What is Dual Diagnosis?

There is no easy answer to this question. That’s because no two dual diagnosis cases are the same! If you break down the dual word diagnosis, there’s a clue to its meaning.  Dual means “two,” which means that dual diagnosis happens in someone who has two co-occurring diagnosed disorders, at one time. But that doesn’t say that every dual diagnosis is easy to decode. 

Many people in drug and alcohol addiction recovery can identify with dual diagnosis. In fact, a lot of times people fall into addiction as a result of trying to self-medicate an unrealized or undiagnosed mental health issue. However, not all people with mental illness have an addiction and not all individuals with a mental illness resort to drug abuse. There are varying degrees of both disorders, as we’ll see more of in this article.

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What is Dual Diagnosis More Accurately Called?

Nowadays, dual diagnoses are more accurately called co-occurring disorders according to the webpage:  Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration” (SAMHSA).  

Many people still say, “I have a dual diagnosis.”  According to SAMHSA’s 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) (PDF | 3.4 MB), about 7.9 million adults in the United States had co-occurring disorders (or “dual diagnoses”) in 2014.

What Two Disorders Occur With Dual Diagnosis?  

This is also a tricky question, even though a dual diagnosis means there are two co-occurring disorders.  But, which two disorders are these referring to? Well, dual disorders consist of two main categories: (1) substance abuse disorders, and (2) the co-occurring mental health disorders.  Plus, each one of these two dual diagnoses’ types includes multiple diseases, which adds up to more possible combinations. 

So, Dual Diagnosis = One Mental + One Addiction Disorder?   

Dual diagnosis is when someone endures a mental illness while also addicted to drugs or alcohol.  Dual diagnosis can start as a single problem such as drug or alcohol—then addiction can cause the brain to go haywire, and one can also get a mental disorder.  Alternatively, someone can have a formerly diagnosed mental illness and then, later on, resort to drugs or alcohol as a means to try to deal with their disorder.  Sometimes, both disorders can go totally unnoticed or unrealized until further consequences emerge.

Is Dual Diagnosis Always More Difficult to Treat?

Not always, since each person’s dual diagnosis may be completely different than anyone else’s.  And, to make it more confusing, a dual diagnosis may range in severity. Say your friend tells you they’ve received a dual diagnosis, you still wouldn’t be able to say precisely what two disorders are co-occurring.  Also, anyone who has a dual diagnosis disorder may have two easy-to-solve problems. They may have two severe and complicated, co-occurring disorders.

How Can People Develop A Dual Diagnosis Disorder?

There are many different phases of someone developing a dual diagnosis. Details can vary with differing genetics, upbringing, emotional trauma, chemical makeup, etc.. There are also several factors influencing the development. 

For example, a mental condition such as ADHD may also worsen into addiction, after years of one being medicated with stimulants (e.g., methylphenidate drugs) such as Ritalin®, Focalin®, Concerta®, and Metadate®. There are also Adderall® and Dexedrine®: and these are Amphetamines, which are often used to treat ADHD.  With this in mind, people who are depressed, hyperactive, or bipolar tend to abuse substances, more often than those who do not have any mental disorders.

How Many People Have Mental or Dual Diagnosis’ Disorders?

There are probably more people than you’d ever think who have a Dual Diagnosis—millions of people, in fact!  Yes, it is astounding that millions of people have a dual diagnosis (or co-occurring disorders, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness).  The National Alliance on Mental Illness also informs us:  43+ million adults in America, has experienced at least one mental illness. They estimated that there were 20 million people in America who had a substance abuse (drug abuse) disorder and 10.2 Million of those people had a mental disorder as well!

This means that there are, at least 10.2 Million people in the U.S.A. who would qualify for a dual diagnosis. This is terrible news, right? Technically, yes, but help is available. And, times are changing.

Why treat each of the Dual Diagnosis Disorders—at Once?

When a person endures a dual diagnosis, it is tough to treat both mental condition and alcohol or drug addiction, at the same time. How can one handle both at once, without losing control altogether? One problem is challenging enough! Therefore, it is vital to find the right places or drug rehabs that know how to deal with dual diagnosis—not those regular rehabs that only handle the addiction problem—or vice versa. This is why it is essential to seek dual diagnosis therapy for both the addiction and the disorder.

What are the Most Frequent Dual Disorders?

The following Dual Disorders’ mental disorders are most frequently common with addiction:

So, let’s say that you’ve had a diagnosis for one of the following addiction disorders such as gambling, gaming, sex, drugs, or alcohol.  And, then you’ve also been diagnosed with a co-occurring disorder such as a “Generalized Anxiety Disorder,” OCD, Schizophrenia, Depression, Bipolar Disorder, or other Personality Disorder. This means that you would most likely qualify for a “Dual Diagnosis”. But, in reality, you had an underlying mental disorder, and you may have fought the label of being mentally ill.

You Are More Than A Label 

Maybe you’ve been labeled as a drug or alcohol “addict,” but you were trying to cope with your mental disorder. Perhaps you’ve abused alcohol or drugs to cover your mental disorder —possibly to get false courage (due to Anxiety Disorders)?  What if you just wanted to forget about your legal problems from compulsive stealing or fighting due to your behavioral health disorder (or other Personality Disorder)?  Perhaps, you simply needed to get to sleep (because of Insomnia)?  Or, possibly, you’ve experienced a tragedy, and you needed to drown your sorrows (with alcohol abuse).”  

Maybe you’ve already tried substance abuse treatment for drugs or alcohol—but, you couldn’t beat your chronic addiction—maybe because you had an undiagnosed mental health disorder? Sometimes, labeling a person’s disorder isn’t always a bad thing. You could feel much freer if you don’t have to worry about concealing your mental health conditions any longer.  

How Do I Find Help for my Specific Type of Dual Diagnosis?

These days, people are more educated, and they understand so much more about these issues.

If people still don’t understand you should not let their opinions get you down. So, if you suffer from any of these problems or a dual-diagnosis, it is time to get the help you need. There are new studies that are looking for people who have certain types of Dual Diagnoses.  You might search for your particular Dual Diagnosis at this government website “Clinical Trials”  “Dual Diagnosis Clinical Trial” that might be right for you.  Also, you might want to check out support groups and treatment programs that might help you cope—and help you get the proper treatment for your dual diagnosis.  If you still can’t find what you are looking for—professionals at Recovery Blvd. will be glad to help you find the right treatment center and dual diagnosis treatment plan!

Where do I find the Right Rehab that Specializes in Dual Diagnosis?

We are here for you! We’ll gladly help guide you to the highest-ranked rehab centers, which are the very best for you. Call our free Addiction and Mental Health Helpline to talk to a caring professional today. 

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