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A dual diagnosis occurs when a person is diagnosed with a mental health disorder and a comorbid substance use disorder. It is a common occurrence and completely treatable. A dual diagnosis tends to be harder to recover from, and it requires a mixture of treatments. Each dual diagnosis patient is different, so each patient’s treatment plan is different. Here at Mountain Peak Recovery we take a dual diagnosis seriously and work hard to meet all the needs of each patient. We ensure that each patient feels like they are a part of a community that cares for and supports them on their journey.
Identifying A Dual Diagnosis
It is not always easy to spot a dual diagnosis. The symptoms of the two disorders can present as one disorder that complicates treatment. Some symptoms are good telltale signs such as:
- A hard time managing finances
- Noticeable changes in behavior
- Feeling like you need a substance to function
- Refusal of treatment
- Suicidal Ideation
These symptoms are still not a perfect way to spot a dual diagnosis, so it’s best to get yourself or your loved one some help if they are experiencing two or more of these symptoms. Seeking professional help will allow a patient to be given a comprehensive assessment, the standard tool used to diagnosis a dual diagnosis. The comprehensive test will give the provider an inside look at the patient by looking at their medical history, family history, their day-to-day life, symptoms, and current mental health state to determine what two disorders the patient is experiencing. Patients must get help ASAP because substance use disorder and mental health disorder can change a person’s brain chemistry more the longer it goes on, making it hard to heal.
Common Dual Diagnosis
Disorders within a dual diagnosis interact with each other, and in addition to changing the chemistry of the brain and making a person more dependent on the substance, they increase the risk that comes with the substance use disorder and can worsen the symptoms of their comorbid mental health disorder. There is no telling which came first when it comes to dual diagnosis because all studies point to the fact that substance use disorders can lead to a mental health disorder and vice versa. About half of Americans dealing with a substance use disorder are also dealing with a mental health disorder. Researchers have done studies to understand which mental health disorders commonly experience a comorbid substance use disorder. A few of them are:
- Bipolar disorder
- Anxiety disorders
- Personality disorders
- Adjustment disorders
- Eating disorders
Often, people begin abusing substances to manage symptoms that are already there. This does not necessarily mean that they already have a mental health disorder but it is possible. They could have had symptoms of a mental health issue that worsened as they used the substance, a trigger within their lives that made them feel like they needed to use the substance for support, or a generally stressful life that made them lean on drugs. The use of these drugs as symptom management tends to worsen mental health symptoms. For instance, people with eating disorders tend to use drugs as an appetite suppressant or people with anxiety disorders tend to use drugs to help them calm down. Some disorders just affect the brain in a way that makes people living with it more prone to drug use, such as ADHD. It is not always easy for people struggling with a dual diagnosis to notice how much they are struggling, so sometimes they need trusted loved ones to help them realize they need help and healing.
Treating A Dual Diagnosis
The most common treatment for a dual diagnosis is residential inpatient care. This allows individuals struggling with a dual diagnosis to live in a safe and supporting environment as they begin to heal themselves. Here at Mountain Peak Recovery, we ensure that you not only work with our providers but also our other residents. Working together with other residents allows you to make like-minded, life-long friends. As you begin your new life in recovery, it is important to have people that want to see you be successful, and people that will hold you accountable to stay true to your new life. This starts in treatment. Group sessions allow residents to support each other, remind each other to use positive self-talk, and give each other advice from new perspectives.
Intensive outpatient care is another common way to treat a dual diagnosis. Here at Mountain Peak Recovery, this would entail a patient partaking in nine hours of therapy weekly while living on their own or in an environment conducive to their recovery. A major part of treating a dual diagnosis is reminding patients that they are not broken. Mental health disorders and substance use disorders can cause shame and make people feel as though they are not good enough or worthy of a better life. This mindset can significantly hinder a person’s want to have a mindset that prioritizes change. Showing people that they still have many good qualities despite what their dual diagnosis has made them believe allows people to forgive themselves and prioritize change.
“No other rehab I’ve been to has been able to provide an environment which enabled me to be myself and grow so much.”