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What is dual diagnosis?

Statistics are readily available for how many people are impacted by either mental illnesses or substance abuse, but what about those struggling with both? The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (SAMSHA) uses the term co-occurring disorders for coexisting mental illness and substance abuse disorders.

Mental illness and substance abuse are frequently intertwined. Unfortunately, many treatment plans isolate either the symptoms of the substance abuse or the mental illness, rather than treating the whole person. Traditional recovery methodology can gloss over mental illness in favor of treating substance use disorders and vice versa.

It’s an unfortunate reality because it’s common for people with mental health issues to self-medicate with substances and develop other maladaptive coping mechanisms. For example, someone suffering from an anxiety disorder might start drinking in order to deal with their anxiety attacks. As time goes on, their drinking becomes a normal part of their daily routine until they feel they can’t function without it but their home, work, and social life are affected by their alcoholism.

At Sabino, we treat the underlying trauma behind mental illness and substance abuse. We understand the prevalence of co-occurring disorders and take a more holistic approach so each of our residents finds true, long-term healing.

What are the symptoms of co-occurring disorders?

Dual diagnosis is a very broad term that encompasses many different experiences, ranging from someone becoming depressed because of heavy drinking to someone with bipolar disorder using heroin during manic episodes. Either substance use or mental illness can develop first but many studies have shown that drugs and alcohol exacerbate the symptoms of mental illness.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), around a third of people who experience mental illness will also experience substance abuse issues. This statistic is mirrored in substance abuse and men are more likely to develop co-occurring disorders than women.

The primary characteristic of dual diagnosis is that the symptoms occur concurrently so there is a wide variation in symptoms. Some symptoms are:

  • Feeling like you need the substance in order to function.
  • Losing control of yourself while using substances.
  • Withdrawing from loved ones and social life.
  • Sudden behavioral changes.
  • Making risky choices or engaging in risky behaviors while under the influence of substances.
  • Seeking out substances despite dangerous conditions.

How to approach dual diagnosis?

Cases of co-occurring disorders are frequently complex so careful consideration is important when determining an effective treatment plan. People who are diagnosed with co-occurring disorders often have greater consequences from substance abuse, including aggressive behavior, exacerbated psychiatric symptoms, and pushback against medication.

We treat people beyond their diagnosis, including dual-diagnosis. No two people’s experience is the same and this philosophy holds true for experiences of trauma, substance abuse, and mental illness. Rather than treating someone with bipolar disorder with a template treatment plan, we look at the coping mechanisms they developed, including things like drug addiction, self-isolation, and anger. We treat the symptoms of those coping mechanisms but as with any resident at Sabino, we dig deeper and treat the trauma at the core. You’re more than a number at Sabino and we use all of the treatment modalities at our disposal to find the right plan for you.

Each co-occurring disorder is unique to the individual, which is why we spend the first week acclimating each of our residents to their surroundings. Our inpatient treatment center and programs are tailored to address each person’s mental health needs as well as their individual substance use disorder in order to identify the root trauma and issues driving the behavior. We strongly believe that there is no one treatment path in order to achieve true healing; your journey must be just as unique as you are and this is even more prevalent for co-occurring disorders or maladaptive behaviors.

It can be difficult to be diagnosed with either a mental illness or a substance abuse disorder and being diagnosed with more than one can be overwhelming. We never judge the impulse to self-medicate but it’s crucial to heal all aspects of a person and not leave anything unresolved.

We are one of the few inpatient dual diagnosis treatment centers that have designed treatment plans to address mental illness in conjunction with substance use. We don’t dismiss the root trauma of your diagnosis or only treat the symptoms, we take the time to address and dive into the roots of your dual diagnosis and what lingering trauma may be contributing to the maladaptive behaviors you developed.

What are the Next Steps?

Finding the right recovery center is crucial. Sabino Recovery is one of few residential treatment centers focused on trauma treatment, which informs how we treat co-occurring disorders. We are determined to help each of our residents identify the root cause of their substance abuse and have framed our programs to consider mental health as a key role in developing a co-occurring disorder.

We have designed a variety of different recovery modalities to help each resident achieve this. We offer psychotherapy, Neurotherapy, and naturopathy, as well as integrative therapies like yoga, adventure therapy, and equine therapy. There is truly something for everyone but most importantly, our location and therapists create a safe place for every resident to be vulnerable and find the true healing they deserve.

If you or a loved one are struggling with a co-occurring disorder, reach out to us today at 844-227-7014.