Diagnosing Dual Diagnosis
February 06, 2024

The Challenges of Diagnosing Dual Diagnosis

It’s common for those who don’t understand the realities of the disease to judge someone harshly for having a drug or alcohol addiction. But in many situations, substance use goes hand-in-hand with another psychological disorder that hasn’t been controlled yet.

For that reason, those who try to quit an addictive substance without treating the deeper issue will often relapse. Getting help from experts at a dual diagnosis treatment center is crucial if you want the optimal chance at a successful recovery.

These centers focus on holistic care to handle the addiction at its root, including a combination of physical, mental, and emotional strategies. Regardless of where you seek care, though, dual diagnoses are always complicated. Here, we’ll discuss what a dual diagnosis is and why you must tread cautiously and get the right kind of help if that’s the problem you’re dealing with.

Diagnosing Dual Diagnosis

Understanding a Dual Diagnosis

When someone is addicted to drugs or alcohol (or both), and that addiction stems from an untreated or controlled mental health disorder, there is a dual diagnosis involved. The emotional or psychological well-being of the person with the addiction isn’t balanced, and they turn to substance use to try to manage their symptoms.

Because the person’s drug or alcohol use is more visible, it’s easy to blame the substance and try to deal with quitting rather than fix the psychological or emotional problem. But without a dual approach, the mental issues will frequently cause the recovering addict to relapse.

Substance Use is a Side Effect

What many drug and alcohol users don’t recognize is that their substance use is a side effect of their mental disorder. Addiction is an extremely common symptom in those with psychological diagnoses, and without acknowledging both, it’s challenging to treat either issue. Called “comorbidity,” a dual diagnosis means that if one problem worsens, the other likely will follow suit.

The challenge for patients and those treating them is that both diagnoses must be treated concurrently.

When the focus is on quitting the addiction without dealing with the mental issues, there’s often a relapse, or the same psychological imbalances continue after the substance use is gone. In those situations, the recovering addict may not return to drugs or alcohol, but they’ll find another unhealthy avenue to try to ignore the emotional issues.

Treating a Dual Diagnosis

Seeing a mental health therapist or psychologist for your emotional issues is a wonderful and often effective approach. These experts can help you understand why you think and behave the way you do and why alcohol and drugs are so tempting. However, this strategy focuses on the trauma rather than the physical aspects of the addiction, and going through a substance use withdrawal process can be painful and complicated.

On the other hand, working with an addiction treatment center to quit using drugs or alcohol is a research-backed way to succeed in that goal. However, it won’t fix the mental issues that caused you to turn to those substances in the first place.

Finding a professional who specializes in treating dual-diagnosis patients is vital to a successful recovery, so before you enter a treatment facility, you need to do a little research. Look for a center that takes an active, holistic approach to substance addiction recovery and has a specialist on staff who knows how to design a program specifically for your needs.