Dual diagnosis is the term used to describe someone enduring a mental health condition and a substance abuse addiction. Here we discuss this duality and the treatment implications.
The Term Explained
Someone with a dual diagnosis has an alcohol or drug problem as well as a mental health disorder. In many cases, these conditions occur simultaneously. Approximately half of the number of individuals with a mental health condition will also suffer from a substance abuse disorder. Any interaction with both conditions can make either, worse.
The Dynamic Between Addiction and Disorder
Although substance use disorders and mental health disorders frequently occur together, their combinations do not suggest that one causes the other. Alternatively, specific risk factors play a role in the comorbidity. Stress, trauma, and genetic susceptibility to emotional distress can influence the likelihood that a person will develop a dual diagnosis. People with mental health disorders may gravitate towards substance use and develop a substance use disorder as a result. The act of using drugs to reduce symptoms of mental distress is called self-medication. Self-medication can lead to a substance use disorder or addiction when individuals rely on the substance to relieve their mental stress. In reverse, substance use and addiction can also encourage a mental illness to develop. Prolonged substance use can cause the brain to become more vulnerable to developing a mental disorder.
Dual Diagnosis Treatment Centers
Individuals with a dual diagnosis should seek treatment at a dual diagnosis treatment center, for example, The Edge Treatment. These resources are available to assist with full person recovery, meaning that both the substance use and mental health conditions are treated accordingly. Understanding that conditions can affect each other is a significant discovery that began in the 1990s and has paved the way for dual diagnosis treatment to emerge.
Importance of the Link
The link between mental health challenges and substance use disorders is still being studied. We know that if a substance addiction is not present, that does not mean that such usage, even in social and legal scenarios, is safe for those with mental health challenges. Those with mental health disorders are already vulnerable to changes in the brain that lead to cognitive dysfunction, so partaking in regular alcohol consumption or other mood-altering substances is likely to cause additional mental health problems. For instance, a person with a personality disorder may be more susceptible to anger. Drinking alcohol may induce anger and cause outbursts. The negative relationship between substance use and mental health is so significant that popular treatment approaches require abstinence from mood-altering substances.
Similar Relevant Terms
Dual diagnosis regards the combination of a mental health condition and a substance use disorder. This term is often confused for cooccurrence, a word that regards having more than one mental health condition. Cooccurring mental health conditions are mental health disorders that influence one another.
Psychology has come a long way in its understanding of dual diagnosis, and thankfully, there are many treatment protocols available for individuals struggling with dual conditions.