What is Dual Diagnosis
There are many types of addiction, and many types of treatment for addiction, each type of treatment is designed for a specific need. Intensive Outpatient Programs allow patients flexibility in their treatment schedules. Dual diagnosis programs are for patients suffering from an addiction and a secondary diagnosis.
What exactly is a dual diagnosis? And why is it so important for someone suffering from addiction and a secondary mental health problem to receive dual diagnosis treatment?
Substance abuse has been researched and studies for decades, and there are many ways for individuals to develop an addiction. For some people, addiction develops primarily as a result of their environment; it’s common for individuals who are exposed to alcohol and drug abuse during their youth to experiment with substances. Other people experiment with alcohol and drug abuse out of sheer curiosity. It’s also common for addiction to develop in people who already suffer from a pre-existing disorder or affliction. These individuals are known as dual diagnosis patients.
What is a dual diagnosis? Dual diagnosis is someone who suffers from both an alcohol/drug addiction as well as a secondary co-occurring (or “comorbid”) disorder. While the secondary disorder can include a wide variety of health conditions, many people with dual diagnoses are suffering from a mental health disorder. It is estimated, approximately 45 percent of people suffering from an addiction to alcohol or drugs also suffer from a comorbid mental health disorder.
An example of a dual diagnosis would be someone suffering from both alcoholism and post-traumatic stress disorder. Trauma in the individual’s past may have led them to use alcohol to alleviate the psychological and emotional effects of their trauma; the continued use and eventual reliance on alcohol lead to a physiological dependence or addiction.
People who have panic disorders or similar anxiety-related problems develop substance abuse problems after using mind-altering substances to self-medicate. With anxiety, it’s usually not a single past event that triggers their emotional discomfort. Instead, anxiety may occur randomly and without provocation. If the individual hasn’t sought treatment for their anxiety, they may find using alcohol or drugs is the only way of getting relief from their anxiety.
There are many other mental health conditions which have a high probability of addiction comorbidity. Mood disorders such as depression and bipolar disorder are common among individuals with substance abuse problems.
Dual Diagnosis Treatment for Addiction
Dual diagnosis addiction treatment is a type of addiction treatment in which patients receive treatment for addictions and their comorbid mental or emotional disorders. Dual-diagnosis treatment treats both the addiction and the secondary psychological illness.
Like other treatments, dual diagnosis can be both inpatient or outpatient. Since the patient’s addiction is related to the mental or emotional disorder, dual-diagnosis treatment has two goals: helping the patient overcome their alcohol or drug addiction and also helping the individual manage their mental or emotional disorder so that the severity of symptoms of that disorder is unlikely to provoke a relapse.
Most clinical addiction treatment programs have a foundation of psychotherapy and counseling. The goal of psychotherapy for addiction is to help uncover the causal or contributing factors of the substance abuse problem while developing strategies for overcoming these factors to minimize the potential for relapse. While dual-diagnosis has a foundation of psychotherapy and counseling, this program is unique in that it must also treat the secondary disorder. If a dual diagnosis patient suffers from a post-traumatic stress disorder, treatment attempts to identify the root cause of the individual’s addiction while helping the individual cope with the source of the trauma. For addicted patients suffering from depression, the focus is on getting the individual back to emotional balance. It might be necessary for the patient to begin taking antidepressant medications, to prevent the individual from self-medicating.
Why is Dual Diagnosis Treatment Important?
Dual diagnosis refers to when an individual suffers from a secondary mental or emotional disorder while also suffering from alcoholism or drug addiction. Success in recovery is dependent on receiving adequate treatment for both the addiction and the co-occurring mental disorder.
The reason dual-diagnosis treatment is so necessary is that there is usually some correlation between the two conditions; if one illness becomes worse, the other is likely to become worse, too. While the individual might overcome the substance abuse problem over the course of treatment, they would be returning home while still having symptoms of a mental or emotional disorder would make it extremely unlikely that he or she would be able to sustain his or her newfound sobriety.
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