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Dual Diagnosis is a combination of any mental disorder and addiction. A person with a Dual Diagnosis has two separate illnesses and each needs its own treatment plan.
 
This disorder is sometimes not well understood by the medical establishment, even though as many as half of those with drug or alcohol addiction also have some form of mental illness. Often dual problems, if not treated in an integrated manner, can lead to a high incidence of relapse. For example, if the addiction is treated, but not the underlying psychiatric disorder at the same time, it can complicate the process and relapse may occur. Or, if the two illnesses are treated by different doctors, they may not have a fully comprehensive picture of the person’s health.
 

What are the signs & symptoms of Dual Diagnosis Disorder?

 
  • Trouble remembering a time when feeling normal without the use of drugs (drugs are the new normal in this case)
  • Using drugs or alcohol to overcome stressful situations
  • Past traumatic experience
  • Family history of mental illness or addiction
  • Struggling to commit to a job or studies
  • Attempts at quitting drugs or alcohol makes one angry, violent, or suicidal
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms after trying to quit a harmful substance or when cutting down the dose
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All of Papillon’s residents follow their own Individual Treatment Plan that is used to guide their progress through the three Rehabilitation Blocks: Self-System Development; Trauma Processing; and Reintegration. The result is a personalised and holistic approach to each of our residents’ mental recovery with the goal of sustainable reintegration at the end of their 3-month stay.
 
The best treatment for Dual Diagnosis is integrated intervention—when a person receives care for both their diagnosed mental illness and substance abuse. The idea that “I cannot treat your depression because you are also drinking” is outdated—current thinking requires both issues be addressed.
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Dual Diagnosis Disorder, also known as co-occurring disorder, is a term used to describe the simultaneous existence of a mental disorder and a substance use disorder (SUD) in an individual.

 

What Are the Signs & Symptoms of Dual Diagnosis Disorder?

The following are some symptoms and signs of the disorder:

 

Trouble remembering a time when feeling normal without the use of drugs

Often, individuals will “self-medicate,” and use drugs as coping mechanisms for much deeper pains. Over time, these drugs can leave a user feeling worse than they did before.

 

Using drugs or alcohol to overcome stressful situations

Some people start using alcohol and other drugs to avoid dealing with a difficult or stressful situation. This could indicate an underlying mental health disorder.

 

Past traumatic experience

A history of trauma can often render the onset of co-occurring disorders.

Trauma may include a history of physical or sexual abuse, witnessing a death or tragedy, or experiencing a war or disastrous event.

 

Family history of mental illness or addiction

Genetics play a role in the development of mental health disorders and substance use disorders.

If any relative of yours has experienced mental disorder-related symptoms, or has formally been diagnosed with depression, bi-polar disorder, anxiety, or addiction, you have a higher risk of developing a mental health issue.

 

Struggling to commit to a job or studies

Intense or prolonged feelings of despair, hopelessness, and worthlessness can make it difficult for an individual to focus or commit to responsibilities such as work or academics.

 

Attempts at quitting drugs or alcohol makes one angry, violent, or suicidal

This could be a sign of withdrawal from the substance, which can cause severe mood swings and violent outbursts.

It could also indicate a severe mental health issue like intermittent explosive disorder.

 

Experiencing withdrawal symptoms after trying to quit a harmful substance or when cutting down the dose

Withdrawal symptoms occur when the body and brain attempt to maintain a state of balance known as homeostasis.

Taking a substance changes that balance, so your body has to take steps to adjust including changing the levels of certain neurotransmitters. These symptoms are an indication of dependence on a substance.

 

Dual Diagnosis Disorder Causes and Pre-Dispositions

The causes and predispositions of Dual Diagnosis Disorder are multifactorial and include overlapping genetic vulnerabilities and environmental factors.

It’s important to note that these factors can interact in complex ways, and not everyone with these risk factors will develop dual diagnosis.

Some of the main causes and predispositions are:

 

Genetic Factors

There is a significant overlap of genetic factors involved in substance use disorders (SUDs) and mood and anxiety disorders. Comorbidity risk seems to be conveyed by genes engaged in neuronal development, connectivity, and signalling.

 

Brain Structure and Function

Mental health conditions can change a person’s brain, making them more susceptible to the rewarding effects of alcohol.

This can make them more likely to continue using the substance and develop an addiction to it. Similarly, substance use can change the brain in ways that make a person more likely to develop a mental health condition.

 

Environmental Factors

Environmental influences are also important in the onset of dual diagnosis.

These influences include early exposure to drugs or alcohol, high-stress levels, lack of social support, and socioeconomic factors such as poverty.

 

Life Experiences

Stressful life events, like natural disasters, can trigger dual diagnosis.

Ongoing stressors, such as abusive relationships or toxic work environments, can also increase the risk.

 

Risk Factors

Certain factors may increase the risk of developing dual diagnosis, like being female (dual diagnosis is twice as common in women than in men), having a comorbid anxiety disorder, and having a family history of anxiety disorders, depression, or other psychiatric disorders.

 

Myths About Dual Diagnosis Disorder

Myth: Dual Diagnosis Disorder is not a real disorder.

