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Dual diagnosis is a term used to describe the situation where a person abuses alcohol whilst also suffering from a mental health issue. The term was first coined in the 1980s. For alcoholism, this co-occurring mental health issue is commonly anxiety or depression. If you suspect you suffer from a dual diagnosis, then it’s important to seek out specialist treatment where the alcoholism and co-occurring mental health issue are treated at the same time.

It’s important to note that dual diagnosis is not limited to alcoholism. You may be addicted to any substance or behaviour in conjunction with a mental health issue in order to qualify as a dual diagnosis patient.

Treating dual diagnosis when alcoholism is concerned

Before your alcoholism treatment begins, you will be assessed by a doctor. This doctor will diagnose the existence of a co-occurring mental health issue. Doing so allows the doctor to tailor your rehab treatment to your specific needs. The doctor will determine whether your addiction contributed to your mental health issue or vice versa. Generally speaking, the existence of a co-occurring mental health issue requires more complex and lengthier rehab treatment. Please know that commitment and effort is required if you wish to make a full recovery from both disorders.

Learning about alcohol disorders

Understanding the science behind alcohol disorders allows therapists and doctors to prepare highly effective treatments for dual diagnosis patients. Alcoholism is a disease that affects the brain. Mental health problems also emanate from the brain. Thus, both disorders that make up dual diagnosis disorders emanate from the brain. This knowledge allows medical practitioners, counsellors, and therapists to work together in formulating highly effective and evidence-based treatments for dual diagnosis patients.

Treating both mental health problems and dual diagnosis together

When you begin addiction treatment either at a residential alcohol rehab clinic or an outpatient treatment provider, it’s vitally important that you are assessed. This assessment will help determine whether or not you are experiencing symptoms of a dual diagnosis. If it’s deemed you are suffering from a dual diagnosis illness, then treatment will be designed so that both problems are addressed simultaneously. This treatment plan will help you achieve both long-term recovery and also include mental health management advice.

Be cautious when selecting a suitable alcohol rehab clinic. Not all rehab clinics will specialise in treating dual diagnosis clients. When you contact Rehab 4 Addiction on 0800 140 4690, our advisors will inform you of local rehabs in your area that are able to effectively treat dual diagnosis issues.

During therapy sessions, the aim will be to uncover the underlying causes of your mental health issues. The cause may be attributed to a single or range of traumatic events in your past. Diffusing these past events is complicated, and many rehab clinics employ talented and highly sought-after therapists to help you deal with these issues effectively. This may require you to face up to traumatic experiences that occurred many years in the past.

When you are initially assessed, the medical practitioner will also attempt to determine which of the two disorders arose first. You may discover that you began to drink to self-medicate symptoms of anxiety or depression. Alternatively, your mental health issue may have only arisen after you began to become addicted to alcohol.

It’s worth noting that up to 50% of people with mental health issues also suffer from alcoholism or some form of addiction. This means duel diagnosis is highly prevalent amongst people seeking out addiction treatment. From our own personal experience here at Rehab 4 Addiction, we feel this figure could be even higher. From our records, over 75% of our callers over a three-year period who were seeking alcohol rehab treatment had been prescribed medications by their GP for mental health problems.

The signs of dual diagnosis disorders

The signs and symptoms of dual diagnosis disorders differ dramatically between sufferers. This is one reason why it is so vitally important to receive tailored treatment. If treatment is generic or poorly customised to your needs, then the likelihood of you remaining drug or alcohol-free is dramatically weakened. The nature of dual diagnosis’ signs and symptoms will also vary depending upon the specific type of types of mental health issues you are experiencing.

Depression/anxiety and alcoholism

If you suffer from depression and alcoholism, it’s likely your drinking is a symptom of your depression. Put simply, you drink to drown your sorrows. If you suffer from anxiety and alcoholism, it’s possible your anxiety did not fully develop until after you became addicted to alcohol. You may even begin to believe your drinking soothes the symptoms of your anxiety, even though it is actually making it much worse. This vicious cycle may only be broken when you embrace absolute abstinence.

Bipolar disorder and alcoholism

Alcoholism may co-occur with bipolar disorder. This disorder is characterised by extreme mood swings. Bipolar disorder is also termed ‘manic-depression.’ It’s vitally important this syndrome is diagnosed and treated without delay when it co-occurs with alcoholism. This is because those who suffer from this form of dual diagnosis disorders are known to exhibit violent behaviour and act on suicidal thoughts.

Borderline personality disorder and alcoholism

Borderline personality disorder is characterised by emotional pain and fear. Sufferers attempt to mask this fear and pain by behaving over-dramatically, often manipulating others in the process. Alcoholism is known to severely aggravate the symptoms of borderline personality disorder. For instance, sufferers are more likely to suffer severe depression and to become violent towards others.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder and alcoholism

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a form of anxiety. OCD is characterised by obsessive and repetitive behaviours. Alcoholism is known to aggravate the symptoms of OCD, meaning its symptoms become more pronounced. This will interfere with sufferers’ ability to carry out their job or their responsibilities at home. It’s also possible for OCD sufferers to turn to alcohol to self-medicate the symptoms of OCD.

Suicidal ideation and alcoholism

Since alcohol is a depressant, there is a strong causal link between alcoholism and suicidal ideation. At Rehab 4 Addiction, around 70% of our callers seeking alcohol rehab state they have considered taking their own lives. Fortunately, the vast majority of these people do not act upon these thoughts. Having suicidal thoughts is not considered a mental illness in and of itself. Instead, it is considered a symptom of an underlying disorder such as depression or anxiety.

Making the correct diagnosis

It may be difficult for the doctor to diagnose the correct mental health issue that’s co-occurring with your addiction to alcohol or drugs during the first initial assessment. When you attend a rehab clinic, it may not become clear which particular mental health problem you are experiencing until you have attended several therapy sessions.

Choosing an effective treatment programme

When you contact Rehab 4 Addiction, we conduct a short assessment. During this assessment, we determine the possibility that you could be suffering from a dual diagnosis disorder. In many cases, your co-occurring mental health problem will have already been diagnosed by your GP or an NHS mental health department. This is particularly the case if you suffer from a common mental health problem such as anxiety or depression.

It’s possible that you may be suffering from an undiagnosed mental health problem. If this is the case, it’s likely you will not fully understand the severity and nature of your disorder until you have completed your rehab programme. However, we nevertheless attempt to determine the existence of possible mental health problems so that we may direct you to the rehab clinics that are suitable for treating your issues.

Most rehab clinics we recommend are able to offer flexible and highly modifiable treatment plans to suit your needs. The aim will be to treat the alcoholism or drug addiction simultaneously. Neglecting to do so will mean your recovery is likely to be short-lived once you are discharged from the rehab clinic’s care.

What are my treatment options?

It’s best to seek out treatment as soon as you recognise the symptoms of alcoholism. Delaying your treatment could be fatal. Many people die from alcoholism unexpectedly. You underestimate the dangers of drinking excessive amounts of alcohol at your peril. Many people inflicted with alcoholism delay treatment until they have hit rock-bottom. This practice is positively dangerous and should be avoided at all costs.

Instead, seek out addiction treatment before it is too late. If you feel you cannot control your drinking, then now is the time to seek out treatment. You can discover your drinking options by contacting our free helpline today on 0800 140 4690.

Your treatment needs are best served at an inpatient alcohol rehab clinic. You will be able to continue your treatment over a longer period of time via an outpatient programme. The amount of time you require in a residential clinic is dictated by the severity of your addiction and any possible dual-diagnosis issues you are experiencing.