The Vicious Cycles of Dual Diagnosis Issues
There are many vicious cycles of dual diagnosis issues, or in co-existing substance and mental health disorders. This is one of the reasons they can be so tormenting, and go for long periods untreated. They are often overlooked or even misdiagnosed because of their ability to mimic other issues. Working with experts trained to evaluate and accurately diagnose dual disorders is essential if you feel you may have them. But, of course, it is not possible to always know these things about oneself, nor is it your ‘job’ as someone seeking treatment.
There are some cues that indicate you or a loved one should seek an evaluation for dual diagnosis issues, however, that often lead people to the right help. Among these are regular substance use coupled with distressful mental health symptoms such as depression, anxiety, mood swings, intrusive thoughts or memories, flashbacks, insomnia, nightmares, hallucinations, delusions, periods of unusually high energy and agitation, or angry or aggressive outbursts.
One Disorder Triggers Another
One particularly vicious cycle involved in dual disorders is that one condition triggers the other, igniting a powerful combination of forces as symptoms mingle and exacerbate one another. For example, an alcoholic binge can trigger a co-existing depressive disorder. Alcohol works similarly in the brain as does depression. Using this example, we can clearly see the vicious cycle phenomenon: one drinks heavily and this causes depression to be triggered. When the depression surfaces, one feels bad and so wants relief. A person who relies on alcohol to feel better is likely to drink more. Of course, drinking more causes more depression, and the cycle continues to spin. The same is true in the other direction. A mental health problem can trigger a substance problem. This is often more clearly evident to most people who understand using a substance to feel better.
Frustration and Suffering
Trying to function with untreated dual disorders can often be an overwhelming task. Of course, there are many possibilities of how substance problems and mental health problems can combine and interact. Needless to say, with two potentially catastrophic illnesses at work simultaneously, the potential suffering and damage are great, even lethal.
Dual diagnosis issues are far-ranging because there are many factors involved in anyone’s life that has both a substance problem and a mental health condition. Just the different types of substance problems one may have, coupled with the varying degrees of severity of them, can cover a wide range of possibilities. Add to that the issue of polydrug use–the common use of more than one addictive substance–and, just considering the substance side of things, you already have a complex situation to deal with.
The struggle of untreated dual issues can be unimaginable to someone who hasn’t experienced them personally or in the life of a loved one. But, for people who have, they know all too well the pain of trying to function on even the most basic level at times. Willpower isn’t enough to overcome the mental, emotional and physical realities of the two disorders when they are acute.
On the Mental Health Side of Dual Disorders
Just as the substance aspects can be wide-ranging and very complex, so can the mental health side of dual disorders. In fact, there are approximately 300 types of mental health conditions that are currently diagnosed by psychiatrists in the US. Of course, many of these are rare, but it demonstrates the scope of possible conditions that can be paired with a substance problem. And, to make matters worse, just like people can use more than one substance at a time, one can have more than one mental health issue at a time.
Co-existing mental health disorders are often missed or misdiagnosed when there are substance problems. And, this is understandable. Addiction is always what seems most evident to us, and we respond by stopped the substance use as the top priority. Even in integrated dual diagnosis treatment, withdrawal and detox begin treatment. It stops the toxicity from continuing so that everything else can have a better chance of stabilizing. Efforts to stabilize a mental disorder while addictive substance use continues are futile.
The Consequences of Untreated Dual Diagnosis Issues
The consequences of any untreated substance disorder can be dire, even lethal, and the same is true of any mental health condition if severe enough. In the ever stage of addiction, for example, compulsive use can continue until physically and psychologically one is debilitated and unable to function well enough to maintain adequate self-care. The ability to work, to maintain a home, or to maintain relationships falls away. And, this doesn’t even include the physical health deterioration that occurs after the prolonged toxicity of an addiction. The same sort of severe decline in functioning and health can occur in untreated mental health disorders. One’s quality of life can dramatically decline with lost careers, failed academics, broken relationships and the loss of capacity to maintain a fully independent and successful lifestyle.
