Dual diagnosis is when someone is struggling with both a mental illness and a substance use disorder at the same time. While these two issues are very different, they can have similar consequences if left untreated.
There are many ways that alcohol and drug abuse can lead to other challenges in a person’s life, such as depression or anxiety disorders, isolation from friends and family, legal troubles, financial woes, problems at work or school, or even risky behaviors like prostitution or binge eating.
These types of secondary effects indicate that the person may be dealing with an addiction problem and need to go to a dual diagnosis treatment center. However, not everyone who struggles with alcoholism or drug abuse will meet the criteria for a dual diagnosis case. Even if you don’t think you fit the bill for a dual diagnosis case now, it never hurts to know what some of the telltale signs are should your drinking habits or drug use begin to spiral out of control.
Here are some indicators that you may want to be a good candidate for dual diagnosis treatment.
Alcohol and drugs are often called “self-medicating” substances because people often use them to treat physical or emotional pain. This means that someone who is dealing with depression, stress, anxiety, or another mental health issue will often turn to alcohol or drugs as a way to alleviate their feelings.
This is actually a very common response for people who are suffering from mental health problems—using substances to help dull the pain or make it more bearable is a very natural reaction. However, the problem with this coping mechanism is that it is not a healthy or sustainable way to treat mental health issues.
Using substances to mask or treat an underlying problem is not a good long-term solution. In fact, this habit can actually make the issues you are struggling with much worse, and can be a sign that you need help from a dual diagnosis treatment center.
When someone is first trying to quit drinking or taking drugs, they often don’t reach out for professional help. Some people just want to take it on themselves to get clean and sober, without any outside assistance—and that’s understandable.
However, if you have tried to quit on your own a few times and always ended up falling off the wagon, it can be a sign that you need dual diagnosis treatment. You’re likely facing some challenges that are hindering your progress and may need the specialized help that only a dual diagnosis treatment program can provide.
If you have had a mental health disorder, or if you have been diagnosed with one, you may wonder whether it’s likely that you might develop another one.
People with a family history of mental illness have a higher risk of developing an illness themselves. The risk is even higher if you have a parent or sibling with a substance use disorder. This is because mental illness and substance use disorders are often caused by the same factors—like genetics and certain environmental factors.
If you have a family history of mental illness, and you also have been abusing alcohol or drugs, it may be a sign that you need dual diagnosis treatment. You may want to ask your doctor or loved ones if they think this might be the case.
A co-occurring mental health condition and an addiction often mask each other, making them difficult to detect.
The consequence of not identifying and treating dual diagnosis can be severe: untreated mental illness often leads to greater risk of substance abuse relapse or new substance use; untreated addiction may lead to more dangerous drug usage and risky behavior; untreated co-occurring disorders heighten the risk of suicide and unhealthy coping mechanisms
That’s why diagnosing both conditions early on can have a positive impact on individual recovery and relapse prevention.