What Is The Importance of Dual Diagnosis When Seeking Treatment?

Therapy session with a group of people.

What Is The Importance of Dual Diagnosis When Seeking Treatment?

What motivates an addiction disorder is rarely ever just the substance. It’s often compounded with additional underlying mental health and environmental factors. For example, an individual may be self-medicating PTSD due to chronic trauma. Perhaps they are using substances to relieve symptoms related to bipolar disorder, anxiety, or major depression. In turn, self-medicating with drugs or alcohol can indeed make one’s condition much worse. Untreated addiction and mental health conditions have been known to significantly impair many different aspects of one’s life. The importance of dual diagnosis is crucial to achieving long-term recovery; therefore, seeking professional care is key. 

The Importance of Dual Diagnosis?

According to MedlinePlus, a dual diagnosis can be defined as an individual having both an alcohol and drug problem with a co-occurring mental health condition. These two conditions quite commonly occur. Research has found that about 50% of individuals who have a mental illness will also face challenges with substance use disorder (SUD) at any point in their lives. Either one may choose to auto-medicate their mental health symptoms leading to a co-occurring condition or misusing harmful substances may lead to SUD. Regardless, the combination of both conditions has been shown to worsen over time leading to a potential overdose or unwanted suicide. 

The Link Between Mental Health and Substance Use

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), there is a strong link between addiction and mental illness. Figuring out the direct cause of a dual diagnosis can be tricky for several reasons. It can be difficult to decipher which condition came first as one’s recollection of drug use first started may not be entirely accurate. Overlapping factors such as genetics and epigenetic vulnerabilities may be the cause of a dual diagnosis. 

For example, early exposure to trauma, cognitive issues, and stress may play a factor. Substance use can alter changes in the same areas of one’s brain that may be disrupted by their mental health condition. Different mental health disorders that have been clinically known to change an individual’s brain structure and cause a chemical imbalance include: 

  • Schizophrenia
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Mood disorders
  • Impulse-control disorders
  • Bipolar disorder


The Importance of Dual Diagnosis Treatment

Some individuals may feel hesitant to move forward with treatment for a dual diagnosis. Although it may be common for some individuals to relapse within the first year after completing solely addiction treatment, recovery can be different for everyone. This can be due to a major lack of self-esteem and confidence in successfully maintaining treatment and recovery. Treatment typically requires strong dedication for proven results. Several benefits come from participating in a dual-diagnosis treatment program. Benefits may include: 

  • Decreased relapse rates
  • Increased level of motivation
  • Better preparation for society after treatment
  • Reduced stress levels
  • Ongoing support
  • Learned coping skills
  • A positive outlook on life
  • Better knowledge and understanding


Moving Forward With Treatment

It can be an overwhelming decision to move forward with professional care for a dual diagnosis. Choosing a facility that works closely with its clients to develop a comprehensive care plan can be highly beneficial for an individual. Moving forward with an individualized care plan can put a direct focus on the client’s goals. 

For example, a specialist may kindly tailor their services to the client’s needs for a more personal approach. By doing this, they provide special guidance to specific care to help the individual stay on track toward lifelong abstinence from drugs and alcohol. Unique programs and services may serve the proper direction toward long-term mental stability as well. When an individual is mentally well, they are less likely to relapse in times of hardship. Different services that may be the best at aiding a dual diagnosis may consist of: 

  • Outpatient addiction treatment
  • Sober living programs
  • Outpatient care
  • Relapse prevention
  • Partial hospitalization programs

Different Types of Therapies to Assist One With a Dual Diagnosis

Several different therapies may also provide the support and strategies needed to effectively cope with a dual diagnosis. Treatment may not unfold the direct cause of one’s condition. Choosing to attend therapy may help one uncover a few factors behind the onset of addiction or mental illness. Taking time to speak with a therapist can help open one’s mind, reflect on past behaviors, and learn new skills to work toward a healthier lifestyle. Participating in therapy may promote long-term improvement and increase one’s motivation for a better quality of life. Various therapies to explore may include: 

  • 12-Step facilitation
  • Trauma-informed care
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy
  • Individual therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Family programs
  • Animal-assisted therapy


Staying Consistent for a Successful Outcome With a Dual Diagnosis

Surrendering to treatment is the biggest step toward a life full of positive changes. Although treatment may not be easy, staying consistent and dedicated to treatment for a long period will reveal gradual progress. Addiction and mental health conditions not only affect the individual who is facing challenges but their surroundings as well. Everyone deserves to heal. Accepting support from friends, family, and loved ones can provide the support needed to maintain motivation for a happy life.