Dual Diagnosis Related Emergencies
Of course, emergencies arise in substance issues alone, and in mental health conditions alone. When the two types of disorders are combined, the potential for an emergency escalates. And, psychiatric emergencies are not unusual for those with dual disorders. These involve the risk of self-harm, severe disorganization to the point of not caring well for one’s own safety and needs, and the potential for harm to others. There is a risk of psychosis, for example, in which one breaks from reality and has hallucinations and/or delusions (false perceptions and false beliefs). Some of these reactions involve paranoid delusions such as that others intend one harm, for example.
Another unfortunate risk for those with dual disorders is suicidal thinking and suicidal behavior. Depression can become severe and can even involve psychotic symptoms like voices that command one to do self-harm. Some psychiatric emergencies involve severe agitation, even long periods of sleeplessness that become a medical emergency. Also, agitation can manifest as extreme anger and even aggression toward others. Whatever the symptoms, if one’s own safety or that of others can be in danger, then a psychiatric emergency exists. The potential for self-harm or harm to others is always an emergency that warrants immediate emergency medical attention. And, potential danger does not have to involve suicidal risk or risk of violence toward others, it can be severe disorganization that impairs one’s ability to think and behave while in touch with reality.
Treatment for Dual Diagnosis Issues
The best medical practice for dual diagnosis treatment is to treat both the substance problem and the mental health problem simultaneously. A treatment setting should be equipped to handle a wide range of issues–withdrawal and detox, psychiatric symptoms, and even psychiatric emergencies. Plus, all the rest of the usual addiction recovery related processes like education, counseling, and relapse prevention planning.
Additionally, people with dual disorders need to learn to manage the mental health condition as well. So, dual diagnosis rehab really does have the proverbial ‘full plate’. This is why professionals trained in dual diagnosis are specialists. They have to understand the two sides of the coin and the particular ‘hybrid’ of chaos that results from their interactions.
Dual diagnosis treatment is typically a spectrum of treatment with various levels of intensity. An inpatient setting is best equipped to handle an acute phase of need in which symptoms of a psychiatric disorder are prominent. Also, an inpatient setting is best equipped to handle a medical withdrawal and detox and any psychiatric symptoms that might be aggravated by that process. From there, aftercare and outpatient treatment are typically needed for maintaining stability. There may be medications for a mental health condition, for example, that needed to be monitored. Also, a dual diagnosis relapse prevention plan includes management of both conditions after rehab.
Finding the Right Help for Dual Disorders
Finding the right help for the treatment of dual disorders is essential. Professionals need to be trained specifically in dual diagnosis treatment and programs need to be geared to the simultaneous treatment of both sides of the issue. Any reputable facility you consider will provide you information about staff training, expertise and credentialing. A reputable facility will also provide you information about the services provided in their dual diagnosis program. It is also essential that psychiatric services be available at any dual diagnosis program you consider. And, it is best medical practice to have medical supervision during withdrawal and detox.
If you or a loved one are at the point of needing treatment for a substance problem and mental health symptoms, you are already in crisis. And, chances are you have been for some time. It is one more overwhelming task to search for the right help, and in distress, none of us are thinking clearly or need another complex task to accomplish. Simply an Internet search for treatment will unleash an avalanche of information, and it can be a daunting effort to sort through it.
At Elite Rehab Placement, we can eliminate that part of your dilemma. We are trained to help you find the right help that can meet all your clinical needs. You can consult with us to identify specific treatment needs, preferences, insurance coverage, and options that will be appropriate for you or a loved one in distress. Our service is free and you can call us anytime. Dual diagnosis issues can be overwhelming and devastating, but with the right help, they can be managed. Recovery is more than possible. Countless people with dual disorders lead healthy and successful lives. Take action and reach out. Call us today.