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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Toller

Dual Diagnosis: Identifying Symptoms and Seeking Help

Dual diagnosis, or co-occurring disorders, is a multifaceted condition where an individual experiences a mental health disorder alongside a substance use disorder. The complexity of dual diagnosis often exacerbates symptoms and complicates treatment. Nonetheless, with specialized, integrated treatment, individuals can work towards recovery and significantly improve their quality of life. This comprehensive guide will delve into the intricate nature of the dual diagnosis, how to recognize the signs, and steps for seeking essential help.



Unravelling the Layers of Dual Diagnosis


Dual diagnosis, also known as a co-occurring disorder, involves a twofold battle against mental health issues and substance abuse. These conditions often fuel each other, creating a vicious cycle. For example, an individual with depression may resort to alcohol for temporary relief. However, alcohol, being a depressant, can, in turn, aggravate the symptoms of depression.


The Canadian Mental Health Association reveals that the prevalence rates for concurrent disorders can range from 20 to 80 percent, depending on the setting. Furthermore, individuals with mental illness are more prone to addiction than the general population.



Mental Health Disorders Commonly Linked to Dual Diagnosis

Several mental health disorders frequently coexist with substance abuse in dual diagnosis:


Depression: People with depression may self-medicate with drugs or alcohol. However, substances often worsen depressive episodes.

Anxiety: Those with anxiety might use substances to relieve their symptoms. However, substance use can create a rebound effect, intensifying anxiety.

Bipolar Disorder: Individuals may use substances to control mood swings, but substances can destabilize mood further.

Schizophrenia: The symptoms of schizophrenia can be mimicked or aggravated by substance use.



Substance Use Disorders: The Second Facet of Dual Diagnosis

Substance use disorder manifests when a person's consumption of alcohol or drugs impairs health, work, school, or home life. Substances commonly implicated in dual diagnosis include:


Alcohol: A depressant that can exacerbate mental health symptoms.

Prescription Medications: Sometimes abused to self-medicate, these can have unpredictable and harmful effects.

Illegal Drugs: These range from marijuana to hard drugs like heroin or cocaine, which can severely affect mental health.



Detecting the Symptoms of Dual Diagnosis


Identifying dual diagnosis is particularly challenging due to the diverse symptoms depending on individual circumstances and the specific mental health and substance abuse disorders involved. However, there are general signs to watch for:


· Social withdrawal

· Abrupt behavioural changes

· Severe mood fluctuations

· Struggling with daily responsibilities

· Using substances in hazardous situations



Integrated Treatment: The Path to Overcoming Dual Diagnosis


Integrated treatment is pivotal for individuals with dual diagnosis as it concurrently addresses both mental health and substance use disorders. This approach often encompasses the following:


Medication Management: To stabilize mental health symptoms.

Psychotherapy: Cognitive behavioural therapy, Direct Neurofeedback and other evidence-based modalities are used to address underlying issues.

Support Groups: Peer support can be instrumental in recovery.

Lifestyle Interventions: This includes exercise, proper nutrition, and sleep hygiene.

Family Education and Therapy: To develop a supportive environment for the individual.


Working with a qualified healthcare professional with dual diagnosis expertise is crucial to devising a personalized treatment plan.



Navigating the Road to Help and Recovery


If you suspect that you or someone close to you may have a dual diagnosis, it is imperative to seek professional assistance. Here are the steps to undertake:


Consult a Healthcare Professional: Discuss your concerns with a primary care physician and ask for referrals if necessary.

Find a Specialist: Locate a registered psychotherapist or psychiatrist specializing in dual diagnosis.

Engage Fully in Treatment: Commit to the treatment plan, attend appointments, and follow professional advice.

Seek Support: Join support groups, encourage family involvement, and establish a strong support network.



Coping Strategies for Dual Diagnosis


Living with dual diagnosis is undoubtedly challenging, but employing coping strategies can significantly assist in managing symptoms:


Self-Care: Prioritize sleep, a balanced diet, and regular physical activity.

Stress-Relief Techniques: Engage in meditation, yoga, or hobbies to alleviate stress.

Build a Support Network: Connect with friends, family, and healthcare professionals for encouragement and accountability.

Stay Committed and Be Patient: Recovery is a gradual process; remain dedicated to treatment and patient with progress.



If you or a loved one is grappling with the complexities of dual diagnosis, remember that help is available, and recovery is attainable. Nōmina Wellness specializes in dual diagnosis and offers a range of personalized treatment options, including inpatient and outpatient services. Dual diagnosis is a complex condition that demands integrated treatment and a holistic approach to care. With proper intervention, support, and coping strategies, individuals can work toward recovery and vastly improve their quality of life.


Reach out to Nōmina Wellness today, and let’s explore the options that will pave the way for a healthier, more fulfilling future.

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