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What is Dual Diagnosis

Dual diagnosis

What is Dual Diagnosis

Understanding Dual Diagnosis

Dual diagnosis is a condition with a mental health disorder and drug and alcohol disorder. These conditions occur frequently, and you can’t tell which one came first. People who develop one of the conditions have a high chance of developing the other one, too, and the development of the two can cause serious effects. Dual diagnosis is sometimes difficult as the two conditions have different symptoms.

Mental health disorders are associated with anxiety, distress, or depression and are caused by challenges that affect one emotionally. They involve a person’s way of thinking, acting, and socializing with others. These include all problems from home, work, or any social environment.

Drug use disorder is caused by drug and substance use. It is noticed when a person cannot control their usage of drugs and alcohol. Both legal and illegal drugs pose risks when not used as recommended. A person with this disorder will continue using the drugs even after profound implications are diagnosed—this interferes with the brain’s normal functioning, reducing a person’s productivity in any field.

The two disorders affect the normal functioning of a person, lower their productivity, and cause death if not diagnosed early.

How do you Notice a Dual Diagnosis?

Recognizing a co-occurring disorder isn’t easy; it takes time to tell if you are in a mental or substance use disorder. The symptoms of the two disorders vary slightly, mainly because of the drug you may be using. For instance, a person using marijuana will experience it differently from one using alcohol.

However, there are common signs associated with a dual diagnosis. They include:

  • Are you anxious, depressed, and stressed even when you’re in balance?
  • Do you feel depressed when you haven’t used drugs or have a feeling of anxiety after using drugs?
  • Have you had several medications earlier due to mental health problems or addiction?
  • Is your family fond of these disorders and mental issues?
  • Do you use drugs and alcohol to avoid negative feelings and unpleasant emotions?

Common signs and symptoms of the co-occurring disorder include:

  • Sleep and eating problems
  • Self-denial
  • Feelings of guilt, fear, and shame
  • Reduced concentration levels
  • Hopelessness and helplessness
  • Weight loss
  • Unusual physical pain
  • Mood swings, sadness, and anger

Signs and Symptoms of Substance Use Disorder

To tell if your usage of drugs and substances has become a problem, answer the following:

  • Has your family developed concerns about your drug usage?
  • Do you build guilt, fear, and shame when using drugs?
  • Do you act and talk disrespectfully when drunk and regret it later,
  • Have you been given several warnings at school or work due to drug use?
  • Have you faced harsh treatment by law for using drugs?
  • Is the urge to take drugs uncontrollable?
  • Do you feel you need drugs to maintain your moods and feelings?

Other signs include:

  • Engaging in risky behaviors, such as sexual immoralities; careless driving
  • Changing behavior and personality
  • Avoiding interaction with family, friends, and your hobbies
  • Uncontrollable drug and substance use
  • Experiencing hallucinations when you’ve not used a drug
  • Financial instability

Signs and Symptoms of Mental Health Disorder

  • Reduced levels of concentration
  • Poor memory and confusion
  • Retarding from working
  • Sleeping problems
  • Getting angry, sad, worrying, and fear
  • Unpredictable change in mood
  • Drawing away from others and hobbies
  • Physical pains
  • Changes in sex urge
  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Delusions

Causes of Mental Illness

  • Family genes – mental problems are common to people who have relatives with the same problem. Some genes increase the chances of a person getting a mental illness. However, your living conditions also cause mental illness.
  • Environmental factors – A person living in a non-conducive environment develops mental illness more than others. It includes living in an abusive family, experiencing hardships, and lack of peace which triggers your mind, making you stressed and developing mental illness.
  • Drug use triggers mental illness, especially when it is uncontrollable. It also prevents a person who has a mental illness from recovering.
  • Brain condition – an imbalance in the chemicals in the brain

Treatment for a Dual Diagnosis

Poor treatment for dual diagnosis is standard, especially because of the high risk of morbidity. These disorders can be handled simultaneously by licensed health specialists to improve the health outcome for better results.

Some recommended health centers specializing in mental wellness and substance use provide standard therapies and treatment for people with co-occurring disorders.

Common therapies for dual diagnosis include:

Family Therapy

This therapy option is a resourceful and significant way to care for a person with a dual diagnosis–it helps create an interpersonal relationship with them. Family involvement in the process provides excellent results that develop the well-being of the person with a co-occurring disorder. It can be carried out at home or in various rehab facilities.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

CBT, cognitive behavioral therapy, involves engaging in a fruitful conversation with a person diagnosed with this condition. You engage in talk therapy, where the therapist and the client find ways to handle unhealthy thoughts and behaviors.

Assertive Community Therapy

ACT assertive community therapy is a therapy for people with mental and substance use disorders. Services offered by ACT include vocal rehabilitation, social work, drug use therapy, nursing, and psychiatry. Many clients who use ACT get their services while at home. ACT is opposed to lowering the burden of caring for these people by their close ones, promoting independent functioning, and improving mental health and substance use care.


Psychotherapy is an individual therapy where the victim is helped develop certain habits to improve their wellness. Any other co-occurring therapies affect the concerned individuals. In this process, the client can learn coping skills, process events, develop treatment patterns, and think about plans.

Final thoughts – Dual Diagnosis

As seen, co-occurring disorders of mental disorder and substance use bring many challenges to an individual, family, friends, and society. It is a condition that requires proper handling at the initial stages when signs are noticed. It leads to reduced productivity, depression, and death at the worst. Sometimes, dual diagnosis presence complicates the treatment process due to insufficient knowledge on how to handle it. However, with the relevant knowledge and experience, dual diagnosis patients recover from this condition.

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