When a person has substance use disorder (SUD), they experience a greater risk of developing a co-occurring mental health disorder. Similarly, when a person has a mental health disorder, they experience a greater risk of developing co-occurring SUD. When a mental health disorder exists alongside SUD, the conditions are referred to as co-occurring disorders or dual diagnoses.
Individuals seeking treatment for a dual diagnosis may recognize the complex challenges they may experience on their road to lasting recovery. When selecting a treatment program, it is crucial to thoroughly research a potential treatment facility. A facility specializing in dual diagnosis treatment is often not enough to set clients up for long-term success and healing. To effectively heal from dual diagnoses, individuals must utilize a program that prioritizes individualized treatment.
Understanding Dual Diagnoses
To reiterate, dual diagnoses are the presence of a mental health disorder and SUD in tandem. According to MedlinePlus, “About half of people who have a mental disorder will also have a substance use disorder at some point in their lives and vice versa.” Additionally, the interactions between each condition can worsen the effects of both.
Why Do Mental Health Disorders Co-Occur With SUD?
The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) highlights three possibilities that may help individuals understand the high prevalence of dual diagnoses:
- Mental health disorders and SUD develop from shared risk factors: Some of the most significant risk factors for both conditions include genetics, trauma, abuse, abandonment, and stress.
- Mental health disorders can contribute to substance abuse and SUD: Individuals with mental health disorders, such as anxiety or depression, are more likely to turn to alcohol and other drugs to self-medicate. Over time and with repeated use, self-medicating practices can develop into addiction.
- Substance abuse and SUD can trigger the development of mental health disorders: Alcohol and drug use can cause lasting impairments in brain structures and functioning. This may cause an individual to be more likely to develop a mental health disorder.
The Complex Treatment Challenges of Dual Diagnoses
Individuals with dual diagnoses experience an array of complex challenges during treatment and recovery. The journal Alcohol Health and Research World explains:
Research indicates that patients with dual diagnoses are more disabled and require more services than patients with a single disorder. In addition, they are more prone to suicide and have higher rates of homelessness and legal and medical problems as well as more frequent and longer hospitalizations.
These complications shed light on the fact that individualized treatment for dual diagnoses is imperative. Untreated dual diagnoses can produce debilitating symptoms, including suicidal ideation and impaired cognitive functioning.
The Risks of Leaving One Condition Untreated
Another treatment challenge for dual diagnoses is that both conditions must be treated simultaneously. If either condition is left untreated, symptoms can worsen over time. Additionally, leaving one condition untreated can significantly increase an individual’s risk of relapse for the other condition.
Unfortunately, many individuals participate in treatment for one condition without ever being diagnosed and treated for a dual diagnosis. This is largely due to the difficulties involved with effectively diagnosing co-occurring disorders. Often, the symptoms of both SUD and mental health conditions overlap, making it increasingly challenging for health care professionals to determine an accurate dual diagnosis.
The Value of Individualized Treatment for Dual Diagnoses
Fortunately, many treatment centers now utilize individualized treatment. Doing so only ensures that proper dual diagnoses are made but also sets clients up for lasting healing and recovery. Receiving an accurate diagnosis is necessary before beginning any treatment program.
Tailoring Treatment to the Unique Needs of a Client
When a treatment facility uses individualized treatment, they tailor treatment plans to fit the unique needs and goals of each specific client. It is a client-centered approach that prioritizes the client’s autonomy throughout their healing and recovery journey. Individualized treatment is necessary to effectively treat dual diagnoses. It allows health care professionals to integrate a variety of specialized therapies and treatment approaches into a client’s treatment plan.
Altering Treatment Plans Throughout Recovery
Compared to set, structured treatment programs, individualized treatment programs are never set in stone. As a client participates in therapy sessions over time, they work with their collaborative care team to determine what approaches and treatment modalities are most beneficial to their recovery. If any therapies and approaches are stagnating or hindering a client’s progress, the individualized treatment approach enables the therapist to alter the client’s plan accordingly.
Unfortunately, the potential for relapse remains high for those recovering from dual diagnoses. However, by utilizing an individualized treatment program, individuals have the means to quickly get back on track following a relapse. Relapse does not mean that an individual has failed. Rather, it often indicates that their treatment plan must be adjusted to fit their ever-changing needs, goals, triggers, and other symptoms.
Examples of Effective Treatment for Dual Diagnoses
To help individuals grasp the value of individualized treatment for dual diagnoses, consider the following examples:
- A man with a history of trauma uses alcohol to self-medicate. Upon evaluation, he is diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and alcohol use disorder (AUD).
- A woman seeks treatment for her SUD. Upon evaluation, she is diagnosed with co-occurring depression.
Although both of these individuals have dual diagnoses, they will not benefit from the same treatment plan. The man with PTSD and AUD may need to find a facility that can incorporate trauma-informed care into his treatment plan to address and overcome the underlying causes of his substance use. His healthcare team may suggest eye-movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR).
The woman with SUD and depression may benefit from medication-assisted treatment (MAT), particularly antidepressants, to resolve her symptoms as she works to establish her sobriety. Her healthcare team may also suggest cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) to minimize intrusive thoughts connected to substance abuse.
Dual diagnoses are the simultaneous presence of a mental health disorder and substance use disorder. If either condition is left untreated, the interactions between them can worsen the trajectory of both. Individualized treatment can ensure that both conditions are addressed effectively as a client establishes sobriety. At 12 South Recovery, we believe in the power of individualized treatment, which is why we promote a client-centered philosophy of care. We offer a wide range of therapeutic interventions and treatments to ensure we can tailor our programs to fit your unique needs. If you or a loved one is seeking healing, we can guide and support you on your journey. Call us today at (888) 830-8374.