A growing segment of addiction psychiatry, co-occurring disorders, or dual-diagnosis is emerging in addiction treatment facilities as an alternative to treatment plans that have historically focused on addiction. Living with an unidentified co-occurring disorder can negatively impact career, family, and other vital relationships. The challenge of controlling impulsive or addictive behaviors while failing to explore mental health issues or causes can lead to cycling through relapsing actions.
What Does Dual Diagnosis Mean?
If you have any kind of addiction, for example, substance use, alcohol use, workaholism, sex addiction, and have been diagnosed with a mental health disorder, you have a dual diagnosis, also known as a co-occurring disorder. One disorder can mask the other making understanding what came first tricky. For example, in the case of depression, did depression cause substance use through self-medication, or did the substance of choice cause the depression?
When a mental health disorder is the first disorder to develop, self-medicating through substances such as alcohol is not uncommon. Self-medicating may arrive on the heels of adult trauma such as PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) or depression following a significant life change after the death of a loved one, divorce, etc.
Substance use disorder is diagnosed when, despite harmful consequences, an individual cannot control their use of legal or illegal drugs. They will continue using even though continued use results in adverse effects at home, at work, in relationships, and of course, physical consequences. Drugs and alcohol can harm brain function, making understanding the cause of the addiction challenging. Did the drugs affect the behavior and thought processes, or did the thought processing and behavior lead to the addition?
How Common is Dual Diagnosis?
Traditionally, the treatment of addiction meant leaning into the addiction itself. This meant the co-occurring disorder went either undetected or, at best, detected and treated as a separate entity. An uptick in confirmed dual-diagnosis assessments may stem from a wider acceptance among professionals across the mental health and addiction field. Therefore, growth in this diagnosis area may originate from increased awareness, improved assessment tools, and more rigorous information sharing among the relevant professionals. However, despite the estimated number of around eight million people in the United States dealing with dual diagnosis, roughly fewer than one quarter will receive the appropriate treatment at a dual diagnosis rehabilitation facility.
What is a Common Dual Diagnosis?
Dual diagnosis is a classification or umbrella term used to describe a combined mental health and substance use disorder. It is not in itself a diagnosis, pointing instead toward a specific mental health issue underpinning an addiction. However, while the combinations of addictions and co-occurring disorders are many, listed below are some of the more commonly seen dual-diagnosis:
- Alcoholism With Depression. Affecting almost eighteen million American adults each year, individuals coping with symptoms of depression may rely on alcohol to handle uncomfortable feelings of despair, sadness, and overall sense of hopelessness, and general daily functioning.
- Heroin, Opioid, or Alcohol Addiction With PTSD. Prolonged trauma can manifest itself as using a substance to numb emotions and trauma. However, the use of alcohol or prescription opioids will increase issues such as flashbacks, anger, numbness, or emotional detachment if the cause remains unresolved or unmanaged.
- Marijuana Misuse and Social Anxiety. The debilitating effects of social anxiety lead many to avoid social events or anxiety-inducing situations. Unfortunately, the psychologically addictive qualities of marijuana can lead to complete reliance on the drug, resulting in isolation unless consumption can occur.
Worth considering, of course, is that a dual diagnosis can happen in reverse. In other words, long term depression may result from the long-term consequences of alcohol. Additionally, methamphetamines and cocaine can lead, eventually, to episodes of psychosis.
How Do I Recognize a Co-Occurring Disorder?
Acknowledging that diagnosing co-occurring disorders can be difficult, there are common symptoms where co-occurring disorders exist:
- Unpredictable mood swings
- Irritability or anger issues
- Difficulty maintaining employment
- Unable to maintain a healthy relationship
- Financial difficulties
- Limited social functioning
- Emotionally unstable
- Ignoring obligations and responsibilities
- Withdrawal from family and friends
- Unpredictable behavior
- Legal issues
How Does Oceanfront Recovery Treat Dual Diagnosis?
Oceanfront Recovery understands the critical correlation between mental health disorders and substance abuse. As a result, the staff are qualified and equipped to deal with the unique challenges a co-occurring or dual diagnosis brings. Individuals assessed and treated for co-occurring disorders typically experience more successful outcomes resulting from an integrated treatment approach.