This myth likely arises from a lack of understanding about the nature of Dual Diagnosis Disorder and the stigma associated with mental health disorders.

Fact

 Dual Diagnosis Disorder is a recognised medical condition that is included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) as a dissociative disorder. It is a complex but valid condition that can be proven across many markers.

 

Myth: Dual Diagnosis Disorder is a rare condition.

Mental health disorders are often underreported due to stigma, leading to a perception that they are less common than they actually are.

Fact

Dual Diagnosis Disorder is relatively common and is consistently identified in inpatient, outpatient, and community samples worldwide.

 

Myth: People with Dual Diagnosis Disorder are violent.

This myth likely arises from a lack of understanding about the nature of Dual Diagnosis Disorder combined with the stigma associated with mental health disorders.

Fact

 People with Dual Diagnosis Disorder are no more violent than the general population. There is no link between increased criminal activity and Dual Diagnosis Disorder. The false belief that people with Dual Diagnosis Disorder are violent is dangerous as it causes unnecessary fear further stigmatising and isolating people who have a serious mental illness.

 

Early Warning Signs of Dual Diagnosis Disorder

Early warning signs of Dual Diagnosis Disorder can often be subtle, but they tend to be more persistent and can interfere with daily life. Here are some early warning signs:

 

  • Uncontrollable fear or worry is often one of the first signs of Dual Diagnosis Disorder. A person may find him or herself constantly worrying about different aspects of life, such as work, health, or relationships.
  • Feeling Constantly on Edge. A person may feel restless or unable to relax. This can manifest as a constant feeling of being on edge or keyed up.
  • Problems with Concentration or Focus: Difficulty concentrating or finding that your mind often goes blank could be an early sign of Dual Diagnosis Disorder.
  • Feeling Agitated or Irritable: You may find yourself feeling irritable or easily annoyed.
  • Inability to Get a Full Night’s Sleep: Trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, or restless and unsatisfying sleep can be early signs of Dual Diagnosis Disorder.
  • Persistent Muscle Tension: You may notice that your muscles feel tense or that you’re experiencing frequent headaches.
  • Frequent Stomach Aches: Gastrointestinal problems, such as stomach aches or irritable bowel syndrome, can also be early signs of Dual Diagnosis Disorder.

 

Negative Symptoms of Dual Diagnosis Disorder

Negative symptoms of Dual Diagnosis Disorder refer to the absence or reduction of the following normal behaviours. Everyone’s experience with Dual Diagnosis Disorder can be different, and these symptoms can vary in intensity and frequency:

  • People with dual diagnosis may avoid social situations due to their anxiety or substance use, which can result in reduced social interaction. Because of this, one’s regular social interactions may become less frequent.
  • The persistent anxiety and fear that is associated with Dual Diagnosis Disorder can make it difficult to concentrate, which in turn can lead to decreased productivity. Because of this, productivity may suffer at both the workplace and the classroom.
  • Individuals who suffer from Dual Diagnosis Disorder may try to steer clear of situations or activities that they believe will bring on an episode of anxiety or substance abuse because of this fear. It is possible as a consequence of this that regular activities, such as going to the grocery store or attending social events, will be reduced.
  • People who suffer from Dual Diagnosis Disorder frequently struggle to fall asleep or to maintain their sleep once they do fall asleep. This may result in a reduction in the typical amount of sleep that one gets.
  • Individuals who struggle with Dual Diagnosis Disorder frequently struggle with feelings of anxiety and worry, which can make it difficult for them to take pleasure in life. They may have a difficult time relaxing or enjoying activities that they used to find pleasurable. They may also find it difficult to sleep.
  • Individuals who have Dual Diagnosis Disorder may pay less attention to their physical health because of the preoccupation with worry that they experience. This can result in a reduction in normal, healthy behaviours, such as going to the gym on a regular basis or eating a diet that is well-balanced.

 

How Dual Diagnosis Disorder is Diagnosed

Dual Diagnosis Disorder, also known as co-occurring disorder, is diagnosed by medical professionals such as doctors and psychiatrists during a process including the following:

A doctor may perform a physical exam to look for signs that the anxiety might be linked to medications or an underlying medical condition. Blood or urine tests or other tests may be ordered if a medical condition is suspected.

The doctor or mental health professional will ask detailed questions about symptoms and medical history while psychological questionnaires are used to help determine a diagnosis.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders provides criteria for diagnosing Dual Diagnosis Disorder, with diagnostic criteria including excessive anxiety and worry occurring more days than not for at least 6 months, about a number of events or activities – worry that the individual finds it difficult to control.

Symptoms are evaluated. The anxiety and worry must be accompanied by at least three of the following physical or cognitive symptoms: edginess or restlessness, tiring easily, impaired concentration, irritability, increased muscle aches or soreness, difficulty sleeping.

Treatment decisions are based on how significantly Dual Diagnosis Disorder is affecting the ability to function in daily life. The two main treatments for Dual Diagnosis Disorder are psychotherapy and medications.

Not sure we can help you? Our elite team of psychiatrists, occupational therapists, nurses and facilitators are qualified to treat a range of mental illnesses. In fact, our programme has successfully helped people with:

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