A dual diagnosis is made when a mental illness accompanies a substance addiction. Because a dual diagnosis involves two separate illnesses, the treatment for each must be separate but integrated.
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Also known as a co-occurring disorder, receiving a dual diagnosis is far more common than previously believed. Recent research found that one-third of people with any mental illness and one-half of those with a severe mental illness also suffered from a drug or alcohol addiction. Conversely, one-third of those with an alcohol addiction and one-half of those with a drug addiction were also diagnosed with a mental illness.
The primary reasons behind the prevalence of dual diagnoses include the fact that:
While anxiety disorders and clinical depression are two of the most common mental illnesses cited in co-occurring disorders, a wide range of mental illnesses may accompany a substance addiction.
Three main treatment therapies are involved in treating each illness in a co-occurring disorder.
An addiction treatment program that specializes in treating co-occurring disorders can help increase the chances of successful lifelong recovery. Dual diagnosis treatment centers integrate the treatments for each illness, and treatment is a collaborative effort among the various treatment teams.
Treating a co-occurring disorder starts with medical detox, during which the physical addiction is broken. Withdrawal symptoms are treated with medications administered by physicians, and mental health professionals assess patients for underlying issues including secondary addictions and mental illness.
Treatment for both the addiction and the mental illness follow detox and draw on a variety of therapies to ensure a holistic approach to treatment and recovery that addresses the mind, the body, and the spirit.
An aftercare program is individualized and set in place after the successful completion of treatment. Aftercare programs include ongoing therapy, participation in recovery groups, and other programs that address individual needs and promote skills and strategies to help patients cope with stress, identify and avoid high-risk situations, and manage cravings.
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