What are Examples of Dual Diagnosis?

Written by Journey Pure Staff

Two of the biggest problems facing society today are addiction and the mental health crisis. With more people overdosing on prescription drugs, street drugs, and alcohol than ever before, and with an increasingly shocking amount of shootings and violent acts tied to poor mental health, it is no wonder these two issues are making front-page news.

Today, more than 21 million people have a substance use disorder, according to SAMHSA’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). Substance use disorders include addictions to heroin, cocaine, meth, alcohol, prescription drugs, hallucinogens, tranquilizers, stimulants, and more. In the same breath, the National Institute on Mental Health (NIMH) reports that in 2016, 44.7 million adults ages 18 and older had a mental illness. Many of those millions of people grapple with both a substance use disorder and a mental illness at the same time, which is known as dual diagnosis.

NSDUH has reported that in 2014, roughly 7.9 million adults had a dual diagnosis, which is also known as a co-occurring disorder. And, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), 4.1 million of that 7.9 million were men.

If you have known someone who has a mental illness or a substance abuse problem, then this might not be news to you, as countless individuals who have one of these conditions also struggles with symptoms of the other. In fact, substance use disorders and mental illnesses often go hand-in-hand, as people look to either self-medicate untreated mental illnesses through substance abuse or develop symptoms of mental illnesses in response to their substance abuse.

Thankfully, dual diagnosis is a treatable condition. Through professional care, those who are experiencing the complexities of dual diagnosis can learn how to properly manage their wellbeing.

Examples of Dual Diagnosis

Some of the most common mental illnesses that coincide with substance use disorder include depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and behavioral disorders. Conversely, it is common for individuals with mental illness to develop behavioral disorders outside of substance abuse, such as gambling addiction, sex addiction, or shopping addiction. There is no limit to the combinations of substance use disorders and mental illnesses, however, some of the most common examples of dual diagnosis include the following:

Alcoholism and Depression

Alcoholism and depression are often compared to the chicken and egg analogy in that people tend to ask which developed first – the alcoholism or the depression – and rightfully so.

Alcoholism and depression go hand-in-hand like no other. For some, depression is the primary condition and alcoholism develops as an individual begins abusing this substance as a coping mechanism for the depression. Others, however, develop alcoholism and in turn, start to experience symptoms of depression because of that alcohol intake. Either way, when alcoholism and depression are both occurring at the same time, it is a dual diagnosis and will likely require thorough treatment to overcome.

Those who have the dual diagnosis of alcoholism and depression might find themselves trapped in a cycle where the following symptoms persist:

  • Excessive sleepiness
  • Irritability
  • Social withdrawal
  • Changes in appetite
  • Detachment from surroundings

sad woman sitting outside

Prescription Drug Addiction and Anxiety

Anxiety is by far one of the most common mental illnesses in the country. Those who have anxiety often experience symptoms such as hypervigilance, racing or unwanted thoughts, hot flashes, heart palpitations, inability to relax, and poor concentration. And while there are many different types of anxiety (e.g., panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, specific phobias, obsessive-compulsive disorder), the symptoms that can be experienced can be so vivid and powerful that individuals become more likely to turn to the use of medications to calm those symptoms. Prescription drugs, such as Ativan, Xanax, Klonopin, and Valium, are commonly used to treat anxiety, however, are also highly addictive. So, when someone is experiencing anxiety to the point where he or she cannot manage it any longer, the potential for abusing one of these substances increases.

Opioid Addiction and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Similar to anxiety and prescription drug addiction, individuals who grapple with post-traumatic stress disorder are at a greater risk for abusing opioids.

Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, can develop after an individual experiences one or more traumatic events, such as a natural disaster, terrorism, loss of a loved one, combat, or sexual abuse, to name a few. This condition affects millions of people each year, however many of those who develop it does not obtain the professional treatment they need to properly manage their symptoms. Instead, some might turn to the use of prescription painkillers or heroin to numb symptoms like jumpiness, insomnia, flashbacks, or unwanted thoughts. Those who have PTSD are also more likely to engage in self-destructive behavior, including abusing substances like opioids.

Meth Addiction and Psychosis

Meth, which is a synthetic stimulant substance, is one of the most destructive drugs on the market. It is so destructive, in fact, that it has the potential to change the way in which the brain functions. Therefore, those who consistently abuse meth have a greater likelihood of developing a mental illness. Most commonly, those who abuse meth experience psychosis, a severe mental illness that causes delusions, hallucinations, distorted beliefs, anger, suicidal thoughts, and a plethora of other disturbing effects. Psychosis can be treated through the cessation of meth abuse, however some individuals experience permanent psychosis even if they stop using meth.

The Importance of Dual Diagnosis Treatment

Thankfully, there are specifically designed treatment options for those who have a dual diagnosis. Within a dual diagnosis program, individuals will receive care for both conditions that will be provided at the same time. The belief is that when both the substance use disorder and the mental illness are treated simultaneously, that the rate of success for the individual is significantly increased.

Additionally, those who struggle with both an addiction and a mental illness often require more detailed treatment than someone who is experiencing only one of these conditions. Dual diagnosis treatment utilizes the expertise of professionals who are trained in dual diagnosis, as well as develops specific programming capable of meeting the needs of the patient during their care.

Get Help Today

If you are stuck in a dangerous cycle of substance abuse and mental illness, there is no better time to reach out for help than right now. With the appropriate care, you can learn how to manage your psychological wellbeing in ways that support a healthy, happy lifestyle free of substance abuse and symptoms associated with mental illness.

So, do not wait any longer. Contact us right now to get started on your road to recovery and wellness. We can help you reclaim your life once and for all.