Dual Diagnosis: a Different Approach to Recovery

DeAnna Jordan

Addiction rears its ugly head in many different forms -- from the debilitating physical effects to the underlying emotional pain it can cause. It leaves scars much deeper than those visible to the naked eye, sometimes amplifying something much deeper that was already present.

Dual diagnosis, the term for when someone experiences a mental illness and a substance abuse problem simultaneously, is a relatively new innovation that came about in the 1990s. You may ask why treating both is so important. Prior to dual diagnosis and its existence, clients were often denied treatment for a mental illness until they sought help for their addiction. What's important to understand is that either a substance abuse issue or mental issue can arise first -- a person with a preexisting mental health condition may turn to drugs or alcohol as a form of self-medication, worsening the symptoms of their existing mental health condition.

It's important to also remember that mood disorders and substance abuse are not a weakness or character flaw; mental health issues and substance abuse are both treatable.

According to the 2011 U.S.A. National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 17.5 percent of adults with a mental illness had a co-occurring substance abuse disorder, working out to roughly 7.98 million people in the United States. As this number continues to grow, it becomes important, now more than ever, to find new and innovative ways to treat those who need it the most.

[See: 7 Health Risks of Binge Drinking You Can't Ignore.]

Why Dual Diagnosis?

For those struggling with a mental health issue, dual diagnosis blends equal parts mental health care and substance abuse treatment into one tailored approach to recovery. However, finding the right clinic makes not only the treatment more effective, but also increases the chances of achieving a full recovery. At New Method Wellness, each dual diagnosis treatment plan is different, as each client needs an individualized treatment plan for best results of a long-lasting recovery. Once a patient's mental illness has been identified by our on-staff psychiatrist, a therapist is notified and a plan is determined based on initial information provided by the client during his or her intake process.

[See: How to Find the Best Mental Health Professional for You.]

How Do I Know if I or My Loved One Needs Dual Diagnosis?

Dual diagnosis comes in all shapes and sizes, and like most recovery plans, there is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to addressing mental health issues concurrent with substance abuse. Below is a list of symptoms that are used to determine whether or not you or your loved one are a dual diagnosis candidate for treatment. The signs of a dual diagnosis patient can include, but are not limited, to the following:

-- Feeling sad

-- Major changes in appetite and sleep patterns

-- Irritability, anger and rage (often seen in sporadic or random patterns)

-- Increased worry and anxiety on a daily basis

-- Increased pessimism or indifference

-- Loss of energy or constant exhaustion

-- Isolation and lack of motivation for once enjoyed activities

-- Recurring thoughts of death or suicide

-- Feelings of guilt or worthlessness

-- Unexplained aches and pains

-- Inability to concentrate or make decisions

Finding yourself or your loved one identifying with three or more of the above could mean that a dual diagnosis treatment may be needed.

[See: 14 Ways Alcohol Affects the Aging Process.]

The Need for Treatment

Unfortunately for most, denial can be a common behavior for those struggling to come to terms with their addiction. As drug and alcohol abuse become more and more prevalent in an addict's life, masking the pain of mental illness may seem like the easiest and only way to cope. It's important to understand that you or your loved one is not alone; getting back on the road to recovery requires hope, trust and support. Finding the right treatment center, coupled with the reliance on members of your support group, can make rehabilitation a life-changing and rewarding experience.

DeAnna Jordan is the clinical director at New Method Wellness, a substance abuse treatment center in Orange Country, California. Jordan has over 20 years of experience working with clients in recovery and is a marriage and family therapist specializing in the maintenance of healthy relationships. As a recovering addict, Jordan brings a breadth of personal recovery experience to her clinical leadership and believes a comfortable, structured and supportive environment is an essential part of maintaining long-term sobriety. In addition to her passion for recovery, Jordan is extremely involved in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. As a current Woman of the Year candidate, Jordan is campaigning to raise funds for LLS blood cancer research in honor of local children who are blood cancer survivors.