Dual Diagnosis: Facts, Studies, and Other Essentials
Dual diagnosis, also known as co-occurring disorders and co-morbidity, is when an individual is experiencing both a substance use disorder and a mental health condition. A crippling state, considering that interactions between the two diseases can aggravate each other’s situation, people with dual diagnoses often find it hard to seek a viable and efficient treatment.
The link between the two disorders may often lead to hazy prevention and treatment methods. As such, dual diagnosis is considered a constantly evolving disorder type that needs further implementation of focused strategies.
History of Dual Diagnosis
The connection between mental illness and substance use disorder was established in the 1980s. As documented by the American Psychiatric Association (APA), federal health agencies and various health experts have slowly pieced together the connection between mental illness and exposure to chemical abuse. Citing that individuals diagnosed with a combination of said disorders are more likely to stay longer in hospitals.
The prolonged hospital stays by these individuals pushed the health industry and policymakers to focus on how to address this problem in an organized manner. Two areas on tackling the issue emerged: how to conceptually help these individuals and practically use resources to fix the problem.
Additionally, it has been noted that the term “dual diagnosis” may be a misnomer. There have been cases of different co-occurring disorders. Other possible combinations can be developmental disabilities and mental health disorders. Another would be psychological disadvantages and substance abuse.
Still, the dual diagnosis was used to define the said state quickly. By 1989, the dual diagnosis had been included in the Hospital and Community Psychiatry subject index. Considering the growth of individual disorders, studies on dual diagnosis continue to evolve today.
Dual Diagnosis Statistics
- 45% of individuals in the United States suffer from a dual diagnosis.
- Approximately 5 million from 24.6 million Americans with a substance abuse disorder also have a co-occurring mental illness.
- Alarmingly, 23% of homeless individuals in the United States were recorded to have co-occurring disorders.
- More than 50% of Americans with a dual diagnosis do not get any treatment for either disorder.
- From the remaining 50% who sought treatment, around 34 million individuals with dual diagnoses have been reported to seek mental health help solely.
- 12% of those who sought treatment followed through with the integrated dual diagnosis treatment that explicitly addresses both disorders.
- The remaining 2% of those who sought treatment have been reported to seek help for substance abuse solely.
- Around 17.5 million Americans age 18 and above have been recorded to have symptoms of severe mental illness.
- 4 million individuals from the mentioned 17.5 million Americans are known to be substance abusers.
- Focusing on prisons, a high prevalence of dual diagnosis exists, ranging from 18% to 56% of prisoners suffering from co-occurring disorders.
Dual Diagnosis Symptoms
It may be challenging to pinpoint a dual diagnosis due to the various symptoms attached to a single disorder. However, general warning signs can point out the possibility of dual diagnosis. Here are some of them:
- apparent neglect of one’s health and personal hygiene.
- Loss of focus in managing everyday tasks.
- A sudden shift in conventional behavior.
- Cases of cognitive impairment.
- Loss of drive in school or the workplace.
- Problems managing finances.
- Refusal to seek help.
- Suicidal behaviors.
Why Dual Diagnosis Needs to Be Approached Differently
The overlapping disorders must be identified to properly create and implement effective treatment strategies. Here are some factors that need to be seen to avoid any potential aggravation of either disease:
An individual’s genetic predisposition may be linked to substance abuse or mental health disorder.
Stress from the workplace or school may cause mental illnesses or addiction to various substances.
Abusing substances may directly create mental imbalances. A good example is psychosis, which may result from various drug cases of abuse.
The negative stigma that the public views on both mental illnesses and substance addiction can be overpowering. Social isolation may result from these opposing views, in which the afflicted individual may not be able to seek the proper treatment plan.
Solely focusing on the treatment of a single disorder may result in aggravating the other. The unwanted interactions between prescribed medication and chemical abuse may result in side effects that further damage one’s physical and mental state.
Mental Health Link
On the flip side, mental health disorders can influence substance abuse. Depression, for example, may result in experimentation with drug or alcohol consumption.
Exposure to Harmful Substances
Individuals exposed to drugs or a culture promoting substance abuse are more likely to suffer from a similar condition.