Understanding What it Means to Have a Dual Diagnosis

On their own, mental illness and chemical dependency are significant challenges for a person to overcome. When they occur together, the road to recovery can be even longer and more complex. However, as we tell the people we treat for substance abuse paired with conditions like depression and bipolar disorder in Loveland, recovery can be achieved.

Facing a “Dual Diagnosis”

The term used for having both a chemical dependency and a mood disorder is “dual diagnosis.” What patients, families and caregivers understand about this scenario is that the two conditions don’t simply coexist. Instead, they tend to influence one another, making it more challenging to understand what is prompting certain behaviors and therefore more challenging to treat the person.

Dual diagnosis is a widespread problem. According to a 2014 study by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 7.9 million people in the U.S. experience a mental health disorder and a substance abuse disorder simultaneously. The substance abuse can occur with any mental health condition. We see dual diagnosis with everything from anxiety to depression to bipolar disorder in Loveland. Dual diagnosis is slightly more common in men than women.

Which Comes First?

A question frequently asked by those affected by a dual diagnosis is whether substance abuse causes mental health disorders or the reverse. While research is ongoing, the answer is probably “neither.” It’s more accurate to say that the two influence and often intensify one another.

What are the Symptoms of Dual Diagnosis?

Mental health disorders and substance abuse have many of the same symptoms. They include:

  • Mood changes
  • Sudden or extreme behavioral changes
  • Confused thinking
  • Withdrawal from family and friends
  • Suicidal thoughts or  actions

It can be difficult to know whether a person is struggling with one or the other condition, or both. Consequently, it’s important to get guidance from a mental health professional or substance abuse counselor when these symptoms are noticed.

Treating People with a Dual Diagnosis

Treatment for dual diagnosis can involve a number of strategies, including:

Detoxification - In order to effectively treat a person with dual diagnosis, it’s important to address the substance abuse.

Psychotherapy - What is also known as “talk therapy” is an essential component of dual diagnosis treatment.

Inpatient treatment - Depending on the severity of the mental health disorder, inpatient treatment may be required.

Group housing - In some situations, residential treatment and support can be helpful.

Medication - Medication both for managing the mental health component and assisting with the detox process is sometimes used.

Here to Help with Multifaceted Challenges

Whether you are the person who has a dual diagnosis or a loved one who is trying to help them, it can feel overwhelming. Connecting with people skilled in treating substance abuse disorders paired with conditions like anxiety or bipolar disorder in Loveland can be a tremendous relief. Call 970-494-4200 to learn more about our programs. If you or a loved one needs help with an immediate mental or emotional crisis, you can reach our Access Center at that same phone number 24/7. In the case of a life-threatening emergency, please call 911.

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