Dual Diagnosis, Do You Have It?

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Many people fail to realize that drug and alcohol addiction go hand in hand with mental illnessDual Diagnosis, which is known as a Dual Diagnosis. What usually happens is that someone with a mental illness will seek non-medicinal, self-destructive ways to quiet their mind. To make sense out of the confusion caused by an inability to control their own moods and behaviors, those with mental illness often pursue maladaptive ways to deal with their daily lives. Their coping mechanisms can take the form of binge eating, sexual promiscuity, cutting or self mutilation. Of course, the mentally ill person, completely unaware of their own illness, will also find comfort in the use of drugs and alcohol. This inevitably leads to substance abuse and all the devastating consequences that accompany it.

According to The National Institute on Drug and Alcohol Abuse (NIDA), co-morbidity –also known as dual diagnosis –is when “two or more disorders or illnesses occurring in the same person.” This means someone with Bi-polar Disorder, Paranoid Schizophrenia or Depression will also possess the disease of addiction or alcoholism. Unfortunately, substance abusers with a mental illness often go years before being properly treated as a person with a dual diagnosis. Because the addiction is so prevalent and obviously devastating, mental and emotional problems go undetected.

Here are some interesting statistics about Dual Diagnosis:

  • The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reports that 8.9 million people have co-occurring disorders; that is they have both a mental and substance abuse disorder.
  • There are more than 46 million adults in the U.S. with some type of mental illness.
  • More than 2.8 million adults who have what is considered a serious mental illness also had a substance dependence. That means 26 percent of all adults with serious mental illness were also addicted to drugs or alcohol.Among the 2.8 million adults with a dual diagnosis, 62 percent received substance use or mental health treatment and 38 percent did not receive any treatment.
  • More than 9.8 million adults with any kind of mental illness were also substance users, meaning 19.7 percent of all adults with a mild or moderate mental illness were addicted to a mood or mind-altering substance.

When a mental illness goes untreated, and only the problem of addiction is addressed, a person with a dual diagnosis is only fighting half the battle. In order to ensure a successful, happy and productive life for someone with a mental illness and a substance abuse problem, both issues must be properly and thoroughly treated.
All too often, people with a mental disease or defect have a genuine desire to stay clean and experience recovery, but find it almost impossible to achieve sobriety. This is because the symptoms of their mental illness cause them so much discomfort, they return again to their drug of choice to find relief. Without proper care, mentally ill people are often doomed to a lifetime of misery caused by their substance abuse.

There is no shame in having a mental illness or mood disorder. Afflictions that affect the brain are just as real as those that affect the body –like diabetes, or cancer, for instance. Likewise, a mental illness is beyond the control of the person who has it and should never be viewed as a weakness or moral deficiency. If you’ve been struggling to stay clean for years, and have been unable to do so, you may need to see a mental health professional to determine whether you have an underlying problem that has not been treated.

The good news is; there is help for those with a dual diagnosis. The proper medication, coupled with counseling and continued support, can do wonders for someone with a mental illness who has suffered from years of substance abuse. Those who once felt completely hopeless because of their inability to stay sober will soon learn serenity comes with the proper diagnosis. Understanding the condition that feeds the addiction will help shed light on the overall problem and allow for a lasting solution.