Understanding Dual Diagnosis

Dual diagnosis is a term used to describe when someone is simultaneously diagnosed with a substance abuse disorder or addiction and a mental illness. Addiction never occurs in a vacuum, and while the exact causes of substance abuse can vary widely, co-occurring mental health conditions are common.

What Does it Mean to Have a Dual Diagnosis

It isn’t easy to quit using drugs and alcohol, especially for those with an alcohol or substance use disorder. The addictive nature of substances make it hard for people to stay clean and sober. Add in the withdrawal symptoms that come along with quitting and you have a real challenge on your hands.

Now imagine trying to navigate early recovery while living with a mental illness.

That is what people with dual diagnosis deal with every day of their lives.

Dual diagnosis refers to people who have both mental illness and alcohol or substance use disorder at the same time. There isn’t a requirement for which condition occurred first. Ultimately, it can be difficult to figure out which condition came first to begin with.

Clinicians in the 1980s found themselves working with increasing numbers of people struggling with both mental illness and substance use. They realized that normal substance abuse or mental illness treatments weren’t as effective. In response, they created the separate dual diagnosis condition and specialized treatment methods for it.

Today, 9.2 million adults in the United States ages 18 and older, or 3.7 percent of the population, live with dual diagnosis. Although similar to the numbers in 2017, this percentage is higher than both the 2015 and 2016 surveys. The number of individuals with dual diagnosis is on the rise.

What Causes Dual Diagnosis

The cause of dual diagnosis conditions can’t be pinned down to one single answer. Numerous factors are at play when it comes to someone with the condition. Current research indicates addiction results from a combination of both biological and environmental factors. Additionally, their mental illness could be present before or after their substance use.

For example, some people with mental illnesses use drugs and alcohol to cope with their symptoms. They use substances to self-medicate instead of using other tools like counseling or psychiatric medication. It might feel like the substances help them deal with their mental illness when, in reality, they only make it worse.

There are also individuals with substance or alcohol use disorders who drink or use huge amounts of substances. Some people drink and use so much that they develop a mental illness as a result. The symptoms of their mental illness often cause them to turn to substances again, creating a vicious cycle.

Ultimately, when working with dual diagnosis individuals, it often isn’t necessary to find out which condition came first. But it is important that clinicians treat each portion of the diagnosis both separately and as a whole. This means these individuals benefit from a specialized dual diagnosis treatment facility that focuses on individuals living with the condition.

What is the Difference Between Comorbidity and Dual Diagnosis

Some might not realize there are slight differences between the terms, but there is a difference between comorbidity and dual diagnosis. You might hear some people use them interchangeably to describe the same condition but this isn’t always the case.

Comorbidity refers to someone experiencing two or more disorders at the same time. While one of those might be a substance use disorder, a comorbidity diagnosis does not require it. For example, comorbidity might refer to someone with a substance use disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder, or depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

On the other hand, dual diagnosis only describes individuals with a substance use disorder as well as another mental disorder. A substance use disorder must be present, accompanied by any other type of mental illness.

This means that people with dual diagnosis qualify as having comorbidity,
but not everyone with comorbidity qualifies for dual diagnosis.

Treating Addicts with Dual Diagnosis

Here at HIR, treatment plans are customized to meet the needs of each individual client. However, there are a few general therapies that are often beneficial to a dual diagnosis client. These include:

  • Medically Supervised DetoxFor many drug and alcohol addicts, detox is one of the scariest parts of pursuing sobriety. For some substances, unsupervised detox can be deadly at worst and extremely uncomfortable at best. At HIR, we offer a medically supervised detox that includes health monitoring outside of a hospital setting and, for those who are
    candidates, pharmaceutical support to minimize withdrawal symptoms.
  • Evidence-Based TherapyEvidence-based therapies are those which are based on scientific evidence for their potential to treat addiction and co-occurring mental disorders. This can include both individual and group therapy. Two of the most well-known evidence-based therapies we provide are Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR).
  • Experiential Cultural ProgrammingExperiential therapy is an opportunity for clients to identify and process any hidden or subconscious issues through experiences. These experiences could include role-playing, guided imagery, interaction with animals, the use of props or musical instruments, and a range
    of other activities. Our dual diagnosis residents make great strides in their treatment with the help of ocean based treatment.
  • Holistic TherapyIn addition to evidence-based and experiential therapies, dual diagnosis clients can benefit greatly from holistic therapies. Holistic therapy is designed to work alongside more traditional treatment methods in order to ensure full recovery of the body, mind, and spirit. We offer Reiki, acupuncture, massage, yoga, and nutritional support to help our residents as they recover fully from addiction and learn healthy techniques for managing mental health disorders.

Dual Diagnosis in Hawaii

To hear directly from HIR graduates who have benefitted from our dual diagnosis and holistic treatment approach, check out our testimonials.

“They really, really, really helped me with not only my addiction and alcoholism but with the problems I’ve had in the
past and some traumas I’ve had to get through. If you’re looking for something that will really help you get through some hard, rough times, I would say this is definitely the place, and you will be in good hands.”

Our specialty in dual diagnosis and holistic treatment begins with a caring, listening ear when you call for more information.To speak with one of our intake specialists and learn more about how dual diagnosis can help you or your loved one make a full recovery from addiction

Get Addiction Help!

If you or a loved one need help, call Hawaii Island Recovery toll-free right now.