What is a Dual Diagnosis?

What is a Dual Diagnosis?
It happens often enough when someone is admitted into the hospital. They go to the emergency room for one thing, and end up leaving having found out that they had more than one problem. Someone has had a heart attack to find out that they have clogged arteries, to find out that their uncontrolled diabetes has been the underlying culprit all along. This principle is similar for someone with a dual-diagnosis. The difference being that the underlying problems involve a mental illness.

What is a dual-diagnosis? It is when one has a mental illness of some form and you throw the use of drugs into the mix. This includes illegal or recreational substances, alcohol and prescription narcotics. It is a very common observation amongst staff in facilities for those in treatment, for at least half to two-thirds of patients to smoke cigarettes. It is equally common for half of the patient population who smoke, to also use marijuana, alcohol, or cocaine.

Time and again life will provide us with problems that seem insurmountable. These problems often look too big to overcome … and when one deals with increasing levels of stress and anxiety, they may seek relief from those feelings and turn to drug use of some form to help them cope. Often those who must endure schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or depression will turn to chemical use to relieve the torment or pain that they suffer inside. It may provide a brief respite and altered perception of how they feel. For others the experience leads to increased depression, paranoia and anxiety.

Although this form of coping is self-destructive in nature it is never too late to seek professional help from a psychiatrist or counselor. Bad habits can be unlearned. Negative thinking can be pointed out and taught anew for the positive. Poor coping skills in general remedied with the incorporation of positive new ones. Prescription medications such as antidepressants or mood stabilizers may help. Such treatment would need to be discussed with a doctor to determine the best management for each individual.

Surround yourself with friends or family who can be present at appointments or just a phone call away. Keep appointments as scheduled the best you can because it is too easy to slip back into bad habits once your source of accountability is not a constant in your life. Remember when you do go for help to have your doctor or support person explain what you don’t understand each step of the way, so that you will have the best chance at a positive recovery.

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