What Is the Process of Dual Diagnosis Treatment?
In this article, you can learn all about the nature of dual diagnosis treatment.
What Is a Dual Diagnosis?
According to the National Library of Medicine, around 50% of those living with mental illness either have or will develop a substance use problem at some point. The two conditions combine to make each condition worse and require a specialized dual diagnosis treatment program.1
For example, unstable mental health may lead to self-medicating with drugs or alcohol; however, using substances negatively impacts mental health. Treating one condition without treating the other won’t solve either problem.
The term dual diagnosis is often used to refer to a person with both a substance use disorder and a mental health disorder. Technically, having a dual diagnosis means having any two health conditions simultaneously, such as diabetes and heart disease.
Since addiction and mental illness are both conditions that affect health, they qualify as dual diagnoses. Successful treatment for dual diagnosis would consider each disease’s impact on the other.
The Difference Between Dual Diagnosis and Co-Occurring Disorders
Understanding the difference between dual diagnosis and co-occurring disorders can be difficult because the terms are often used interchangeably. It may be easiest to think of dual diagnosis as a general term that involves two or more health conditions, including substance use and mental health issues.
The term co-occurring disorder refers specifically to having a substance use disorder and a mental health disorder at the same time. Co-occurring disorders would likely not be used to describe a situation where someone has diabetes and heart disease.
What Are the Causes of Dual Diagnosis?
Mental health and addiction experts agree that most substance use disorders and mental illnesses are based on a person’s biology and physiology.2 Neither is a sign of personal weakness. Dual diagnosis treatment is available and effective for those who commit to the process, but addiction and mental illness are both disorders that require medical intervention.
Though biology plays a major role in developing dual diagnosis conditions, other factors can influence a person’s decision to try drugs or alcohol or develop a mental health disorder. For example, childhood trauma, poor self-image, poverty, or easy access to substances can lead to experimentation which develops into addiction over time.
Having a genetic predisposition for mental health disorders may also prompt a person to use substances as a form of self-medication. In addition, the effects of long-term substance abuse on the brain can cause certain mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.
Warning Signs of Dual Diagnosis
Many people live with undiagnosed mental illnesses. They commonly do not realize their mental health contributes to their addiction until they enter rehab for drugs and mental health treatment.
In fact, the National Alliance for Mental Illness reports that, on average, there are eleven years between the onset of mental illness symptoms and treatment. That means most people with mental illness struggle through their symptoms without help for over a decade.3
The warning signs of a dual diagnosis vary widely depending on the type of mental illness a person has and the substance(s) they use. Some of the general signs of a mental health disorder to be aware of include:4
- Inability to cope with everyday stress
- Changes in sleep patterns
- Social withdrawal, avoiding friends and family
- Extreme mood changes
- Confused thinking
- Feeling sad or hopeless
- Excessive anger, hostile or violent behavior
- Changes in sex drive or sexual behavior
- Feeling paranoid
- Having delusions or hallucinations
- Feelings of extreme tension
- Obsessive worry
- Suicidal thinking
Turning to drugs or alcohol to calm one’s thoughts or feel good is a sign someone may be trying to medicate a mental illness. If you suspect you or a loved one needs dual diagnosis treatment, speak with your doctor or an addiction specialist.
What Is Dual Diagnosis Treatment?
Dual diagnosis addiction treatment centers are designed specifically to help people with undiagnosed or untreated mental health disorders while they participate in addiction recovery therapies at the same time.
Many of the therapies used to treat addiction are similar to those used to treat a mental health disorder. Once a patient has entered a dual diagnosis program, the medical staff will complete a thorough examination, including family health history, to ensure they have been properly screened and correctly diagnosed.
Once the care team has a clear understanding of the patient’s needs, they will develop a personalized dual diagnosis treatment program to address both mental and physical health.
Effective Dual Diagnosis Treatment Options
Dual diagnosis addiction treatment includes several types of mental and physical wellness support. A dual diagnosis program may consist of the following:
- Medication-assisted detox
- Family therapy
- Antipsychotic or anti-depression medications
- Individual therapy
- Support groups
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Medical treatment for physical health concerns
- Nutritional therapy
- Complementary therapies, such as yoga, meditation, and other mindfulness practices
Receiving treatment for dual diagnosis can seem overwhelming at first. After many years of not getting the care you need, your body and mind will need extra attention to heal.
Getting Treatment for Dual Diagnosis
Resources for dual diagnosis treatment are available. For example, there are bipolar treatment centers, free treatment centers, and dual diagnosis addiction treatment programs in almost every city in the U.S. If you need rehab for dual diagnosis, speak with your doctor or a mental health expert for more information.
Treatment Options for Dual Disorders
There are several different dual diagnosis programs available at mental health rehab centers. The four main types of dual diagnosis treatment programs include:
Partial Hospitalization Programs
Partial hospitalization programs (PHPs) provide rehab for drugs and mental health treatment for several hours a day up to five days a week. Clients can participate in scheduled treatments and return home at the end of the day.
Intensive Outpatient Programs
Intensive outpatient programs are recommended for dual diagnosis treatment when assisted detoxification or twenty-four-hour supervision is not necessary. Clients participate in rehab for dual diagnosis during scheduled hours and can live at home.
Outpatient programs are the least intense type of dual diagnosis addiction treatment. They are recommended for clients who have been through inpatient care (where the patient stays at the facility throughout the treatment process) previously and need extra support and those with a short history of drug use.
Dual Diagnosis Inpatient Treatment
Dual diagnosis inpatient or residential treatment is ideal for clients who need close medical supervision and accountability. A person with a long history of addiction or someone without a supportive home environment may opt for a residential program.
Participating in rehab for drugs and mental health issues helps address dual diagnosis treatment. No matter which type of program is chosen, mental health and rehab centers are filled with knowledgeable, compassionate experts who understand what the patient has been through and how to help.