a person holds their head on a couch while a therapist answers the question "what is a dual diagnosis?"

What Is a Dual Diagnosis?

Mental health disorders, which can impact your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, can increase your chances of developing an addiction—especially if you don’t receive treatment for your symptoms. That means that having a dual diagnosis is possible and can complicate your recovery process. But what is a dual diagnosis?

Substance use disorders impact more than 20 million Americans ages 12 and older each year. Addiction, a progressive, deadly, and chronic disease, can destroy your relationships, finances, and health. Because addiction is incurable, treatment is necessary to find recovery and successfully avoid relapsing. While there is no known cause of addiction, meaning that anyone can develop a substance use disorder in their lifetime, certain factors can place you at a higher risk.

If you struggle with your mental health and addiction, a dual diagnosis rehab center like The Right Step Hill Country could help you find relief. Call 1.844.675.1628 for more information.

What’s a Dual Diagnosis?

A dual diagnosis is when you have both a substance use disorder and a mental health disorder. You can have both conditions simultaneously or develop them at different times. It doesn’t matter what substance you develop an addiction to or what mental health disorder you have; you simply have to meet the diagnostic criteria for both to have a dual diagnosis.

Some of the most common mental health disorders that occur in dual diagnosis patients include:

  • Depression disorders – Major depressive disorder (MDD), persistent depressive disorder (PDD), and bipolar disorder all commonly occur alongside addiction. When someone is depressed, they may be more likely to try and feel happy with drugs or alcohol. However, once the high is over, they often return to a state that’s more depressed than they originally were.
  • Anxiety disorders – Anxiety disorders, such as generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), social anxiety disorder (SAD), and panic disorder, are also commonly found in those with addiction. People often use drugs or alcohol to try and cope with their anxious feelings. But, like depression, the substances only offer temporary relief and can make anxiety worse in the long run.
  • Hyperactivity disorders – Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is often found in those who have an addiction. People with ADHD may turn to drugs or alcohol to try and calm themselves down.
  • Eating disorders – Anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder are also often found in those with addiction. People with these disorders may use drugs or alcohol to cope with their negative body image. They may also use drugs to try and manipulate their appetite.

Co-occurring disorders are common among those struggling with a substance use disorder. Each year, 8.5 million American adults battle both an addiction and a mental health disorder.

Having a dual diagnosis can make a recovery more difficult, as well as make addiction more destructive. Untreated mental health disorders can create symptoms like anxiety, depression, and mania. These symptoms can make you more prone to self-medicating with drugs and alcohol. But when you have a mental health disorder, drugs and alcohol aggravate your symptoms, even if they provide temporary relief.

What Is Dual Diagnosis Treatment?

Most substance abuse treatment centers offer specialized co-occurring disorder programs. A dual diagnosis program ensures that you receive treatment for both your mental health and substance use disorder at the same time. Access to a psychiatrist during dual diagnosis treatment is a major benefit to your recovery because your treatment team can ensure that your medications are adjusted properly.

Many substances, like opiates and alcohol, lead to physical dependence, which causes withdrawal symptoms when you stop using. Detox can cause mood changes, which are especially intense if you have a mental health condition. A dual diagnosis program can also help you better understand how your mental health and substance use is related.

Learning to manage your symptoms is a meaningful way to curb triggers and cravings during recovery. Evidence-based treatments, like individual counseling and medication management, can improve your ability to effectively manage your mental health.

Treatment also prepares you for potential risks to your sobriety following discharge. Since relapsing is always a risk because addiction is a chronic condition, developing healthy coping mechanisms is essential to combating cravings, as cravings can continue for years after your last use.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment at The Right Step Hill Country

If you are wondering what a dual diagnosis is, you may struggle with substance use and mental health disorder symptoms. Early treatment is the best way to improve your recovery chances and reduce your risk of relapsing. To learn more about our dual diagnosis program and your treatment options, contact us today by calling 1.844.675.1628.

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