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The term ‘dual diagnosis’ refers to people who suffer from both a psychiatric disorder as well as an addiction problem. It’s something all too often encountered in the field of mental health.For example, an alcoholic suffering from clinical depression or someone with an eating disorder who is also bipolar. The concept of dual diagnosis is still fairly new and it is for this reason that so much about it is not properly understood or altogether yet known. The biggest danger to patients in this position is sequential (first one and then the other) or separate treatment of the two conditions as if one has no influence over the other. What this means is that two different doctors will treat each condition without any kind of holistic approach, increasing the likelihood of relapse. Dual diagnosis addresses both the addiction and psychiatric disorder simultaneously, providing the best hope for a lasting recovery.
Understanding Dual DiagnosisThe first step is to identify that you’re dealing with a dual diagnosis. It’s not as rare as you may think, with about 50% of individuals struggling with addiction also having some type of mental illness as well. Since dual diagnosis is defined as a mental disorder plus an addiction, there are several combinations in which this condition can present. Anxiety and alcoholism, depression and drugs - the possibilities go on and on. And this is the major reason dual diagnosis is so difficult to treat – it’s incredibly complex to pinpoint the source of an individual’s symptoms. For instance, is the depression caused by mental illness or drug addiction? Mental health specialists are faced with the challenge of finding the root of these symptoms before any kind of adequate treatment plan can be established.
Early intervention is especially significant in dual diagnosis cases because these are the patients who are at higher risk for complications, like relapse and even suicide. It’s vital to keep the possibility of a dual diagnosis in mind when treating someone with mental illness as these are the individuals more susceptible to addiction than those with good mental health. A stark reality we face in the mental health industry today is that not many rehabilitation facilities are equipped to handle dual diagnosis cases. The best step is to approach a psychiatric clinic that has the expertise to deal with both the mental illness as well as addiction, providing integrated treatment personalized to the patient with the best chance of full recovery.
Signs to look out forSymptoms of dual diagnosis to look out for include withdrawal from social situations, substance abuse with loss of control when it comes to using, sudden and marked changes in behaviour, high tolerance to substances and definite withdrawal symptoms when not using, and exhibiting a need for a particular substance in order to function normally. These are red flags for addiction and when combined with warning signs of mental health problems, like mood changes, avoiding friends and family, trouble sleeping, and problems concentrating, it’s highly likely that the individual could be dealing with a dual diagnosis and intervention is imperative.
Treatment will be integrated, addressing both the psychiatric disorder and the addiction together. Because people differ and dual diagnosis can present in so many different ways, treatment is never cut and paste. At ZwavelStream Clinic we have specialists, like Dr. Erwin Lass, who specialize in dual diagnosis and are able to provide tailored treatment relevant to every patient’s case. Methods of treatment generally include a period of detoxification and inpatient rehabilitation where patients have access to support, therapy, health care, and medication. Close monitoring and support during this early stage of treatment helps establish a good foundation to begin building toward recovery. Once the first hurdle of detox is overcome, patients can expect psychotherapy, medication, and supportive housing options specifically introduced to avoid relapse. The most important thing to remember is that without treatment, dual diagnosis will not end well. If you suspect that you or someone you love might be dealing with dual diagnosis, don’t hesitate to contact us for more information on how you can take the first step to recovery.