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What is Dual Diagnosis? Symptoms and Causes

The term dual diagnosis could be used for a person who suffers from any two conditions simultaneously. However, it’s more specifically used to describe cases in which a person suffers from symptoms of mental disorder combined with addiction.

That’s to say, a person who suffers from dual diagnosis has some type of mental disorder and an addiction to any substance. This implicates a wide variety of possibilities within the term dual diagnosis.

This disorder is much more common than we think. Experts estimate that around 40% of people who consume alcohol have some type of mental illness. In fact, experts estimate that this is the case in 53% of drug users.

Since this is a condition that currently affects many people, this article will explain everything you should know about dual diagnosis.

What does dual diagnosis consist of?

As we previously outlined, this term refers to a person who suffers from an addiction as well as a mental disorder.

It’s important to know that the addiction can be to either legal or illegal substances. For example, a person with dual diagnosis could be addicted to alcohol or tobacco. They’re legal and socially acceptable substances, but they have many noxious effects for those who consume them.

It can also involve drugs like amphetamines, cocaine, barbiturates, etc. In fact, the addiction can even be to certain behaviors, like sex.

Additionally, dual diagnosis can also arise from a wide range of mental disorders. A person with this disease can suffer from schizophrenia, depression, or hyperactivity disorders, among others.

Dual diagnosis encompasses a large combination of circumstances. For example, it could involve someone who has depression and an addiction to alcohol, or a person with ADD and an addiction to marijuana.

These individuals are very likely to experience social exclusion and economic problems. Additionally, the individual’s consumption of these substances makes the diagnosis and treatment of the mental disorder more difficult.

It’s important to keep in mind that the two disorders go hand in hand. The mental disorder can cause the addiction, or it can be the other way around. In fact, a number of studies confirm that the use of marijuana can trigger a psychotic break in some cases.

What are the symptoms and causes of dual diagnosis?

Bearing in mind that any mental alteration can be associated with addiction to a substance or behavior, the symptoms are highly variable. The signs and symptoms of dual diagnosis are going to depend on which type of mental disorder and what type of addiction the individual suffers from.

However, it’s true that the majority suffer a worsening of mental disorder symptoms caused by the substance abuse. The conditions we can most commonly associate with these addictive behaviors are:

  • Psychosis. This is a state in which alters the perception of reality. These individuals often suffer from delusions, which are false beliefs that have no basis in reality. They also suffer from hallucinations. That is, they see or hear things that don’t exist.
  • Personality disorders. These individuals have trouble with perception. It’s hard for them to interact with people and situations. For example, a person might be paranoid and not trust the world around them.
  • Mood disorders. We’re talking here about emotional variations. For example, we can see it in individuals who suffer periods of excessive sadness or euphoria. The main types are depression and mania.
  • Anxiety. It causes symptoms like constant nervousness and feelings of panic. This is often accompanied by sweating, tremors, and tachycardia.
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

In general, the symptoms produced by these mental disorders are accompanied by symptoms produced by the substance responsible for the addiction. Two important influencing factors are constant drug cravings and possible withdrawal symptoms.

In conclusion

Dual diagnosis is a disease that affects many people in the world. To make matters worse, obtaining a diagnosis and adequate treatment can be very complicated.

To help these individuals, first and foremost they must achieve total abstinence from the drug or addictive behavior. It’s important that they have strong family support.

Additionally, the psychological disorder needs to be stabilized. For this reason, if you believe you or a loved one are suffering from this condition, you shouldn’t hesitate to seek the help of a doctor or psychologist.

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