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Dual Diagnosis: Mental Health & Addiction

The presence of a psychiatric ailment along with Addiction to Alcohol and Drugs is termed as Dual Diagnosis.

A person under the influence of a substance behaves many times in such a manner that it seems as though he is suffering from a psychiatric illnesses like bipolar disorder or psychosis. Several times during withdrawals the hallucinations and delusions might make it even seem so. Many a person addicted to substances have been misdiagnosed as manic depressive or bipolar or psychotic or schizophrenic. They have been put on psychiatric medications too. As addictive nature goes some of them consume the medications along with their substance of choice thereby eventually getting addicted to the prescribed medication as well.

Mood disorders and alcohol/drug problems are both treatable illnesses. They are not moral weaknesses or character flaws. They can affect anyone, regardless of age, ethnicity or economic background. Studies have shown that more than half of the people who have depression or bipolar disorder also use alcohol and/or drugs.



Symptoms of Mood Disorders

Being knowledgeable about the signs of mood disorders can help to decide the right treatment for the addicted individual. This condition can’t be analyzed alone, only a health care professional can diagnose and treat a mood disorder. When a person’s mood switches between depression and mania, it is called bipolar disorder (also known as manic depression).

Symptoms of Depression

If any individual have more than five of these symptoms, including feelings of sadness or loss of interest or pleasure, then the person might have crucial clinical depression and should seek professional help immediately.

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If any individual have more than five of these symptoms, including feelings of sadness or loss of interest or pleasure, then the person might have crucial clinical depression and should seek professional help immediately.

  • Sad feeling, crying a lot
  • Change in appetite and sleep patterns
  • Irritability
  • Anger
  • Worry
  • Anxiety
  • Pessimism
  • Loss of energy & constant exhaustion
  • Body aches and pains
  • Feelings of guilt and hopelessness
  • Cognitive Problem (decision making or concentrating)
  • Recurring thoughts of death or suicide

Symptoms of Mania

If a person is experiencing more than three of these symptoms, including an unusually irritable mood for a week or more, then

  • Heightened physical and mental activity
  • Extreme self-confidence
  • Ambitious thoughts
  • Extreme self-importance
  • Irritability
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Decreased sleep period
  • Tiredness
  • Speeding speech and thoughts
  • Impulsiveness
  • Poor judgment
  • Reckless behavior
  • Sexual promiscuity

In severe cases, delusions (thinking things that aren’t true) and hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that don’t exist)

The person afflicted by addiction behaves like any other normal individual once the effect of the substance is off from his body and brain. On the contrary that of a mentally ill person would not recover even after the withdrawals of a substance subsided.


However, the possibility of a Psychiatric ailment occurring in concurrence to Addiction to substances is a reality. At times the person is already suffering from a mental ailment and at other times the mental ailment is induced by the substance usage and surfaces after the withdrawals are over.

Treatment for Dual Diagnosis

Treatment of Dual diagnosis occurs when psychiatry and addiction treatment work in continuum. Professionals, specially trained to treat the diagnosis of mental ailment and addiction are required.

Meditation has been shown to play a major role in aiding the person afflicted to be more aware of addictive thought processes along with one to one counseling and group therapy progress can be made.

The Integrated Dual Disorder Treatment (IDDT) model is an evidence-based practice that improves the quality of life for people with co-occurring severe mental illness and substance use disorders by combining substance abuse services with mental health services. It helps people address both disorders at the same time—in the same service organization by the same team of treatment providers.

The care givers and family require co-dependency counseling too. Thus, dual diagnosis requires handling with a lot of patience, compassion and expertise and every chance at living life to the fullest without finding the need to use any substance.

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