From: Mark Jacobson
Dual diagnosis is a term for when someone experiences a mental illness and a substance abuse problem simultaneously. Dual diagnosis is a very broad category. It can range from someone developing mild depression because of binge drinking, to someone’s symptoms of bipolar disorder becoming more severe when that person abuses heroin during periods of mania.
Either substance abuse or mental illness can develop first. A person experiencing a mental health condition may turn to drugs and/or alcohol as a form of self-medication to improve the troubling mental health symptoms they experience. Research shows though that drugs and/or alcohol only make the symptoms of mental health conditions worse.
Abusing substances can also lead to mental health problems because of the effects drugs have on a person’s mood, thoughts, brain chemistry, and behavior.
About a third of all people experiencing mental health illness and about half of the people living with severe mental illness also experience substance abuse. These statistics are mirrored in the substance abuse community, when about a third of all alcohol abusers and more than half of all drug users report experiencing a mental illness.
Men are more likely to develop a co-occurring disorder than women. Other people who have a particularly high risk of dual diagnosis include individuals of lower socioeconomic status, military veterans, and people with more general medical illnesses.
Because there are so many combinations of disorders that can occur, the symptoms of dual diagnosis vary widely. The symptoms of substance abuse include:
• Withdrawal from friends and family
• Sudden changes in behavior
• Using substances under dangerous conditions
• Engaging in risky behaviors when drunk or high
• Loss of control over use of substances
• Doing things you wouldn’t normally do to maintain your habit
• Developing tolerance and withdrawal symptoms
• Feeling like you need the drug to be able to function
The symptoms of a mental health condition also vary greatly. Knowing the warning signs, such as extreme mood changes, confused thinking or problems concentrating, avoiding friends and social activities, and thoughts of suicide can help identify if there is a reason to seek help.
Get help for a dual diagnosis. If you, or someone you know is struggling with a co-occurring disorder, don’t wait to get help. Qualified treatment centers across the U.S. can help treat the substance and mental health issues in your life. Get help with a dual diagnosis now, before it is too late.
In the Winona area, there is a Dual Recovery Anonymous group that meets every Saturday at 1 p.m. at the Peer Support Network (PSN Building)located at 122 West Second Street. Anyone dealing with mental health and/or substance abuse issues are welcome to attend.