can lead to it and its symptoms.

Know the statistics and possible treatments. This can help you determine which solution works for your case.

For more of our health expertise, check out our other guides today to learn how to handle the most challenging health issues.




Adam Torkildson
Adam Torkildson

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