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Dual Diagnosis
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Dual Diagnosis

Dual diagnosis is the term used when a person has an addiction and a co-occurring mental health disorder. It is estimated that dual diagnosis affects nearly 8.9 million Americans every year.

The biggest problem faced by people struggling with a dual diagnosis, is the probability of the dual disorder being accurately diagnosed. Individuals who seek treatment for drug or alcohol addiction may only be treated for one component of the total problem. Similarly, people who seek treatment for mental health disorders may not receive the right treatment to incorporate the addictive behavioral issues.

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health revealed that 45% of people struggling with addiction also have at least one co-existing mental health disorder. Conversely, 51% of people with a mental illness also had at least one substance abuse disorder.

In order to effectively treat dual diagnosis, it is crucial to integrate the right combination of therapies and treatments to address both issues simultaneously.


Commonly-Linked Mental Health Disorders

There are some mental health disorders that are commonly linked to addictive behaviors. These include:

Eating disorders:  people struggling with eating disorders, including anorexia and bulimia, have a significantly higher risk for substance abuse. Many eating disorders stem from distorted body image and low self-esteem. Many turn to binge drinking, illicit drug use, or prescription drug abuse as a way to cope with negative feelings and emotions. Up to 50% of people struggling with eating disorders and co-existing addiction problems, also meet the criteria for clinical depression.

Depression: the link between depression and alcohol abuse is long-established. However, abuse of illicit street drugs or prescription painkillers is also commonly seen in people suffering with symptoms of depression. People may take drugs or alcohol to escape from painful feelings or to numb emotions. Yet, substance abuse can make symptoms of depression worse, causing a downward spiral into addiction.

OCD: obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a debilitating mental illness where the person experiences irrational fears and anxiety that can be highly destructive to their life. People with OCD may perform uncontrollable rituals in an effort to alleviate some feelings of anxiety, such as hand-washing, obsessive cleaning, or counting items. While the person is performing these rituals the anxiety is temporarily relieved, but it returns again once the compulsive actions stop. In an attempt to cope with the overwhelming feelings of anxiety and irrational fear, many people with OCD turn to drugs or alcohol.

PTSD: post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is one of the most emotionally debilitating mental health disorders. A person with PTSD suffers from intense anxiety and stress after witnessing or experiencing a traumatic event. Horrible memories or flash-backs, and vivid nightmares that interrupt and interfere with daily life are common.  Many people with PTSD will turn to substance abuse as a way to numb painful emotions or to try and regain control over their lives.

Dual Diagnosis Treatments

Treating someone for a mental illness was once considered to be completely separate from treating drug or alcohol addiction in Alabama. However, it is useless to treat only the symptoms of addiction, unless the underlying mental health disorder that triggers the addictive behavior is also addressed.

A person struggling with a dual diagnosis requires specialist integrated treatments that simultaneously address both the mental illness and the addiction. Fortunately, there are specialist dual diagnosis rehab facilities available in Alabama.

Dual diagnosis treatment begins with a comprehensive assessment of the person to determine the right combination of treatments.

Treatment begins with a medically-supervised detox process, which helps to break the body’s dependency on drugs or alcohol. As the person also has underlying mental health issues to contend with, psychotherapeutic medications may also be given.

Psychotherapy and behavioral management therapy must concentrate on both the addiction and the mental health disorder at the same time in order to achieve the best results. Group therapy and meetings, specifically for people struggling with dual diagnosis, also provides a strong support network during recovery.


After Care Services

After graduating from dual diagnosis rehab treatments, the journey to recovery begins. It is important to find a program that offers comprehensive aftercare services to help address and manage each person’s unique relapse triggers. Aftercare services provide the recovering person with access to ongoing counseling, support groups and other excellent recovery resources that offer the best possible chance of remaining clean and sober over the long term.

If you or a loved one is suffering from a mental illness and drug or alcohol addiction, call a substance abuse facility in Alabama today to end your battle with dual diagnosis.