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Identifying the Symptoms of Dual Diagnosis and Co-Occurring Disorders

dual diagnosis symptoms

Recovery from substance abuse and drug addiction is never easy. For many teens and young adults, the healing process is especially difficult—not necessarily because of debilitating withdrawal symptoms, but because they are struggling internally, mentally, psychologically. If you or a loved one is battling a substance addiction alongside a mental health issue, it is likely that co-occurring disorders are present.

Co-occurring mental health conditions and substance abuse (formally known as dual diagnosis) affect nearly 9 million people each year. Co-occurring disorders in young men are not an uncommon diagnosis, but require very specific tailored drug treatment. Integrated dual diagnosis treatment, or drug rehab that treats mental health and substance use disorders simultaneously, is an integral aspect of the recovery process. Without this integrated treatment approach, drug users diagnosed with dual disorders can easily get caught amidst the cyclical relationship between their mental illness and their substance abuse: a detrimental deterrent that will inhibit a successful recovery.

Mental disorders can complicate the recovery process. If one gets treated for an addiction alone, he will not feel fully recovered until his mental health condition is properly treated as well. As a result, dual diagnosis must be identified, and treated, as early as possible. Yet co-occurring disorders can be hard to recognize, and as a result, are often left untreated. Only 7.4 percent of these 9 million afflicted individuals ever receive the appropriate, integrated treatment their dual disorders demand.

If you believe that you or your loved one is suffering from co-occurring disorders, it is crucial to know how to recognize the warning signs. While the symptoms of dual diagnosis are usually separate and unique from one another, to an addicted person or his loved ones, these overlapping disorders can be hard to identify. Our dual diagnosis treatment professionals at Turnbridge recommend looking first for these indicators that a co-occurring disorder is present:

  • You can’t remember the last time you felt fully satisfied with life, without the assistance of drugs or alcohol. Think back to before the drug abuse, before the drinking spun out of control, and try to evaluate how you felt at that point in your life. Was there anything challenging you, hurting you? Did you feel sad, angry, or tense? Have you ever had suicidal thoughts or experienced extreme mood swings? If you can’t think of a time in your life you were happy without drugs or alcohol, this may indicate an underlying mental health disorder. Often, individuals will “self-medicate,” and use drugs as coping mechanisms for much deeper pains. In time, however, these drugs can leave a user feeling worse than he did before.
  • You started using drugs or drinking in hopes to overcome feelings of stress, fear, and anxiety. Similarly to the previous exercise, try to think of the root of your substance use problem. Did you start using drugs so that you didn’t have to deal with difficult situations on your own? Can you comfortably attend a social gathering without drinking? Many people begin drug use to put themselves at ease, another self-coping mechanism. This case may indicate a deep-rooted anxiety disorder that will call for dual diagnosis treatment.
  • You have experienced trauma in the past. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, a history of trauma can often render the onset of co-occurring disorders. Trauma may include a history of physical or sexual abuse, witnessing a death or tragedy, or experiencing a war or disastrous event. One is especially vulnerable to a co-occurring mental health disorder when the trauma occurred in childhood or early teenage years. This is because traumatic experiences alter brain chemistry, and further force individuals to experience everyday stress as a result.
  • You have a family history of mental illnesses. If any relative of yours has experienced mental disorder-related symptoms, or has formally been diagnosed with depression, bi-polar disorder, anxiety, or addiction, you have a higher risk of developing a mental health issue. Mental illnesses often have genetic components. Therefore, all history of mental disorders within the family should be taken into consideration, in addition to their specific diagnoses, treatments, and histories of hospitalization.

If any of the above points are relevant to you or your loved one, take a closer look at the determinants of a mental illness. Common mental illnesses in teen drug users include bi-polar disorder, ADHD, schizophrenia, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, panic disorder, and anti-social personality disorder. While indicators vary illness to illness, some common symptoms of dual diagnosis include:

  • Social withdrawal: draws away from friends, family, and those who offer support
  • Appetite or weight changes
  • Angry, violent, or reckless behavior
  • Changes in sleep patterns (insomnia or excessive sleep)
  • Severe tension or worry
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Experiences delusions or hallucinations
  • Intense or prolonged feelings of despair, hopelessness, and worthlessness
  • Internal anxiety that can only be relieved by certain behaviors or rituals
  • Difficulty holding a job or upholding priorities such as work or academics
  • Trouble maintaining relationships because of behavior or mood swings
  • Dramatic shifts in moods or energy levels
  • Uses drugs and alcohol as coping mechanisms for any of the above

According to one SAMHSA report, “If one of the co-occurring disorders goes untreated, both usually get worse and additional complications often arise. The combination of disorders can result in poor response to traditional treatments and increases the risk for other serious medical problems.”

Our addiction professionals at Turnbridge suggest that you now evaluate your treatment history. Have you attended a drug treatment facility before, but felt that your recovery was incomplete? Did the substance abuse treatment fail because your mental health got in the way? If you have completed a rehabilitation program before, and could not sustain sobriety, there is a good chance that a co-occurring mental disorder was left unaddressed. This does not mean that your case is hopeless—dual diagnosis is highly treatable when properly addressed. To ensure that you receive the proper dual diagnosis treatment, call us today at 877-581-1793. We can educate you further on treating co-occurring disorders, our integrated treatment plans, and how to decide if dual diagnosis treatment is right for you.