What is Dual Diagnosis?
Dual diagnosis (also referred to as co-occurring conditions or comorbidities) is a term used for people who are struggling with both a mental health condition and a substance use disorder. In some people, these multiple disorders develop at the same time, while in others, either one of the conditions can precede the other. In the traditional healthcare system, it can be very hard to get an accurate diagnosis of both addiction and mental illness. Symptoms of substance abuse or withdrawal can be similar to those of certain mental health conditions, so it’s possible for providers to miss an underlying psychiatric disorder. Getting an accurate dual diagnosis is critical to healing and recovery. Addressing the underlying mental health condition and brain-related issues is the key to helping you be successful in an addiction treatment program.
Who has Dual Diagnosis?
Approximately 7.9 million American adults have both a mental health condition and substance use disorder, according to a 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Among adolescents aged 12-17, the percentage who use drugs is higher in those who have depression. Young people in this age group with depression are more likely to use marijuana, hallucinogens, inhalants, and prescription drugs and to be heavy drinkers. Among adolescents seeking treatment for substance abuse, 50-90% also suffer from some form of psychiatric disorder.
What are the Symptoms?
Considering there are so many different mental health conditions that can co-occur with addiction, there can be a wide range of symptoms with dual diagnosis. Symptoms of substance use disorders may include:
Stealing to fuel your addiction
Withdrawal from family and friends
Feeling powerless to change your habit
Feelings of guilt about your substance use
Using increasing amounts of the substance
Inability to quit without withdrawal symptoms
Getting defensive when someone questions your habits
Feeling like you need the substance in order to function
Impulsivity, nervousness, feeling numb and more.
What Causes Dual Diagnosis?
A number of factors may contribute to dual diagnosis, including brain abnormalities, genetics, head injuries, or exposure to stress or environmental toxins. (See below for more information on the causes of dual diagnosis.)
Symptoms of co-occurring mental health conditions can include:
Extreme mood swings