Dual diagnosis is a complicated health condition that occurs when an individual struggles with a mental health disorder, such as high functioning bipolar disorder, depression or anxiety disorder, and substance abuse. It can be very challenging to navigate the complications from both issues at once and make treatment progress.
Thankfully, specialized treatments are available for those who suffer from dual diagnosis that focuses on addressing all aspects of the illness – commonly referred to as integrated treatment.
In this blog post, we’ll take a closer look at what integrated treatment entails, how it addresses dual diagnosis, and why it may potentially improve patient outcomes. Read on to learn more about how this unique option can help someone suffering from a dual diagnosis get back on track!
What is Integrated Treatment?
In the past, individuals with co-occurring disorders were prohibited from receiving mental health care due to their substance abuse issues. Due to their significant mental health problems, they have also been turned away from substance abuse treatment.
However, integrated treatment for dual diagnosis is an approach to simultaneously treating mental health disorders and addiction or substance misuse.
It involves blending evidence-based therapies such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), medication management, and experiential activities to create a comprehensive program that covers all aspects of the individual’s needs.
Integrated treatment also includes additional support, such as family therapy and individual counseling to help patients manage their mental disorders and addiction issues.
What Are Co-Occurring Disorders?
Co-occurring disorders, or dual diagnosis, refer to a situation in which an individual struggles with psychiatric disorders and addiction.
It’s essential to recognize that these two conditions often go hand-in-hand, as substance abuse can self-medicate psychological distress.
The combination of these two conditions can be tough to treat, as it’s hard for a person to progress on one issue without addressing the other.
That’s why integrated treatment is an attractive option for those struggling with dual diagnosis—it helps address both issues simultaneously.
Why is Integrated Treatment Important?
Integrated treatment for dual diagnosis is necessary because it considers the whole person, not just parts. It recognizes that mental health and addiction issues are intertwined and can’t be treated in isolation.
Integrated treatment allows for a comprehensive approach to healing, providing greater hope for long-term recovery. It also helps individuals avoid relapse, focusing on teaching coping skills and developing healthy lifestyle habits that will help keep them from returning to substance abuse.
Finally, integrated treatment is beneficial because it recognizes that mental health disorders must be addressed for an individual to recover successfully. It provides the tools necessary for sustained sobriety, such as medications, behavior modification, and supportive counseling.
The Complexities of Co-Occurring Disorders
Cocaine addiction with major depression, alcohol and poly-drug addiction with schizophrenia, episodic poly-drug misuse with borderline personality disorder, and alcohol addiction with panic disorder are some of the most prevalent co-occurring diseases. The symptoms and behaviors associated with one condition and those associated with the other can be related to these examples.
A typical pattern to observe is the co-occurrence of depressive addiction—the use of drugs to lessen the intensity of those emotions—and conditions that generate stress or other stimulating emotions. The other side of the coin is when stimulant addictions co-occur with situations that create feelings of sadness, lethargy, exhaustion, or apathy, again easing those feelings. Given that disorders with a wider variety of symptoms are more likely to co-occur with polysubstance misuse than those with just stimulants or depressants, you could anticipate this. Of course, co-occurring illnesses vary greatly, and there is no one way that they can come together.
The fact that a person’s substance use and psychiatric problems may differ in chronicity, severity, degree of functional impairment, and total disability is another detail that complicates the treatment of co-occurring diseases. For instance, someone may have intermittent, minor club drug use problems and severe bipolar illness with psychotic symptoms. Another person may have a severe alcohol use disorder and a less severe case of post-traumatic stress disorder. The severity of each condition can also change over time, as can the degree of functional impairment and level of disability.
In the US, about 8 million persons battled co-occurring disorders in 2014. To put it another way, they are pretty prevalent, but that doesn’t necessarily make them noticeable. It is simple for signs of one illness to conceal or "mask” another since co-occurring disorders contain mental and substance-use symptoms.
When a person misadapts to substance-related issues, even serious ones, substance use becomes substance abuse. One indication of a substance use disorder, for instance, is the want to continue using despite obvious health consequences, legal dangers, job loss, and other problems. It is crucial to note that continued use of illegal substances will provide a significant therapeutic challenge even when there is some debate over whether usage equates to abuse.
Biological and environmental factors frequently cause substance addiction and mental disorders. Each form of illness is a dynamic process that can vary widely in its symptom manifestation, rate of progression, and severity.
The environment, genetic predisposition, and pharmacological factors significantly influence both types of illness. In reality, depending on the circumstance, every person has a varying level of risk for various types of addiction and mental illnesses. Environmental risk, for instance, refers to the potential for specific surroundings to cause, exacerbate, or maintain certain diseases. Some persons have genetically predisposed to either or both illnesses at excessively high rates. Additionally, certain chemicals carry higher pharmacologic risks and are more likely to result in addiction and psychological issues when consumed.
Advantages of Newer Age Integrated Therapy
Integrated treatment is a relatively new approach to treating dual diagnosis and has proven highly effective.
To rehabilitate simultaneously from mental illness and drug addiction, integrated therapy is advised by SAMHSA and other national organizations that deal with psychiatric disorders and drug usage.
It offers many advantages over traditional approaches, such as:
- Quicker recovery times due to the combined therapies offered in integrated treatment
- Improved communication between mental health practitioners and addiction counselors
- A higher level of accountability for the patient
- Improved relapse prevention
- A more holistic approach to healing
The best treatments specifically designed for people with co-occurring disorders include cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), emergency management, motivational interviews, and re-occurrence avoidance. There is no ideal course of action.
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Co-Occurring disorders require an individualized approach with a customized integrated therapy solution with these several comprehensive and fundamental features:
- A comprehensive assessment of the individual’s psychological and physical health
- Individualized treatment plan with integrated therapies tailored to the patient
- Ongoing monitoring and support through all stages of recovery
- Education about addiction, mental health disorders, and lifestyle changes
- Access to medical care and psychiatric services when needed
- Supportive family counseling to encourage and promote healthy relationships
- Access to mental health services such as support groups and other resources in the community
By providing an integrated approach, individuals can better understand their underlying issues, learn how to manage their mental health and addiction struggles more effectively, and develop the skills necessary to maintain long-term sobriety and overall mental health.
Substance use and mental health issues are complex and challenging to overcome. But with the right combination of treatment, education, resources, and support, individuals can treat co-occurring disorders.
Integrated therapy is the best option for people with co-occurring disorders because it offers a comprehensive approach that addresses all aspects of their illness. This treatment provides a safe and supportive environment for individuals to gain the skills necessary for healthy recovery. With its benefits, integrated therapy is an effective way to manage mental health disorders and addiction.