When someone has both a substance use disorder (SUD) and a mental health disorder, they have what is known as a dual diagnosis, or co-occurring disorders. Treating one condition without caring for the other may not produce lasting recovery because the interactions of both conditions can sabotage progress. Treatment for dual diagnoses must be integrated and simultaneous.
Common Mental Health Conditions That Co-occur With Substance Addiction
The most common mental health issues that co-occur with SUD include attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), bipolar disorder, personality disorders, eating disorders, anxiety disorders, depression, and obsessive-compulsive disorder, among others.
Take ADHD for example. Some people with this condition are prescribed stimulants to cope with their symptoms. If used incorrectly or misused, these stimulants may lead to SUD. In cases like these, mental health experts must find other options to address ADHD.
For people with generalized anxiety disorder and SUD related to anxiety-reducing benzodiazepines, mental health experts should carefully monitor anxiety symptoms during detox and treatment. Medical staff may need to find other, non-addictive medications to treat the anxiety condition.
Co-occurring disorders should be treated differently because they present different challenges in treatment. Both mental illness and SUD are subject to a wide range of factors, including brain responses, genetics, triggers, symptoms, genetic history, and exposure to adversity.
Why Does Dual Diagnosis Happen?
Addiction is a complex brain disease caused by a range of factors. Among the many risk factors, pre-existing mental health issues can increase the likelihood of developing SUD. Similarly, long-term and chronic substance use is a risk factor for developing mental health disorders.
The relationship between addiction and mental illness is very complex. Though it’s sometimes a bit of a chicken-and-egg situation in terms of which caused the other, dual diagnoses always require a higher level of care.
Common Treatment Methods for Dual Diagnosis
Once a person is dually diagnosed, both conditions must be treated at the same time. First, this person must go through medically-monitored detoxification. Withdrawal symptoms can worsen mental health, so health professionals can prescribe medications to alleviate those effects and keep the person safe and comfortable.
Equally important is collaboration and regular interaction with a behavioral therapist. There are two common methods to help guide individuals through withdrawal and mental health struggles: cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical-behavior therapy (DBT). The former focuses on identifying and correcting negative thought patterns. The latter is a harm-reduction therapy that helps people with tendencies for self-harm.
Getting Dual Diagnosis Treatment
Dual diagnosis treatment requires a highly integrated approach using a combination of methods, ranging from medications and traditional therapies to holistic healing options. Rehab centers that offer dual diagnosis treatment should always begin with an initial evaluation to decide the right level of care for each individual.
A joint team of recovery experts and mental health professionals must collaborate on making a personalized treatment plan, which may include non-addictive medications for certain mental illnesses. In most cases, dual diagnosis treatment requires a longer residential stay in the treatment center. It may take time for therapists to find the most effective approach, so it also takes patience and some trial-and-error.
How to Find the Right Treatment Center for Dual Diagnosis
When looking for a rehab center to care for yourself or a loved one who has a dual diagnosis, you should be informed about what co-occurring disorders and types of addiction are involved.
Before committing to a treatment plan, gather as much information as possible about the expertise of a certain treatment facility. You may also connect with a few alumni to understand their experiences with the staff and programming. People recovering from dual diagnoses need extended care, so a strong alumni program is a major benefit.
When you inquire about a treatment facility’s capacity to care for dual-diagnosis patients, ask lots of questions. Below are a few that can help you make a more informed decision:
- Does this treatment center have licensed recovery experts as well as mental health personnel? How experienced are they? How do they work together to treat patients with dual diagnoses?
- Does this treatment center offer individualized treatment plans? How does the initial evaluation work?
- Will both conditions be treated as interconnected health issues, or as separate illnesses?
- Is there a structured process to treat people with dual diagnoses? What therapies are available?
- What is the success rate for treating dual diagnosis?
- How long is the residential stay for people with dual diagnoses? What happens after that? What aftercare does this facility offer?
You may need to talk with a few facilities about these issues before making a final decision. Because of the complexity of dual diagnosis, supporting a loved one in recovery can be taxing. Make sure you have a support system for yourself.
Laguna Shores Recovery’s program provides the highest care possible for those struggling with dual diagnoses. We strive to provide customized programs to ensure the best treatment for each individual. With a team of experienced health professionals including recovery experts and mental health experts, Laguna Shores offers a wide range of treatment methods including detox, medication, 12-Step groups, and relationship skills coaching, all of which can greatly enhance your experience on the road to long-term sustainable recovery. We understand the complexity of dual diagnoses and have the expertise to treat both conditions at the same time. Our residential program has a specialized track for dual diagnosis clients. You will be in good hands when you choose our program. We also involve your family and friends to support your recovery. You don’t have to live with the effects of substance abuse or mental illness anymore. Call us at (866) 906-3203.