Dual Diagnosis Treatment–Is It For You?

Dual diagnosis treatment

Dual diagnosis treatment isn’t for everybody, but if you have a Substance Use Disorder and another mental health problem, it could be your ticket to a healthy and successful life. Having two disorders can make life chaotic, and your attempts to get better ineffective until you take care of both problems at the same time. That’s what dual diagnosis treatment offers you: simultaneous treatment of your substance problem and your mental health problem, too.

Integrated and Simultaneous Treatment

Dual diagnosis treatment is different than addiction treatment or mental health treatment. It is an integrated approach, offering help for both disorders in the same program, from the same team of professionals. Historically, addiction treatment and mental health treatment have been separate. If you had both problems, you’d have to go to two different programs and work with two different sets of professionals. Such fragmented healthcare left many people to fall through the cracks. Navigating two healthcare systems while ill proved too much for countless people.

In a dual diagnosis treatment program, all staff is trained to understand both addiction and mental health. Also, they understand the unique ways the two types of disorders can interact. Integrated and simultaneous treatment for dual disorders is the evidence-based and best medical practice for dealing with both problems. It is also an individual’s best chance of achieving good results for each issue. Effective dual diagnosis treatment helps you find sobriety and mental health stability at the same time.

Uncomfortable Sobriety is an Indication You May Need Dual Treatment

There are many indicators that someone may need dual diagnosis treatment, and the best way to decide if you or a loved one does is to talk in depth with a dual diagnosis professional. However, there are some signs that you can look for in your own patterns. One of the chief indicators of dual disorders is that when you have gotten sober, you had a great deal of distress from mental health symptoms such as anxiety, depression, mania, trauma symptoms, hallucinations or paranoia.

Mental health symptoms can worsen when you stop using substances because your substance use may have quieted them down. Self-medication is a temporary fix for lots of ailments, but it is temporary and does nothing to resolve the problem. Also, self-medication eventually gives you another problem, a Substance Use Disorder that eats away at your life, too. No matter how much temporary relief you get from intoxication, self-medication is not sustainable.

One of the mixed blessings of dual diagnosis treatment is that once you detox, you may have mental health symptoms. This can be distressful, but on the other hand, it is helpful. Your caregivers will be able to see exactly what you experience without substances on board. That helps them make an accurate diagnosis for you, and enables them to treat your problems effectively.

Dual diagnosis treatment is often more lengthy than just an addiction treatment program. This is because it can take some time to accurately diagnose what is happening to you once you’ve detoxed. Getting the right diagnosis is important because it will enable you to know exactly what has to be done so you can have a comfortable sobriety. If you aren’t assessed while drug-free, untreated mental health symptoms can sabotage your abstinence. There is a high risk of relapse when mental health problems are not adequately stabilized. Many people who have relapsed repeatedly have had mental health problems that were not resolved in an addiction treatment program.

Treatment Failure and Dual Diagnosis Problems

Treatment failure is a term used to describe a treatment attempt that results in relapse. Many people have gone to rehab more than once only to relapse afterward. Even earnest efforts to get sober and stay sober can fail when there is an untreated mental health problem at work in your life.

The tragic result of treatment failure is that one loses hope. Giving something all you’ve got, only to wind up unsuccessful in the end, can dissolve hope, leaving you to feel helpless to do anything about the circumstances of your life. It’s difficult to try again, or even to believe that you are capable of getting well after relapsing. Sadly, many people have relapsed multiple times.

Chances are if you have dual disorders, multiple relapses are somehow tied to them. If this has been the case in your own life, or in the life of a loved one, you should talk with a dual diagnosis professional. There are many reasons for relapse, and not everyone that relapses has an unresolved mental health problem, but many do. It is certainly worth checking out.

Getting to the Heart of the Matter

It is commonly thought that a mental health problem will become evident by the time you have been detoxed for 30 days. Many mental health symptoms will be apparent before then, but 30 days is a good window of time for your caregivers to get a more reliable picture. A more accurate diagnosis can be made when you have been substance free for a month or even longer.

