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Individuals who suffer from both a substance addiction and a co-occurring mental illness are said to have a dual diagnosis. Each of the two disorders associated with this condition tends to make the other worse, so dual diagnosis treatment can be challenging.
Any mental health disorder and substance addiction can go hand in hand, but certain conditions tend to occur together more frequently. The occurrence of a drug or alcohol addiction and a depressive disorder is one of the most common manifestations of a dual diagnosis. According to a report published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, one in three adults with a substance abuse problem also battles depression.
Another disorder that tends to occur simultaneously with addiction is obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Many individuals with OCD turn to alcohol or drugs to calm the obsessive thoughts that take over their mind, and they may develop compulsive rituals around their use of a substance.
Patients with co-occurring disorders require an integrated treatment plan, where both the addiction and the mental health disorder are treated under the same roof. Without the specialized care of a facility that caters to patients with co-occurring disorders, an individual with these two conditions is unlikely to sustain long-term recovery. People with both mental illness and an addiction are at a high risk for suicide. A facility that provides integrated care will understand the special needs of these individuals.
The treatment of co-occurring disorders involves both individual and group counseling. Therapists take a balanced approach that addresses both issues. In counseling, patients learn how to cope with their psychiatric symptoms and their desire to use, and they develop strategies to handle triggers and temptations in the future. Medication also plays a big role in dual diagnosis treatment. Certain medications can ease some of the debilitating symptoms of withdrawal and allow patients to focus on therapy and healing.
In addition to these treatment medications, other medications may be prescribed to address a patient’s mental health needs. Many patients with co-occurring disorders have never received appropriate medical treatment for their psychiatric condition and experience significant relief with medication. This integrated treatment may take longer than a standard addiction treatment plan, but the rate of success is high.
Both addiction and mental illness are chronic conditions, and the risk of relapse is high. People with co-occurring disorders often return to alcohol or drug use; in fact, a study by Dartmouth University indicated that two-thirds of individuals with co-occurring disorders will suffer a relapse of their addiction at some point. When a relapse of an addiction or mental health disorder occurs, it’s important to react quickly and seek out the help needed to get back on track.
Aftercare services can help lower the risk of relapse and provide valuable support to recovering individuals. Support groups comprised of individuals with the same mental health disorder can combat the feelings of isolation that often accompany mental illness, and 12-step programs can provide the guidance and motivation needed to stay drug-free. Many individuals also opt to continue therapy after they’ve completed treatment at a rehab center.
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