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Dual Diagnosis: Treating Mental Illness and Substance Use Disorders

If left untreated, co-occurring disorders can become negative influences on a person’s recovery, lending to potential triggers for relapse. Effective treatment engages modalities that address both substance use and mental health disorders, with methods including cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy and mindfulness and stress management practices. Vertava Health of Texas is poised to deliver you, or your loved one, this compassionate and in-depth care.

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You have a prescription medication to treat your diagnosed anxiety but you often leave it at home or forget to take it as prescribed. Enter alcohol as “a quick fix.” Grabbing a few drinks after work becomes more of a regular thing and trips to the grocery for food start to include several bottles of wine “just in case.”

As the bottles clank first into the recycling bin and then the garbage can, you start to wonder if maybe you should have thought twice because you know you shouldn’t drink alcohol with your medication. Next time someone offers you wine you happily accept and decide you just won’t take your medication since you haven’t been taking it regularly anyway.

It will be two years before you admit any of this to your psychiatrist while crying in her office.

If left untreated, co-occurring disorders can become negative influences on a person’s recovery, lending to potential triggers for relapse. Effective treatment engages modalities that address both substance use and mental health disorders, with methods including cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy and mindfulness and stress management practices. Vertava Health of Texas is poised to deliver you, or your loved one, this compassionate and in-depth care.

A dual diagnosis is sometimes referred to as a co-occurring disorder and requires certain types of treatment to address both issues. In many instances, these accompanying conditions may have led to substance abuse, aggravated it, or even caused it.

Because of these connections, it is extremely important that an individual receives personalized, dual diagnosis treatment that addresses these specific concerns. Not only will this treatment aid a person in overcoming their addiction, but it will also help them to protect themselves from relapse.

What Is The Definition of A Dual Diagnosis Treatment?

Dual diagnosis is defined as two disorders that co-exist, most commonly mental health disorders, but these may also include instances of trauma or the presence of a dual addiction. 

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration grants perspective on the prevalence of these, noting that in 2014, over a third (7.9 million) of the 20.2 million adults with a substance use disorder had a co-occurring mental health disorder.

Common dual diagnosis conditions include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Eating disorders
  • Personality disorders
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Schizophrenia

It is possible that a person has more than one co-occurring disorder, including several mental health concerns, such as borderline personality disorder, accompanied by anxiety and depression.

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How Do Dual Diagnosis Disorders Affect Addiction And Treatment?

It is important to realize that though often linked, depending on a person’s specific situation, either substance abuse or mental health disorders may occur first, as noted by the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Dual diagnosis concerns are prevalent within addiction. In these circumstances, they both frequently change the face of addiction, the negative behaviors attributed to it and the subsequent treatment.

One Example Shows Two Sides of Dual Diagnosis Disorders Treatment

Substance abuse has the heavy-handed potential to aggravate existing mental health disorders or create them, due to the way drugs and alcohol change a person’s biochemistry.

As a person strives to self-medicate these concerns, the drugs or alcohol often worsen the symptoms, leading a person to use more and creating a vicious spiral into addiction.

On the other hand, substance use disorder may lead to a co-occurring disorder in certain circumstances. If left untreated, these mental health disorders or trauma may serve to create stress or triggers that could cause a person to relapse.

Despite these associations, dual diagnoses do not always come about as a result of one another. In addition to these connections, research also illustrates another potential cause. Both substance use disorder and mental health disorder share common risk factors, including genetic or brain weaknesses and/or experiences with situations causing emotional distress or instances of trauma at a young age, as explained by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

How is a Dual Diagnosis Treated?

Within individualized and holistic care, treatment is adapted to a person’s unique needs, including the presence of any co-occurring disorders. These realities help to inform and shape the way the treatment staff creates a person’s addiction treatment plan, ensuring you or your family member the best chance at healing and balancing the body, mind and soul.

Treatment of co-occurring disorders seeks to do several things, including increasing a person’s awareness and commitment to both acceptance and change. It also teaches coping and interpersonal skills and aids in creating a solid relapse prevention plan.

