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What Does Dual Diagnosis Mean?

What Does Dual Diagnosis Mean?

You’ve probably come across the term dual-diagnosis or a co-occurring disorder when it comes to addiction treatment. But you might be unfamiliar with what it actually signifies.

So what does dual diagnosis mean in mental health? And how can we treat it? Let’s examine it!

What Does Dual Diagnosis Mean in Mental Health?

The terms dual diagnosis and co-occurring disorders are almost interchangeable. But what does dual diagnosis mean in mental health?

A dual diagnosis refers to the coexistence of a mental health disorder and a substance abuse disorder affecting a patient simultaneously. When a dual diagnosis is present, both disorders exacerbate each other making it difficult for patients to heal.

For example, an addict suffering from depression might take drugs to feel better. The drugs in turn depress the addict requiring them to take more of the drug to feel well again.

This vicious circle can turn out to be the reason why many addicts are not able to properly treat their condition.  Co-occurring disorders tend to be treated in parallel as healing one without the other will likely end up in the patient suffering from the heal disorder again.

If the rehab center they attend does not offer holistic treatment that treats both conditions, then it’s unlikely that the addict will be able to remain sober for long.

Studies have shown that individuals with a dual diagnosis are more likely to experience certain challenges compared to those who only have one disorder such as:

  • Have severe symptoms of depression
  • Relapse over and over again
  • Have a lower quality of life
  • Attempting to take their own life

A study showed that attempted suicide rates for addicts with depression were:

  • These rates are twice as high as those for addicts who develop alcoholism before depression
  • The rates are three times higher than for people with depression alone
  • Nine times higher than those who only developed alcohol use disorders

The risk of suicide is the most troubling risk of co-occurring disorders and one that must not be ignored.

What’s a Substance Use Disorder 

A substance abuse disorder (SUD) is a mental health disorder caused by the abuse of drugs or alcohol. To put it simply, it’s the medical term for an addiction.

The disorder could be caused by both substance abuse and substance dependence. Two conditions that are similar but not exactly the same.

When a patient is said to abuse a substance he or she might be experiencing a milder form of dependence, which is mostly psychological. The dependence is characterized by an obsession with drugs or alcohol that has not developed into a physical form of dependence.

On the other hand, a patient suffering from substance abuse dependence will be physically dependent on the substance. That means that their bodies have gotten used to having the substance in their system and will react negatively when the system releases the toxin. These symptoms are called withdrawals and they could be deadly if not treated adequately. 

Substances that are often misused and cause SUD may include:

  • Alcohol
  • Tobacco
  • Opioids
  • Cocaine
  • Stimulants
  • Marijuana
  • Hallucinogens
  • Prescription drugs

What are Mental Health Disorders 

The other side of the dual diagnosis equation is a mental health disorder. There are numerous mental health disorders that can cause a dual diagnosis, and although the term dual refers to two conditions, there is no limit to how many disorders a patient can suffer from.

In fact, many patients can experience a number of disorders at the same time, a complex situation that requires extensive therapy.

Some of the most common mental health disorders that an addict can experience include:

  • Major depression
  • Dysthymia
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Panic disorder
  • Anxiety
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

The United States has a high rate of mental health disorders. According to a study conducted in 2020, nearly 9% of Americans suffer from psychological illnesses. Almost nine million Americans suffer from mental illness.

Integrated Treatment 

Mental disorders and substance abuse were often treated separately. Nevertheless, most recovery programs now treat both disorders in parallel as a result of new advancements and a better understanding of their relationship.

Now that you know what dual diagnosis means in mental health, you are ready to take the next step!

If you or someone you love is suffering from a dual diagnosis then it’s critical to seek professional help.

Veritas Detox offers dual-diagnosis treatment options and co-occurring disorder testing to all of our patients.  Our holistic approach to addiction helps addicts get well regardless of their condition.

Contact Veritas Detox today and ask us about our dual-diagnosis treatment today!

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