Why is dual diagnosis difficult to treat?

Dual diagnosis refers to having mental illness along with addiction of any kind. Dual diagnosis is very challenging to be treated because the victim’s family cannot often differentiate if it is addiction that is causing mental illness or is it mental illness that is encouraging addiction?

In 21st century, dual diagnosis has emerged as a common occurrence in most people. The U.S. department of Health and Human Services reported in 2002 that only 12% out of 4 million victims of dual diagnosis received appropriate treatment for both conditions.

A mental health illness may manifest as depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, personality disorder, etc. whereas an addictive challenge may account for gambling, sex, alcoholism, drug addiction and other behavioural addiction. If there is presence of at least one/more mental disorders along with at least one/many addictions than this condition falls under the category of dual addiction.

The American Psychiatric Association has defined the criteria in their current version called ‘The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders’. The DSM sets the guidelines for the practitioners and clinicians to treat the patients with mental disorders. Often, an expert professional hand is needed to treat this disorder as both addiction and mental illness need to be dealt with concurrently.

What should be done to ensure full recovery?

  • An expert professional team must be approached and trusted fully to treat mental disorder and addiction together.
  • Appropriate use of psychotherapeutics such as anti-depressants drugs must be done to counter any side-effects or withdrawal symptoms.
  • A supportive approach is needed to help the victim build his self-esteem and self-confidence.
  • A collaborative approach must be followed to bring spouses, family, friends together for successful treatment of the patient.

Dual Diagnoses are very difficult to treat also because it comes in many different forms. Each patient may manifest the same disorder in different ways and the symptoms for the mental illness may also vary. Such patients with dual diagnosis come at a high-risk and may develop negative attitude towards the treatment if not handled well. The instances of suicidal tendencies and violent outburst are high and need to be handled professionally.

Reaching to professionally trained clinics or hospitals can reduce such high-risk instances and can also reduce the chances or relapse of such complicated episodes.





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