Commonly within a dual diagnosis program, a therapist may utilize various medications, behavioral therapies or a combination of both to obtain a drug-free state.

Programs We Integrate Into Client Recovery – Dual Treatments For the Diagnosis:

Medication-Assisted Therapies

While certain medications may be used to aid an individual during a medical detox, to alleviate and reduce uncomfortable symptoms of withdrawal, treatment staff may continue or introduce other medications once treatment begins to improve the therapeutic value of treatment. Also called medication-assisted treatment (MAT), these may include a variety of non-addictive medications. If a person suffers from anxiety, depression or other mood disorders, they may be prescribed medications to address and balance these concerns.

Motivational Interviewing

Often used to establish direction and pretreatment for other therapies, in motivational interviewing the therapist or counselor helps a client by reflective and empathetic listening to discern areas of their life that warrant change, while developing the self-efficacy that is necessary to implement these changes.

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Cognitive behavioral therapy

Cognitive-behavioral therapy, or CBT, imparts an individual with a skill set to help them overcome and combat cravings. It also aids them in uprooting negative and detrimental mindsets and feelings in the context of how they shape their behaviors. Instead, a person learns to create more positive thoughts and emotions to base beneficial behaviors upon.

Dialectical behavioral therapy

Dialectical behavioral therapy, or DBT, was created to treat what may often be a dual diagnosis itself—borderline personality disorder. Since its inception, DBT has been shown to not only be an effective treatment modality for this mental disorder but numerous others. It is now considered a practical, productive method for treating substance use disorders.

DBT leads a person to develop and use mindfulness, acceptance, and change as a means to break ties with dysfunctional behaviors. Therapy accomplishes this, and also creates more positive behaviors, by leading a person toward learning distress tolerance, interpersonal effectiveness, and emotional control. Together, these things increase a person’s confidence and their ability in addressing and solving problems in their life which otherwise may create triggers or temptation to use substances.

Mindfulness and stress management

Substance abuse and mental health disorders are both often aggravated by a person being out of touch with themselves and their innate needs while succumbing to life’s many stressors. Thorough treatment engages a person in a way that cultivates a better self-awareness while addressing the multiple ways stress may crop up within a person’s life.

In integrating these two, a person is better adept at implementing coping skills to overcome moments that might otherwise prove to be a trigger linked to relapse and a return to substance abuse.

Combined, the therapies described above, along with other treatment modalities can create a landscape of healing, hope, acceptance, and change, enabling you to find a better, alcohol-free and drug-free life.

Address Your Dual Diagnosis Treatment & Recovery Concerns

Don’t let compassionate and effective treatment pass you by. At Vertava Health of Texas, we understand how heavily a dual diagnosis may affect your addiction and your treatment. Our staff is highly trained and intuitive to these needs and is standing by to offer you exceptional care. Contact us today at (888) 759-5073.

What is The Difference Between Comorbidity and Dual Diagnosis?

Comorbidity is typically defined the same as two disorders that co-exist but goes more specifically. Comorbidity implies the two disorders and occur at the same time or one after the other, as well as one disorder can aggravate the other.

What is The Dual Diagnosis Model of Treatment?

Treatment for co-existing conditions benefits the patient with a seamless team of clinicians to treat the multiple disorders with a comprehensive therapy approach. Modification of some traditional methods to treat one disorder may have to be made in consideration for potential harm to the additional disorder. The goal is to learn to manage both illnesses in order to pursue meaningful life goals.

What Are The 5 Most Common Mental Disorders?

Depression, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Panic, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder are the most common mental disorders, according to the National Institute for Health.

What is a Dual Diagnosis in Mental Health?

A dual diagnosis is most commonly defined as having a mental health disorder that co-exists with a drug or alcohol use disorder. This can be traced to the method of self-medicating a mental disorder through drugs or alcohol, ultimately becoming an addiction that needs treatment as well as the original disorder. This situation of mental disorder to alcohol can also occur in the opposite order.

A dual diagnosis can also include multiple addictions or multiple mental health diagnoses. It is also commonly used concurrently with comorbidity. This term allows for the possibility of more than two disorders as well as one occurring subsequent to arrival of the second disorder. 

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