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January 17, 2020

Understanding Your Dual Diagnosis

When both addiction and mental illness are present simultaneously, professionals in the treatment field call it a dual diagnosis or a co-occurring disorder. Untreated mental illness often compounds the dangers of addiction, and vice versa. Sadly, people struggling with mental disorders such as depression, anxiety and PTSD can also be more susceptible to developing a substance misuse problem.

If a doctor or therapist has told you that you have a dual diagnosis, what should you know, and what are your options for getting healthy?

How Common Are Dual Diagnoses?

If you have a dual diagnosis, you aren’t alone. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 9.2 million U.S. adults experienced both mental illness and a substance use disorder in 2018.

An addiction often evolves because people living with emotional turmoil can turn to substance use in an attempt to self-medicate and mute the feelings they’re experiencing. However, they could be unknowingly making their mental illness symptoms worse.

Some drugs also make it more likely that their users will develop a mental illness. Because many drugs have dangerous and unpredictable side effects, it’s possible for someone to experience mental health problems such as psychosis after drug use, even if the drug has never been problematic for them before.

What Are Some Symptoms of a Dual Diagnosis?

Because co-occurring conditions affect everyone differently, the signs of a dual diagnosis vary among people. However, there are a few broad symptoms to be aware of.

  • Loss of interest in formerly pleasurable activities
  • Disrupted sleep patterns
  • Problems maintaining interpersonal relationships
  • Abrupt changes in mood or behavior
  • Seeming withdrawn or tense
  • Using alcohol or drugs as a coping mechanism
  • Irrational thoughts or actions

Which Problem Should You Address First?

Though there are several approaches for treating a dual diagnosis, the best one is the integrated method, in which you will get help for substance abuse and mental illness simultaneously. Because co-occurring conditions are so complex, a customized treatment plan that takes into account how each condition affects the other is essential.

Evidence-based therapies form the backbone of a successful dual diagnosis treatment plan. In particular, cognitive behavioral therapy and motivational interviewing help people with co-occurring disorders learn new ways of thinking and healthy coping mechanisms that do not include addictive substances.

Managing Your Co-Occurring Disorder

If you are considering seeking help for your dual diagnosis, you should be aware that there’s no such thing as an overnight cure. Indeed, treating a co-occurring condition often takes longer and requires a lot of patience. Because addiction is a chronic disease, part of your treatment plan will require you to learn how to manage it for the rest of your life. However, there is hope. At Beach House, we have helped many people with co-occurring disorders go on to live happy and fulfilling lives.

Your treatment plan will usually begin with inpatient detoxification, during which our team will monitor your withdrawal symptoms 24/7 in a safe, comfortable environment. After completing medical detox, your next step will be to move into our inpatient rehab facility, where you can receive ‘round-the-clock clinical supervision. In this phase, you will learn new life skills and will begin to participate in treatments that help identify and address the underlying causes of your problems. This stage lasts, at minimum, 35 days. However, there is a correlation between longer treatment times and successful recovery.

Before leaving inpatient rehab, you will need to decide on an aftercare plan that accounts for what you are going to do next. Some people find it is best to continue seeking treatment on an outpatient basis, while others transition into sober living communities that provide a stepping stone between the structure of treatment and the stresses of the “real world.” Regular participation in peer groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous is helpful as well.

Are you ready to reclaim your life from the difficulties of a dual diagnosis? Beach House is here to help you meet your goals. Contact us anytime to get started.

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