Dual diagnosis occurs when a person experiences both a substance abuse problem and a mental health disorder. This condition is very common, and can make either disorder more complicated to treat.
While a person with a dual diagnosis can benefit from treatment, many people are hesitant to seek care for these conditions. Without dual diagnosis treatment, a person is at greater risk for adverse health conditions and lessened physical safety, according to Mental Health America.
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The co-existence of both substance abuse and mental health disorders can worsen either condition. Sometimes one illness leads to the other. For example, a person may suffer from depression and turn to substance abuse in an attempt to feel better. In others, substance abuse can bring out a mental illness, such as anxiety or an eating disorder.
Alcohol or substance abuse can ultimately worsen a mental illness. They are not a replacement for medications or other treatments known to help a person struggling with mental illness.
A large number of mental health disorders exist, and range in severity. However, some disorders are more associated with substance abuse than others. Examples of illnesses associated with substance abuse include:
Dual diagnosis is a common condition that can occurs in one-third of all people who have a mental illness. An estimated 50 percent of people who have a severe mental illness also have a substance abuse problem, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
While women are more likely to experience anxiety than men, men are at greater risk for dual diagnosis.
Specialists in drug and alcohol treatment provide something called integrated therapy when treating substance abuse addiction and mental illness. This means a person should receive treatment for both conditions, not just the substance abuse problem.
Examples of available dual diagnosis treatments include:
No cure exists for substance abuse or mental illness. However, these conditions can be managed through a variety of approaches and continued recovery therapy. This could include participation in support groups, medication management and individual therapy. With continued treatments, a person can manage his or her conditions.