According to The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration, approximately 9.2 million adults in the United States have both a mental health condition and a substance use disorder.[1]

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When a mental health condition and substance use disorder coexist, they are referred to as co-occurring disorders or dual diagnoses. Individuals with co-occurring disorders can have more than two diagnosed conditions. For example, an individual may struggle with addiction, generalized anxiety disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) at the same time.

People with co-occurring disorders often face more obstacles to recovery than individuals with a single disorder. When an individual has multiple conditions, the symptoms of each illness tend to exacerbate one another. Because of this, dual diagnosis clients require individualized dual diagnosis treatment plans. Additionally, many people with co-occurring disorders need long-term treatment to successfully recover from addiction while learning how to manage symptoms of their mental disorder.

The Causes of Co-Occurring Disorders

While it can be difficult to pinpoint exactly what caused an individual’s co-occurring disorders, there are genetic and environmental factors that increase their likelihood. If there is a history of mental illness or addiction in an individual’s family, the person becomes more likely to develop co-occurring disorders themselves. While genes can play a role in a person’s likelihood to develop a dual diagnosis, genetic predispositions for mental health conditions do not guarantee their development.

Typically, individuals develop co-occurring disorders due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors. If an individual’s parents struggled with addiction during their childhood, they may have been exposed to drug and alcohol abuse in the home. This makes the individual more susceptible to developing an addiction themselves, as they have a genetic predisposition and lived in an environment where substance abuse was present.

When it comes to mental health conditions, individuals who are exposed to traumatic experiences, accidents that involve damage to the brain, and a history of mental illness in the family, are genetically and environmentally predisposed to developing a mental disorder.

The main risk factors for co-occurring disorders include:

  • Family history of addiction and mental disorders
  • Prenatal exposure to drugs or toxins
  • Gender
  • Low self-esteem
  • Poor coping mechanisms
  • Lack of support

Even if an individual has genetic and environmental predispositions for co-occurring disorders, positive coping mechanisms and social support can prevent them from developing a dual diagnosis. However, without a supportive environment and proper emotional regulation skills, the development of co-occurring disorders becomes highly likely.

Common Co-Occurring Disorders

Co-occurring disorders include a combination of two or more mental health conditions and substance use disorders. For example, a dual diagnosis client may have cocaine use disorder and major depressive disorder. On the other hand, another individual could suffer from alcoholism, opioid use disorder, and PTSD. In other words, any mental health disorder(s) in combination with substance use disorder(s) qualify as co-occurring disorders.

While every mental health condition could be accompanied by addiction, there are a few mental disorders that frequently co-occur with substance use disorders. The most common co-occurring disorders include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Conduct disorders
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Personality disorders
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

Individuals with co-occurring disorders most commonly abuse substances like alcohol, opioids, stimulants, and prescription pills. People with mental health conditions are also more likely to become addicted to tobacco than their peers.

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Signs and Symptoms of Dual Diagnosis

Oftentimes, co-occurring disorders are difficult to diagnose due to an overlap of symptoms between mental health conditions and substance use disorders. The symptoms that are common among both mental disorders and addiction include:

  • Isolation from loved ones
  • Poor hygiene
  • Inability to complete personal responsibilities
  • Losing interest in previously beloved hobbies
  • Engaging in risky or impulsive behaviors
  • Changes in sleeping and eating patterns
  • Intense and random mood swings

The symptoms of co-occurring disorders vary depending on the type of drug the individual is addicted to as well as the type of mental disorder they suffer from. For example, an individual diagnosed with depression and opioid use disorder typically withdraws from social activities to abuse opioid drugs like heroin or oxycodone. On the other hand, an individual with bipolar disorder and a stimulant addiction typically engages in impulsive behaviors, loses significant amounts of weight, and has a hard time sleeping.

Additional signs that are associated with dual diagnosis include:

  • Chronic addiction relapse
  • Increased hospitalizations (medical or psychiatric)
  • Frequent financial problems
  • Homelessness or incarceration
  • Having a hard time obtaining or maintaining employment
  • Difficulty maintaining personal relationships

No matter the specific diagnoses, individuals suffering from co-occurring disorders require professional dual diagnosis treatment. Dealing with untreated co-occurring disorders can become extremely dangerous, as the symptoms of each condition become amplified.

How Does Dual Diagnosis Treatment Work?

Dual diagnosis rehab programs combine traditional addiction recovery methodologies with evidence-based mental health treatment tactics. This allows clients to recover from their substance use disorder while they simultaneously learn how to manage the symptoms of their mental health condition(s).

Dual diagnosis treatment programs hire addiction experts alongside mental health professionals. This ensures that the staff members are qualified to treat specific co-occurring disorders.

The main components of dual diagnosis rehab programs include:

  • Qualified staff members for both addiction and mental health treatment
  • Evidence-based treatment programs that integrate addiction and mental health treatment techniques
  • Professional evaluation and diagnosis
  • Medication management for addiction and mental health
  • Holistic therapies such as yoga, acupuncture, mindfulness-based meditation, adventure therapy, and more.
  • Group therapy sessions for specific types of counseling (trauma groups, addiction groups, women’s groups, etc.)
  • Individual counseling
  • Medication-assisted detox and treatment (MAT)
  • Relapse prevention planning, aftercare services, and alumni support groups

Dual diagnosis programs are designed for individuals with and without a previous diagnosis. If someone does not have an official mental health diagnosis but displays the signs of both a mental disorder and substance use disorder, dual diagnosis treatment is right for them.

Once they begin dual diagnosis treatment, mental health experts will evaluate and diagnose them. This allows staff members to plan the client’s treatment needs accordingly, providing accurate and effective treatment based on the client’s individual needs.

Benefits of Attending a Dual Diagnosis Rehab Program 

Individuals who suffer from co-occurring disorders should always attend a dual diagnosis program. Without receiving treatment for both (or all) of their mental disorders and substance use disorders, the symptoms of any untreated illnesses will cause a relapse of symptoms in the others.

In addition to providing clients with recovery from all of their co-occurring disorders, dual diagnosis treatment programs provide the following benefits:

  • Accurate assessment of psychiatric health
  • Individualized treatment planning
  • Qualified staff and 24/7 support
  • Identifying and learning to manage potential triggers
  • Help with planning for the future
  • Access to individual therapy, group counseling, family therapy, and an array of support groups
  • Access to holistic treatments that heal the mind, body, and soul

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Dual Diagnosis Treatment at Moving Mountains Recovery

At Moving Mountains, we provide a full continuum of care for our dual diagnosis clients. From medication-assisted detox and mental health evaluation to evidence-based individual and group counseling, our dual diagnosis program is built for success and long-term healing.

While there is no cure for mental health and addiction disorders, we work to provide our clients with all of the tools needed for long-term symptoms management and recovery.

If you or a loved one require treatment for co-occurring disorders, look no further. Our qualified and compassionate staff at Moving Mountains Recovery Center are here to help. Contact us today for more information on our dual diagnosis treatment program in New Jersey.

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