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Dual Diagnosis – Why Substance Abuse, Mental Illness So Commonly Co-Occur

Dual Diagnosis
Dual Diagnosis - Why Substance Abuse, Mental Illness So Commonly Co-Occur

Dual Diagnosis – Why Substance Abuse, Mental Illness So Commonly Co-Occur

A dual diagnosis means that you have a substance abuse problem, or an addiction, and you also have been diagnosed as having a mental illness. The co-occurrence of addiction and mental illness is not uncommon. If you receive a dual diagnosis, rest assured that you are not alone, but also know that you need to be treated for both issues. There are plenty of rehab facilities and caring, trained professionals who can help you work through both and help guide you through recovery.

How Many People Receive A Dual Diagnosis?

Dual Diagnosis - Why Substance Abuse, Mental Illness Commonly Co-OccurA dual diagnosis is a fairly common occurrence. According to statistics from the National Alliance on Mental Illness, around half of all people with a severe mental illness also struggle with substance abuse. On the flipside, over one-third of people who abuse alcohol, and more than half of people who abuse drugs, are affected by mental illness. Some of the more common mental illnesses that are diagnosed with substance abuse include depression, anxiety disorder, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder.

Why Do Substance Abuse And Mental Illness Co-Occur?

There are several possible reasons it is so common to have both a mental illness and an addiction. The relationship is complicated and can be caused by different factors depending on the individual. If you have a mental illness, especially if you are not seeking treatment for it, you may find that you turn to drugs or alcohol as a way of self-medicating. By getting high, you may be able to momentarily push away the pain and bad feelings associated with your mental illness.

Another factor in dual diagnosis is the possibility that substance abuse triggers or worsens a mental illness. Some people use drugs or alcohol and then begin to experience the onset of mental illness symptoms for the first time. If you have an undiagnosed mental illness, like depression, and abuse drugs, you can make it worse.

Why Is It Important To Treat Both Mental Illness And Addiction?

If you receive a dual diagnosis, you must treat both conditions in order to have a chance at being well. If you get into recovery for your addiction, but ignore your mental illness, you are likely to go back to using. On the other hand, if you get help for your mental illness and fail to address your substance abuse problem, you can expect to experience relapsing symptoms of your disorder.

How Are Mental Illness And Addiction Treated Together?

Experts agree that an integrated approach to treatment is the best option for a dual diagnosis. This means that mental health professionals and addiction specialists work together with you in the same place. For instance, you might enter into a rehab facility that specializes in diagnosing and treating mental disorders along with substance abuse problems. By targeting both issues, at the same time and in the same place, you will have the best odds of success. The two problems are intertwined and to get at one, you must address the other.

Effective integrated treatment for a dual diagnosis includes several components. Care is given in stages, beginning with developing a relationship with your caregivers. Interventions that motivate you to stop using are important. Counseling for both mental illness and substance abuse should be included. Finally, having social support, whether that means working with peers or with family, is essential for good care.

If you have been surprised with a dual diagnosis, take time to learn about your options. Make sure that you get help from professionals who understand your particular needs and who will approach your care by addressing both of your issues.

See How Mental Illness And Substance Abuse Are Leading Causes of Non-Fatal Disease


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