Dual Diagnosis: Substance Abuse & Mental Health

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Dual Diagnosis: Substance Abuse & Mental Health

Dual diagnosis is any mental health diagnosis in combination with drug or alcohol addiction - also called a co-occurring disorder.

As the name suggests, dual diagnosis refers to mental health diagnoses associated with drug or alcohol abuse - also known as co-occurring disorders. It is common for these conditions to occur together, and the National Library of Medicine estimates that roughly half of people with substance use disorders have a mental illness as well.

Drug Addiction or Mental Illness: Which Came First?

It can be difficult to determine which disorder came first since symptoms of one can mask or exacerbate those of the other. With alcohol use disorder, anxiety and/or depression are common. Typically, people use substances to relieve anxiety or depression symptoms in these situations.

There is also evidence that substance abuse and addiction can contribute to the development of mental disorders. Using substances can change the brain in ways that increase the risk of mental illness.

It's important to treat both substance abuse and mental illness, regardless of which came first. When an individual knows one is stronger than the other, they should begin there. However, it can be difficult to tell, and in that case it is often best to treat substance abuse first.

It is important to get an individual to a baseline without substance abuse first, and then reevaluate their situation. Could substances be masking a mental health problem? Are the symptoms of mental illness now under control with the halt of substance use?

At Care Addiction Center, individuals complete a biopsychosocial assessment with one of our trained and compassionate counselors before treatment. Numerous factors are considered, including medical or genetic issues, mental health, and social issues. While you are in outpatient rehab, we can connect you with a physician for treatment or medication if you have mental health issues.

Common Mental Health Issues That Occur With Addiction

There are many combinations of mental health disorders and substance abuse disorders. Depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder are the most common mental health problems that co-occur with substance abuse.

Symptoms of Substance Abuse

  • Not able to stick to limits
  • Drinking or using more than you planned or intended
  • Increase in tolerance - meaning you need more of the substance to achieve the desired effect that you’ve had in the past
  • Using in situations that are hazardous - for example, drinking and driving
  • Continued substance use regardless of negative impacts - for example, problems in relationships, spending too much on alcohol or drugs, or health problems

Symptoms of Depression

  • Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness
  • Loss of interest in daily activities
  • Inability to experience pleasure
  • Appetite or weight changes
  • Sleep changes
  • Loss of energy
  • Strong feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • Concentration problems

Symptoms of Anxiety

  • Excessive tension and worry
  • Feeling restless or jumpy
  • Irritability or feeling “on edge”
  • Racing heart or shortness of breath
  • Nausea, trembling, or dizziness
  • Muscle tension, headaches
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Insomnia

Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

  • Feelings of euphoria or extreme irritability
  • Unrealistic, grandiose beliefs
  • Decreased need for sleep
  • Increased energy
  • Rapid speech and racing thoughts
  • Impaired judgment and impulsivity
  • Hyperactivity
  • Anger or rage

How To Help A Loved One With Dual Diagnosis

When a loved one struggles with addiction or mental illness, it can be difficult to approach them. To begin, it's important to acknowledge that mental health is not a moral fault, but a disease just like addiction to substances. In addition, be a good listener, practice empathy and encourage their recovery.

If you or a loved one need help with substance abuse, Care Addiction Center can help you along every step of the way. Contact our Illinois drug and alcohol rehab today.