Suffering from addiction or a mental health disorder is a very complicated and nuanced ordeal. A number of personalized coping strategies are needed for each individual’s unique situation. Dual diagnosis can further complicate one’s circumstances. It can prompt the need to further personalize and address one’s specific symptoms, mindset, and the interplay between addiction and mental health disorders.
However, a dual diagnosis can still be effectively addressed and overcome despite being a complicated situation. It is necessary to take a personalized approach to best understand one’s unique diagnoses, needs, and hurdles when creating a plan for a healthier and transformed lifestyle.
What Is Dual Diagnosis?
Dual diagnosis is not a single kind of diagnosis. Rather, dual diagnosis implies that an individual has been officially diagnosed with a substance abuse disorder or addiction as well as a mental health disorder. Each of one’s diagnoses affects them simultaneously. This means that one’s dual diagnosis may not reflect the same situation as their peers. However, it does not mean that any single instance of dual diagnosis is better or worse than another’s. All require intricate and personalized attention to address each situation.
For some, dual diagnosis may manifest as an addiction to heroin while also being clinically diagnosed with depression or anxiety. Others may suffer from an alcohol addiction alongside the development of bipolar disorder. In some cases, individuals can experience dual diagnosis as a result of post-traumatic stress disorder and an addiction to opiates used as a coping strategy.
Any kind of mental health disorder—from anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, panic, bipolar disorder, and more—can be affected by one’s substance use. One’s substance use can continue to augment the effects of a mental health disorder. Without professional recovery, this can create a difficult cycle to address.
Identifying Various Symptoms
Dual diagnosis is a very personal combination of unique symptoms, making it can be difficult to determine specific symptoms that apply to all circumstances. However, being vigilant to identify overall changes can indicate there is a need to seek professional help, or that an individual may be coping with multiple stressors simultaneously. Some things to look for include:
Sudden changes in social outings, resulting in isolation or disinterest in previous hobby groups
Difficulty maintaining employment or inconsistent attendance at work
Pervasive and consistent feelings of worry, panic, or confusion
An increase in risky behaviors
Sudden changes in overall mood
Inability to maintain daily responsibilities
Compromised hygiene routine or eating schedule
Difficulty maintaining meaningful relationships
These are only a few ways in which an individual may present multiple complications at once. An individual’s unique combination of diagnoses can make it difficult to determine how many diagnoses they may be suffering from without the trained eye of a professional to guide them. Educating oneself about a loved one’s diagnosis can help determine if their symptoms are the result of a diagnosis, or if there may be additional hurdles in their recovery.
The Cyclic Nature of Dual Diagnosis
Suffering from a dual diagnosis of any kind can create a complicated recovery path. However, recovery is always possible, even if an individual may need to plan their recovery journey in a unique way. Those suffering from a dual diagnosis will need to address their recovery on all fronts in order to create the best approach to a sustained and effective recovery.
Those suffering from dual diagnosis may find that their substance abuse disorders and mental health disorders can continue to impact each other. For example, one’s anxiety disorder can make it very difficult to manage their coping strategies when dealing with urges to reengage with cocaine. This may make it easier to begin using the addictive substance again. Likewise, one’s use of a drug can also increase one’s debilitating feelings of anxiety.
Addressing one’s use of drugs without addressing one’s anxiety disorder can lead to a very difficult and fragile recovery if there are no strategies in place to quell feelings of anxiety. This can increase the chances of relapse, just as addressing one’s anxiety without confronting the role that drug use has played can make many coping strategies difficult to employ. Anxiety then may continue to affect one’s life.
Taking the First Step
Creating a comprehensive approach to addressing all aspects of one’s dual diagnosis is paramount in effectively developing a sustainable recovery plan. The use of specialized, personalized programs can help an individual address all of their diagnoses simultaneously. It can also educate them on the unique way in which their diagnoses affect each other in their daily life.
Finding the right program and peers is necessary to address dual diagnosis effectively. Having professionals who are prepared to explain and educate about the interplay of one’s situation is necessary for sustained sobriety and a transformed lifestyle. Acknowledging one’s additional needs and making a call is the first step in exercising agency and taking control of one’s own life in addressing the difficult world of dual diagnosis.