Many symptoms can arise in withdrawal and persist for some time after. These can be what are known as protracted withdrawal symptoms, or withdrawal that is stretched out over time. Such symptoms are caused by the brain trying to re-establish equilibrium after prolonged or heavy substance use. Part of the dual diagnosis recovery process involves waiting for these symptoms to pass. After they have, a more accurate clinical picture can be seen. The symptoms that arise after detox, and protracted withdrawal, are most likely those of a mental health condition that is not related to substance use at all.

Symptoms of Mental Health Conditions during Abstinence

Diagnosing a mental health condition must be done by trained professionals. However, here are some mental health symptoms for you to reflect upon. If you have had periods of abstinence then relapsed after having any of the symptoms below, you may have an unresolved mental health condition that has sabotaged your substance recovery efforts. Some of the most common mental health symptoms among the dually diagnosed include:

  • Depressive symptoms
    • Depressed mood–feeling down most of the day, for most days of the week, for at least two weeks
    • Bouts of tearfulness
    • Inability to concentrate
    • Lack of pleasure in activities you usually enjoy
    • Thoughts of suicide
    • Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness
    • Insomnia or sleeping excessively
    • Poor appetite or binge-eating
  • Mania
    • Feeling energetic without adequate sleep
    • Racing thoughts
    • Unable to be still
    • Talking excessively
  • Bipolar Disorder
    • Having periods of depression alternating with periods of mania
  • Anxiety
    • Feeling on edge
    • Restlessness
    • Difficulty concentrating
    • Irritability
    • Muscle tension
    • Excessive worry
    • Feeling fearful, nervous, anxious
    • Panic attacks
  • Obsession and/or Compulsion
    • Having recurring bothersome thoughts
    • Feeling compelled to do certain activities excessively like clean, check things, bathe, or arrange objects
  • Trauma
    • Having distressful memories of traumatic events
    • Nightmares related to a traumatic event
    • Having distressful thoughts that keep popping to mind
    • Flashbacks of traumatic events
    • Heart pounding
    • Excessive sweating
    • Difficulty breathing
    • Feeling numb
    • Easily startled
  • Psychotic symptoms
    • Seeing, hearing, smelling things that others do not
    • Unusual or bizarre beliefs

If you or your loved one have had any of these symptoms during a period of abstaining from substances, you should report them to your healthcare givers. These symptoms are also often present when people do use substances and may be drug effects. Report these as well. All such information is important for the professionals who are caring for you or a loved one.

Facts about Dual Diagnosis Issues

It is estimated that approximately 65% of all people with a Substance Use Disorder also have a mental health condition. It is also estimated that over 50% of people diagnosed with a mental illness will also have a substance problem at some point. Dual diagnosis issues are to be expected among individuals with mental health problems or substance problems. They are not as rare as some may think. And, a good evaluation will explore the possibility of dual disorders, not matter if a person seeks care for a substance problem or a mental health problem. 

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) publishes a great deal of information about both mental health and substance use problems. They also collect information about dual diagnosis problems. Some dual diagnosis facts reported by that federal agency include:

  • The number of people diagnosed with dual disorders has increased in recent years. This indicates that there is a greater awareness of dual disorders among healthcare givers.
  • Dually diagnosed people often function well in the workforce and other settings. It is possible to manage dual disorders well enough to lead an independent and self-supporting life, pursuing life goals.

If You or a Loved One Need Help

If you or a loved one need help with both a substance problem and mental health issues, you may need dual diagnosis treatment. Only a good evaluation by a professional can accurately diagnose you. However, if any of the information here applies to you or your loved one, a dual diagnosis assessment may be in order.

You can contact us here at Elite Rehab Placement for a free consultation about your concerns. We will help clarify treatment needs and recommend appropriate treatment professionals and programs. We will also help you find treatment options that are within your financial means.

Dual diagnosis issues can be overwhelming and debilitating. Even though you may feel there is nothing that will help you, act anyway. Those feelings are symptoms, and aren’t facts. There is help for people with both a substance issue and a co-occurring mental illness. Reach out for help today and begin your recovery.