Dual Diagnosis

What is Dual Diagnosis? Dual diagnosis refers to any combination of addiction with at least one mental health disorder. For example, a person who is addicted to alcohol may struggle with trauma or depression, or a person with an eating disorder may also have a problem with ADHD, severe anxiety or other co-occurring disorders.

Dual diagnosis isn’t rare. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) estimates that approximately one-third of addicted individuals also have some type of mental illness, and other estimates are much higher. However, only a small percentage of those people ever get the help they need.

What Causes Dual Diagnosis Problems to Occur?

It’s difficult to know if the addiction is causing the mental health disorder, or if the disorder came first and lead to addiction. The latter is often the case, as it’s common for people to turn to drugs and alcohol to self-medicate difficult thoughts or emotions.

It can be a major challenge to figure it all out, but it’s clear that dual diagnosis is complicated and difficult to uncover. Complicating matters even further, one problem can greatly intensify the other.

Not all Treatment Centers Offer Dual Diagnosis

Many treatment providers are equipped to offer help for addiction and others do a good job at treating mental health issues. However, treatment centers that offer an integrated approach to both disorders aren’t easy to find and their claims can often be misleading.

The following tips may help you determine if a drug and alcohol treatment center or rehab truly offers treatment for co-occurring disorders:

  • A good dual diagnosis provider will have at least one psychiatrist on staff.
  • Treatment methods for addiction and mental health disorders should be evidence-based with a proven history of clinical success. A qualified dual-diagnosis provider will offer treatments such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT).
  • One-on-one sessions with a skilled clinician are critical. Don’t trust a treatment center that places excessive importance on group therapy, which tends to be less expensive than individual treatment.
  • Don’t rely solely on a treatment center’s website, no matter how comprehensive and glitzy it may appear. Visit the facility and ask if they have a staff of clinicians who are educated, experienced, and who truly understand how to diagnose and treat dual diagnosis clients.
  • Be sure the treatment center implements medication-based treatment, as people with depression, anxiety or other mental health conditions may need medication to manage symptoms while addressing addiction and other problems.
  • Dual-diagnosis treatment providers must be equipped to offer medical detox. Detox must take place first because it’s impossible to treat a mental health disorder when a person is under the influence.
  • Does the provider offer treatment beyond the standard 28-day rehab? Dual diagnosis is difficult and rarely resolved in a short timeframe.

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