Fundamentally, addressing mental health and substance dependency facilitates clients’ understanding of both issues and their effect on the other. In this way, Oceanfront Recovery’s client-centered approach helps each person recognize and understand what prevents them from finding success in their personal and professional life.
Outside the immediate client treatment program, Oceanfront Recovery engages with available family members, ensuring those closest to the client are equipped to provide support and fully understand the meaning or implication of a co-occurring disorder. Contact with family members can also provide valuable insight into past dysfunction or trauma within the family. This unique client and family-centered approach provide functioning wrap-around support intended to maximize full inclusivity and client-family involvement.
What Can I Expect When Treated For a Co-Occurring Disorder?
Treatment for dual diagnosis begins much like many other treatments with a detox recovery phase. Until made stable, the client is provided both medical and psychological support during the physical and mental stages of withdrawal symptoms.
Following detoxification, both client and therapist determine recovery goals intended to be met while engaged in treatment. Therapy will challenge thought patterns, rigid thinking styles, and old belief systems while requiring complete honesty to achieve a successful outcome.
Group therapy promotes essential peer support within a safe space to share personal stories to include recovery challenges. Family-focused therapy sessions can help rebuild family relations, with the goal of improved communication and overall relationships.
Medication may be included to help meet rehabilitation goals. Medication may include mood stabilizers and will be administered under strict conditions. Other drugs may consist of medication-assisted treatment or MAT administered to reduce the urge for substances and maintain abstinence during recovery.
12-Step programs, such as Alcoholics or Narcotics Anonymous, may be part of the rehabilitation program. Recovery meetings are available in the community once residential treatment is completed. The benefit of personal accountability and peer support make recovery meetings an essential part of long-term recovery.
Are There Benefits to a Dual Diagnosis Program?
Imagine, after several attempts of detoxing at other rehabilitative centers, you were finally told you had a co-occurring disorder. Imagine the relief you might feel as slowly you begin correlating your addictive behaviors with your moods, thought patterns, and overall actions. Imagine if you could link the first time you started using substances to an incredibly stressful event or time in your life. Of additional importance is the potential for immediate impact on our sense of self-esteem and self-worth. Empowered by the knowledge that we are not some beyond hope addict, but dealing with a verifiable illness has the potential to root us deep into our healing process, removing shame and self-doubt.
How Quickly Will I Be Cured of Dual-Diagnosis?
There is no one size fits all treatment for co-occurring disorders. Neither is there a magic cure-all pill. However, understanding that each journey is an ongoing lifestyle comprising of new habits, new thought patterns, and in many cases, even nutrition can yield tremendous dividends and improvement.
To help yourself along the journey of recovery, you may consider:
- Provide honest answers during assessment questions. Understand there are no “gotcha” questions—only questions designed to help others shift you onto the path to recovery and ultimately success.
- Be honest with yourself! When we deny ourselves what we know to be true, we are doomed to remain tangled within our problems and issues.
- Be committed to change and take responsibility for progress. You may have felt controlled by your addiction. However, you are now in the driving seat for your decisions and behaviors.
- Understand recovery is a process. Change, like the journey you are on, is one step at a time. There will be good days and not so great days. However, by maintaining focus and contact with your support, you stand a greater chance of getting back on track tomorrow.
Co-occurring disorders or dual-diagnosis is emerging as an alternative to treatment plans that have historically focused on addiction only. One disorder can mask the other making understanding what came first difficult. Of the estimated eight million people dealing with dual diagnosis, fewer than one quarter will receive the appropriate treatment at a dual diagnosis rehabilitation facility. Change your story. Change your life. At Oceanfront Recovery, we are proud to offer various specialized services to facilitate individualized recovery and clinical detoxification for adults. Supporting your commitment to getting sober, staying sober, and discovering healthy lifestyle alternatives, our modern, attractive facilities nestled in the laid-back community of Laguna Beach offer ample opportunity for you to restore your professional and family life. Caring case managers, counselors, and wellness staff trained in dual diagnosis and recovery are there to support your commitment to recovery in an accessible, practical, and affordable environment. Calling Oceanfront Recovery today at (877) 279-1777 may be just what you need to change your story, and possibly, your life. We can’t wait to meet you.