How common is a dual diagnosis?
Local, state, and federal governments have invested billions of dollars in stemming the tide of addiction. Doctors routinely lecture their patients about the risks of drug misuse, and most children learn that one of the most punishment-worthy offenses is using drugs. Yet millions of Americans continue to try and become addicted to drugs each year.
For many, drugs offer relief from unmanageable psychological pain; in the world of addiction treatment, this phenomenon is known as a dual diagnosis.
The two issues tend to feed off of each other, which means that leaving your mental illness untreated can quickly trigger a relapse. Treating both is paramount.
Research from both the mental health and substance abuse domains has consistently revealed:
- High rates of substance abuse in individuals with psychiatric issues.
- High rates of psychiatric symptoms in individuals with substance abuse disorders.
Not sure whether you have a dual diagnosis? Here are five signs that can tell you whether it's time to seek treatment.
1. You Use Drugs to Escape Psychological Problems
If you use drugs because your life feels unbearable, you may have a mental illness.
2. You Have a History of Mental Illness
Perhaps one of the strongest indicators that you need dual diagnosis treatment is a prior history of mental illness.
Mental illness does not go away on its own, especially not without intensive mental health treatment.
If you have a previous mental health diagnosis, odds are good that diagnosis still affects your life, and therefore, plays a role in your decision to abuse drugs.
3. Trying to Quit The Drug Makes You Angry, Suicidal, or Violent
Withdrawal is tough for everyone and tends to get worse with prolonged use of drugs. Quitting drugs, though, should not make you feel hopeless or suicidal.
Anxiety, more anger than usual, and difficulty concentrating are normal. If you feel that you're losing control or can't tolerate another second, though, it's time to get help. Some common withdrawal symptoms among people with mental illness include:
- Thoughts of suicide.
- Flashbacks to or dreams of traumatic events from your past.
- Overwhelming fear.
- Aggression and hostility directed at people who have not provoked you.
The consequences of a dual-diagnosis may include:
- Poor physical health.
- Increased risk of suicide.
- Increased risk of aggression.
- Risky sexual behavior.
- Poor medication compliance.
- Legal complications and possible incarcertation.
- Difficulty in relationships.
- Difficulty maintaining occupational or financial stability.
4. Drugs Make You Feel Like Yourself
While many drug users abuse to escape everyday stressors or to experience something new, some rely on drugs to feel normal. If you're among them, you may have an underlying mental illness.
- Stimulants, like cocaine and meth, are popular among people with ADHD, depression, and seasonal affective disorder.
- Benzodiazepines, like Ativan, Xanax, and Ambien, are popular among those with anxiety disorders.
- People with symptoms of psychosis may cycle through several different varieties of drugs to alleviate symptoms.
5. Mental Illness Runs in Your Family
Mental illness tends to run in families, but the connection between mental illness and genetics isn't as clear as you might expect.
- Though researchers have found some genetic underpinnings to mental health issues, there's not a direct one-to-one correlation.
Many people who have mentally ill relatives aren't themselves mentally ill. But exposure to mental illness in childhood greatly increases your vulnerability to mental illness, even if you aren't genetically predisposed to mental illness.
- Children of mentally ill parents can learn an array of unhealthy coping skills, making them vulnerable to subsequently developing a mental illness.