What Is A Dual Diagnosis?

What Is A Dual Diagnosis?


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Home Page > Self Improvement > Addictions > What Is A Dual Diagnosis?

What Is A Dual Diagnosis?

Posted: Feb 24, 2012 |Comments: 0

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Dual diagnosis is defined by Mental Health America as the condition of an individual who has both an alcohol or drug problem as well as an emotional/psychiatric problem like depression, anxiety disorders or an eating disorder to name a few. This may sound like a special case scenario but having a dual diagnosis is actually incredibly common. Over one third of all alcohol abusers are said to also suffer from a co-occurring mental health condition and an astounding one half of drug abusers are said to as well. Conversely, of all the individuals diagnosed as having a mental illness, almost 30 percent of them admit to abusing drugs or alcohol as well. After research found all of this crossover in the historically “separate” illnesses, the term dual diagnosis was coined and a new treatment approach was established.

Which Happens First, The Emotional Problem or The Substance Abuse?

After research kindly indicated that these illnesses were not happening independently of one another but were in fact related, traditional thinking prompts us to try and figure out which one caused the other, or which one came first at the very least. And this is where things became tricky. Linear thinking and modern science want us to believe that either the substance abuse or the mental illness came first, and naturally caused the other one to come about as a result of it. Unfortunately for the linear thinkers, there’s just no simple equation for how this plays out in the dual diagnosis sufferer.

In a large portion of the dual diagnosis population, often times the psychiatric problem is the one that rears its head first. A person struggling with a psychological problem like depression or an anxiety disorder for example is more likely to try and “self-medicate” themselves with drugs and alcohol in an attempt to even out. The more often the person tries to self-medicate their symptoms, the increasingly likely they are to develop a dependence on whatever substance they have been abusing. As soon as it does, they’ve now found themselves with a dual diagnosis.

In a slightly smaller portion of the dual diagnosis population, the addiction comes first. People with severe enough substance abuse problems can develop the symptoms of a psychiatric disorder including bouts of depression, hallucinations, fits of rage and in extreme cases even suicidal thoughts and attempts.

How Do You Treat A Dual Diagnosis

The primary thing that people do wrong when trying to treat an individual with a dual diagnosis is they’ll try to treat one of the illnesses at a time. The problem with this approach is that when dealing with a dual diagnosis the issues are co-occurring and therefore affect one another very much. That is why we recommend treating both illnesses simultaneously.

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About the Author:

Ben Brafman, LMHC, CAP is the President and CEO of Destination Hope: The Women’s Program, a licensed dual diagnosis substance abuse treatment center in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Ben has more than 20 years of experience in the addiction and mental health fields, which led him to develop a combination of innovative treatment protocols at Destination Hope: The Women’s Program. He has been published on various topics including dual diagnosis and chemical dependency, and gives back to the community by educating other addiction counselors at his Academy for Addiction Professionals.

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Article Tags:
florida drug rehab, drug rehab for women, womens drug rehab, addiction treatment center, dual diagnosis treatment, substance abuse treatment

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Ben Brafman, LMHC, CAP is the President and CEO of Destination Hope: The Women’s Program, a licensed dual diagnosis substance abuse treatment center in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Ben has more than 20 years of experience in the addiction and mental health fields, which led him to develop a combination of innovative treatment protocols at Destination Hope: The Women’s Program. He has been published on various topics including dual diagnosis and chemical dependency, and gives back to the community by educating other addiction counselors at his Academy for Addiction Professionals.
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