Dual Diagnosis

Mental illness like depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorders are extremely difficult to manage, especially if an individual is not receiving the appropriate treatment for his or her symptoms. The same rule of thumb goes for a substance use disorder – when the appropriate care is not obtained, one’s wellbeing suffers. Those who have one of these conditions know just how devastating they can be to manage. Some, unfortunately, struggle with both conditions at the same time, which is also known as a dual diagnosis.

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What is a Dual Diagnosis?

A dual diagnosis is a condition where an individual has both a substance use disorder and a mental illness that are occurring at the same time.

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health reports that 7.9 million Americans have a dual diagnosis and that more than half of that 7.9 million are men.

In some cases, a substance use disorder begins first, followed by the development of a mental illness. For example, an individual who is addicted to meth can begin experiencing symptoms of an anxiety disorder, such as panic attacks or phobias. Conversely, some people living with a mental illness develop a substance use disorder. One of the primary causes behind this development is because the symptoms of the mental illness are not being treated effectively, making them uncomfortable (both physically and emotionally) to manage. As a result, an individual might turn to the use of drugs and/or alcohol as a coping mechanism. Unfortunately, regardless of the epidemiology of the dual diagnosis, when mind-altering substances are continuously being abused, both conditions only become worse.

Symptoms of a Dual Diagnosis

Someone with a dual diagnosis can present with a variety of different symptoms, mostly because symptoms depend on what kind of mental illness he or she has, as well as what substances are being abused. In general, however, there are a number of common symptoms that someone with a dual diagnosis might show, such as:

  • Drastic and sudden behavioral changes
  • Develops a tolerance to one or more substances
  • Participates in dangerous behaviors despite understanding potential consequences
  • Uses in risky situations
  • Feels like he or she needs to abuse drugs and/or alcohol in order to function
  • Changes in mood

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) reports that 50% of people with a mental illness also have a substance use disorder. Prior to symptoms of a dual diagnosis developing, most individuals experience warning signs, such as:

  • Showing symptoms of a mental health illness
  • Experiencing dramatic highs and lows
  • Having a family history of mental illness
  • Feeling out of control
  • Being unable to stop abusing drugs and/or alcohol despite attempts to do so

Knowing both the warning signs and the symptoms of a dual diagnosis can help individuals obtain the appropriate care needed to manage both conditions before it is too late. Allowing either a substance use disorder or a mental illness continue for too long can be highly consequential and potentially deadly. At JourneyPure, we recognize the risk of an untreated dual diagnosis, which is why we offer specialized programming for those battling this dangerous combination of mental health issues and disease.  

Treating a Dual Diagnosis at JourneyPure

At JourneyPure, dual diagnosis is very common. Countless patients of ours have come to us with a dual diagnosis and have learned how to cope with both situations so that they no longer control their lives. The team at JourneyPure is devoted to offering comprehensive care for both conditions simultaneously, as studies have proven that this approach provides the greatest health benefits for the patient. This approach is known as integrated care. Professionals at JourneyPure, such as therapists and counselors, do not place focus on only one of the patient’s conditions nor do they go about treating one condition before the other. The goal of integrated care is to constantly approach both conditions at the same time, offering the appropriate therapies and exercises needed to bring healing to the patient.

Each patient who enrolls in a program at JourneyPure will receive an assessment to help determine their condition at their time of arrival. Each one of those patients, including those with a dual diagnosis, will work with a therapist and other professionals to develop an individualized care plan that meets his or her needs. For a patient with a dual diagnosis, he or she can benefit from participating in common therapies such as individual therapy and group therapy, as well as more out-of-the-box therapies like experiential therapy. During each one of these therapy sessions, patients can incorporate their stories and experiences regarding his or her dual diagnosis into the dialogue, allowing for both issues to be addressed.

Individual therapy, in particular, plays a significant role in the lives of those with a dual diagnosis. When working with a JourneyPure therapist, a patient can start to bond with him or her in a way that encourages clear and open communication. Things that would otherwise be upsetting to bring up in a group setting can be discussed and managed, and the patient is provided with a chance to let down his or her guard.

In addition to therapy are medications. JourneyPure will prescribe patients medications if they feel it is indicated. For some, these medications might help address physical issues such as drug or alcohol dependency. For others, medications will work to help manage the mental illness. When medication and therapy are combined, patients are set to receive the best, most comprehensive approach to dual diagnosis treatment.

If you are concerned about your wellbeing and think that you might have a dual diagnosis, reach out to us at JourneyPure right now. We can help you get your life under control and help it stay that way. And, if you are a loved one of someone with a dual diagnosis, do not be afraid to contact us. Not only can we help your loved one, but we can also help you and the rest of your family obtain the treatment that you all may need.

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