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What is Dual Diagnosis?

Co-occurring disorder is a medical term used to describe the presence of two or more mental disorders at the same time, such as a person struggling with substance abuse and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Other common co-occurring disorders are cocaine and major depression, alcoholism and panic disorder, and polydrug abuse and schizophrenia.

A dual diagnosis program is a treatment program wherein mental illnesses along with drug and/or alcoholism are treated. A dual diagnosis program is appropriate for Individuals suffering from psychiatric, mental and emotional disorders, such as depression, anxiety, bi-polar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorders, eating disorders, and myriad other mental health issues.

There are countless variations in how co-occurring disorders affect people, as both disorders may each be mild, or one may be much more severe and require more attention the other. More than half of adults who struggle with severe mental illness also suffer from substance use disorders, which include addiction and/or abuse problems. Individuals with co-occurring disorders often require longer, more integrated treatment than those with one single disorder.

When one suffers from the aforementioned conditions, drugs or alcohol are frequently used as coping mechanisms to aid in dealing with pain, discomfort, and distress caused by these issues. Unfortunately, many individuals find themselves addicted to the drugs or alcohol that they use to cope, which presents an entirely new issue that they must now address and resolve, typically through a dual diagnosis program.

In addition, individuals with co-occurring disorders also face unique challenges, such as the double stigma involved which adds a significant amount of pressure on the person; it affects them not only in social settings but within the family as well. Another challenge is finding treatment services that can address both issues in one integrated recovery program, rather than separately. It is highly recommended by treatment professionals that individuals recovering from a co-occurring disorder address both issues together as if they were one. This is because resolving one disorder without addressing the other may lead to continual relapse, as often both disorders are interconnected. However, many rehabs do not offer these integrated treatment approaches, so the person has to go through great lengths to find suitable treatment that meet their specific needs.

Dual diagnosis is very complex and challenging to treat. Treatment in a dual diagnosis program must be completed in a comprehensive manner, addressing the mental health issues, as well as the alcohol and drug abuse issues, to ensure the best chances of success. Patients suffering from mental illness who have already gone through mainstream rehabilitation programs often tell us they have been frustrated in the past and have given up on treatment because their psychological needs have not been met.

Treatment centers for co-occurring disorders recovery specialize in treating substance addiction as well as behavioral and process addictions such as compulsive gambling, eating disorders, self-harm, shopping and sex addiction. So, these programs include the treatment of co-occurring disorders in addition to treatment of individuals diagnosed with PTSD, ADD/ADHD, mood disorders, bipolar disorder, depression and anxiety. Therapeutic treatment includes specialized addiction treatment for expectant mothers, relapse prevention program, family therapy, trauma therapy, art therapy, detox massage, yoga and aftercare programs, which are all designed to address each client’s specific needs.

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