In the field of addictions and mental health, dual diagnosis is a term that describes people who struggle with an addiction and a mental health disorder. It is actually quite common, as substance abuse can often play a large role in mental health.
For example, there may be a person who has a diagnosis of major depression and is also addicted to alcohol. Or someone who has borderline personality disorder may struggle with a gambling addiction. It only makes sense that addictions can affect mental health and the state of your mental health can affect your decisions to engage or abstain from substances like alcohol and drugs.
Dual diagnosis was introduced to the mental health field more than two decades ago, though there is still a misunderstanding among some professionals as to the exact nature of the diagnosis. Currently, the health care system treats the addiction first and then treats the psychiatric issue.
For example, a man who is addicted to heroin may head off to a drug treatment center, but he may also be bipolar. Ideally, it would benefit him if he received treatment for both his substance abuse and mental health disorder at the same time.
The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) reports that about 50% of people with severe mental disorders struggle with substance abuse as well. Additionally, about 37% of alcoholics and 53% of drug addicts struggle with at least one mental disorder. It is also estimated that about half of homeless adults have substance abuse issues and a mental disorder.
There are many mental health agencies that now offer dual diagnosis support. Many are seeing that addiction is closely correlated with childhood trauma, major depression, anxiety disorders, and chemical imbalances. The addict is trying to alleviate pain by using alcohol and drugs, and the combination of deep pain and substances foster mental health disorders. It’s as if the person can only tolerate the nagging pain so long and opts to pick up the bottle or pop a pill to find some temporary relief. This can become a habit and a problem.
People who have dual diagnosis tend to have difficulty staying clean and managing their diagnosis. Statistically, they have a greater chance of being aggressive, mismanaging medication, and functioning at optimal levels in society. Their chance of relapse is higher than those who just have one disorder.
Integrated treatment is the best way to go for dually diagnosed adults. This means that the consumer gets treatment for substance abuse and mental health in the same setting. There is a comprehensive and coordinated approach to treatment and oftentimes consists of a team of professionals working together to foster the achievement of the consumer’s treatment goals.
About the Author: Dominica Applegate is a writer, author, poet, and speaker with a deep passion for discovering and sharing authentic spiritual truth. She has been discovering herself under all sorts of odd layers and loves to share her stories and lessons learned with anyone that will listen. She loves reading, contemplating, walking in nature, family time, traveling, and meditation. Connect with Dominica at her website and Facebook.