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Diagnosing a Dual Diagnosis: The Complexities of Co-Existing Issues

A dual diagnosis occurs when a person has both a mental health and a substance abuse issue at the same time. Someone who struggles with both depression and alcoholism is more likely to experience drinking triggers that are also common among those who struggle with a depressive disorder. Similarly, someone with an eating disorder might embrace substance abuse to help mitigate their obsession with weight.

Studies show that combinations of co-existing issues are common in a treatment setting. While the prospect of a dual diagnosis might sound terrifying, the good news is that it is highly treatable, often in tandem.

Commonly Occurring Dual Diagnoses

Studies show that 75% of people with serious mental health issues also struggle with substance abuse. Some of these combinations may be more common than others. Below are some examples of how commonly co-occurring disorders can result in unique challenges for individuals living with dual diagnosis.

Co-Occurring Depression and Substance Abuse

Many people don’t realize that depression can often accompany alcohol or drug addiction. While depression is a common form of mental illness, it is often under-recognized and underdiagnosed. This is especially true when depression is accompanied by alcohol or drug use.

People who abuse drugs or alcohol often try to self-medicate their feelings of depression by using more. This can lead to addiction. Similarly, alcohol and other drugs often make a person’s depression worse. Many drugs can also interfere with the way a person’s brain works, which is one reason why people with mental health issues are more likely to use drugs and alcohol.

Co-Occurring Anxiety Disorders and Substance Abuse

Anxiety disorders and substance abuse often occur together. People who have anxiety disorders typically start using alcohol or drugs to mitigate their feelings of anxiety.

Co-Occurring Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Substance Abuse

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and substance abuse often occur together. People who have PTSD may start using alcohol or drugs to soothe their feelings. If you use alcohol or drugs to “make yourself feel better,” you might have a problem with substance abuse. Substance abuse can lead to addiction and make PTSD symptoms worse.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment and Recovery

There is a growing recognition that many people struggling with substance use disorder (SUD) are also struggling with mental health issues. Most people who have mental health struggles also have SUD, and vice versa. The good news is that identifying and addressing a dual diagnosis is actually an opportunity to make significant strides toward a fully integrated recovery — as long as the person receiving treatment is willing to work through both issues simultaneously.

If you think you struggle with a mental health issue and use substances to cope, now is the time to seek help. When treatment providers like The Guest House approach dual diagnosis with a compassionate, integrated approach, we can help individuals create a personalized plan that takes into account the interconnected nature of both issues while taking advantage of their natural synergies. By doing so, the journey to recovery is as whole as it possibly can be. Call (855) 483-7800 for more information.