Dealing with mental health issues, or an addiction to a chemical substance such as alcohol or drugs can be challenging enough. However, trying to deal with both simultaneously can be extremely complicated. Unfortunately, the two tend to go hand in hand and when both occur at the same time, a dual diagnosis is given. It is not hard to understand why dual diagnosis must be treated at the same time. With both conditions influencing each other, it is essential that a treatment plan take both into account for the person to fully recover.
There is a strong link between mental health problems and substance abuse. Some people abuse chemical mood-altering substances to deal with their mental health problems, while others develop mental health problems as a direct result of their substance abuse.
If you have been given a dual diagnosis, it means that you have two illnesses together and both must be addressed concurrently for you to get better. If one is the cause of the other, there is no point in dealing with just one illness.
What are the Signs of Dual Diagnosis?
With the connection between substance abuse and mental health problems, it can be difficult to identify which was the cause of the other. Moreover, because both illnesses can have similar symptoms, it is tough to determine which symptoms have been caused by which illness.
Think about why you started abusing mood-altering substances in the first place. If you did so to make you feel better or to relieve symptoms such as anxiety, stress, or fear, then you may have had a mental health problem, to begin with.
You might have noticed that these symptoms were relieved by the substance you were using. For example, alcohol and some drugs can alter how you are feeling. They induce feelings of happiness and relaxation and may help you to forget your problems for a while. Nevertheless, mood-altering substances only provide temporary relief and so the longer you use them, the more likely it is that they will exacerbate your problems.
If you are now using drugs or alcohol because you feel as though you cannot function without them or because you feel a strong urge to use them whenever the effects wear off, you might be suffering from both mental health and substance abuse problems, signifying the aforementioned dual diagnosis. Below we list some of the signs that could also indicate you have a problem:
- Intense feelings of fear or anxiety
- Mood swings
- Feelings of worthlessness or low self-esteem
- Feeling as though your life is not worth living
- Abusing drugs or alcohol to relieve your symptoms or make you feel better.
Why Dual Diagnosis Must be Treated
Just as it is important for mental health conditions and addictions to be treated when they present separately, it is also vital that those with a dual diagnosis be recognised as having such and be treated accordingly.
It used to be the case that both conditions were treated separately, which we now know was a mistake as treating one without the other can quickly lead to a return of the dual diagnosis. For example, trying to treat an addiction without also dealing with the mental health problems will inevitably see the person resorting to self-medicating with harmful substances again when the symptoms of the mental health problems arise once more.
Addiction is a progressive illness that gets worse without treatment, and it can often be the same for mental health conditions. What we do know for sure is that these are conditions that do not pass in the same way that a virus would. Although they are illnesses, they must be treated in order for the individual to recover.
It can be difficult to treat a dual diagnosis because of how complex the condition is, but it is possible for those affected to have a full recovery. The important thing is that you access help from a fully qualified professional with experience in treating this condition.
Without treatment, your life is likely to get harder. As your addiction progresses, the symptoms of your mental health condition may get more intense, affecting your ability to enjoy everyday life. Substance abuse and mental health problems can have a profound effect on your thinking and behaviour. You may feel as though your life is not worth living and, if you are self-medicating with substances that can affect your judgement and make you more reckless, you might be more likely to self-harm or even contemplate suicide. For your own safety, it is important that you get help as soon as possible.
How is Dual Diagnosis Treated?
When thinking about the reasons dual diagnosis treatment is so important, the question of how it is treated will often be raised. If you are struggling with this condition, this could be an issue that is important to you. If you are worried about a loved one who you believe to have a dual diagnosis, it will be vital that you gather as much information as possible in order to help.
You should know that dual diagnosis is a complicated illness to treat; you should also know though that help is readily available. If you have a physical addiction to a substance such as alcohol or drugs, you will more than likely need a detox initially to help break the cycle of abuse.
While there are some instances where it is safe to detox at home, when a dual diagnosis is present, it is usually recommended that this take place in a dedicated detox facility. This is because there can be complications with a chemical detox, which could lead to the symptoms of the mental health condition becoming more intense. There is a risk to your health and safety during a detox, but with fully trained staff attending and monitoring your progress, you will be comfortable and secure throughout the process.
A detox usually lasts for between seven days and two weeks and you might experience a range of withdrawal symptoms during this time. Once the detox is complete, however, treatment can begin on the addiction and the mental health problem.
Treatment will consist of a variety of psychotherapeutic treatments that will hopefully get to the heart of your issues. It will be important for your treatment provider to take your individual circumstances into account before creating a treatment plan for you as not everyone will benefit from the same treatment programme. It is important to consider a range of factors including the type of mental health problem you have, the substance you were abusing, how severe the addiction is, and whether you have any other underlying medical problems.
Since it is so difficult to identify which illness is causing which symptoms, treatment for dual diagnosis can be a challenge. The good news is that with an experienced counsellor and a comprehensive treatment programme, you can look forward to getting your life back on track.
You should know though that because of the challenges associated with treating the dual diagnosis, not all treatment providers are equipped to deal with it. Fortunately, Recovery Lighthouse has experienced staff who can help you get better.
If you require more information about why dual diagnosis treatment is so important, or else to just find out more about the condition in general, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us. We have a team of expert advisors on standby who will take your call and answer all your queries. Please call today for help regarding dual diagnosis.