Receiving a dual diagnosis can be difficult to accept at first, but there is hope and help available. With proper treatment, there is every reason that you or your loved one can go on to live a fulfilling life without being plagued by an addiction or by the symptoms of a mental health condition.
Dual diagnosis is when a person has both a mental health condition (such as depression, anxiety, or obsessive-compulsive disorder) and an addiction (such as alcoholism or addiction to video games). The two issues often go hand-in-hand; roughly half of all people experiencing addiction also have a mental disorder, and vice versa. As a result, it can be difficult to determine which came first, the mental health condition or the addiction. This is also called co-occurring disorder.
Thankfully, treatment options for teens and young adults with dual diagnosis are varied. However, the availability of many treatment options can make finding the right treatment feel confusing at first. Read on to find out more about co-occurring disorders, treatment, and how you or someone you love can get help with a mental health condition, addiction, or both.
Diagnosing Mental Health Disorders In Teens
While the addiction part of the dual diagnosis might be rather obvious, determining which mental health issue or issues are at play can be complicated. This is because the symptoms of substance use disorder can often mimic some of the same symptoms of mental health disorders. Substance use can also mask some of the symptoms of the mental health condition. For instance, a person suffering from clinical depression who also has an addiction to stimulants may appear energized and excitable rather than depressed.
During treatment for addiction, you can expect to be screened and evaluated for various mental health issues. Sometimes, a teen is diagnosed with one mental health issue, but afterward, a different diagnosis or even additional diagnoses may be reached. This isn’t uncommon so you want to ensure that you have the best treatment available for the co-occurring disorders you or your young adult child may have.
Here are common mental health disorders that may co-occur with substance use disorders.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in teens is a mental health disorder that may develop after a specific traumatic event. Young adults may experience trauma such as the death of a loved one, a school shooting, sexual assault, a natural disaster, or physical assault. Not only can these events be risk factors for developing PTSD, but they may also lead to a substance use disorder.
Depression is a mental health disorder characterized by long periods of sadness or hopelessness. Teenagers with depression may lose interest in their hobbies, have difficulty sleeping, and lack internal motivation. Major depressive disorder is when feelings of depression last two weeks or more. This is a mood disorder that commonly co-occurs with a substance use disorder.
Anxiety disorders include phobias, generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and social and separation anxiety. Symptoms include excessive worrying, difficulty sleeping, irrational fear, and restlessness. Drug or alcohol use can worsen symptoms of anxiety which is why these mental health disorders may occur at the same time. But anxiety disorders can also lead to substance abuse.
Teen and young adult personality disorders are conditions in which the individual has abnormal thoughts, behaviors, and perceptions. These individuals’ thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are often very different from social expectations and because of that, often cause friction with others. Some are negative behaviors or harmful behaviors toward the individual or others. Teens diagnosed with a personality disorder such as paranoid personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder, or schizoid personality disorder may develop an alcohol or drug addiction to cope with their mental health symptoms.
Bipolar disorder is a mental health disorder with symptoms of extreme mood swings. Bipolar involves periods of depression as well as mania. Many adolescents with bipolar disorder may be misdiagnosed with depression or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder ADHD) because the symptoms are similar. A teen with bipolar disorder will have unstable emotions and experience episodes of mania where they may act very immaturely, participate in high-risk, harmful behaviors, and display an unusual amount of energy despite having difficulty sleeping. They also have episodes of depression.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental health disorder characterized by excessive repeated behaviors and obsessive thoughts. Alcohol or drug use can become one of the unwanted behaviors or compulsions a teen may have. Trauma and stress can worsen symptoms of OCD or even trigger the mental disorder in the same way trauma and stress may lead to drug or alcohol addiction.
Benefits of Co-Occurring Disorders Treatment For Teens
It’s beneficial to treat mental health issues in addition to addiction because these co-occurring disorders in teens can contribute to worsening each condition. Other benefits of receiving co-occurring disorders treatment include:
Improved Mental and Physical Health
Substance use disorders have adverse effects on a teen’s health including breathing problems, damaging the heart and central nervous system, and a weakened immune system. Substance abuse is also linked to mental health conditions because undiagnosed mental illness can cause teens and adults to self-medicate with substances or destructive behaviors. When teens receive treatment for these co-occurring disorders both their mental health and physical health can be improved significantly.
Increased Recovery Success
Since a co-occurring mental health disorder may contribute to substance abuse, treating the mental disorders together reduces the risk factors each pose to the other. Teens with mental health disorders and substance use disorders are able to recover more quickly when they receive treatment for both issues. The behavioral therapies used in addiction treatment programs can help address other mental health disorders. So the treatment outcomes are much improved when young adults are treated simultaneously.
Treating only one issue when there is a case of co-occurring disorders can drastically increase the chance of a relapse. This means that if you or your teenage child has co-occurring anxiety disorders, depression, or another mental illness, choosing not to treat it will often result in a relapse of the addiction.
Co-occurring disorders treatment can help resolve the emotional and social aspects that may cause a teen or young adult to abuse drugs. When an individual can leave the treatment center with coping techniques or medication to manage both substance use and mental health disorders, their recovery will be long-term and more successful.
Treatment for Teen Co-Occurring Disorders
Treating co-occurring disorders can be tricky. It’s important to find out exactly which mental health conditions correlate with the person’s addiction. It can be impossible for a practitioner to know whether a person’s symptoms are stemming from an addiction or from a mental health condition. As a result, each patient with a dual diagnosis is a unique puzzle. With each patient, a care provider needs to ask: where should treatment start and what should it entail?
Treatment for co-occurring disorders in teens often takes longer and is more intensive than treatment for either an addiction or a mental health condition. It’s also important to remember that the individual might have more than one mental health condition. As treatment progresses, it will often become apparent that there is an additional mental health condition present.
Treatment typically takes place in a residential facility in order to provide the most immersive experience. It will include medical detoxification if the person is addicted to a substance. Intensive counseling, group therapy, and even family therapy may also be part of treatment.
Expressive arts therapies such as art therapy or equine therapy may also be incorporated into the treatment. Some peoples’ treatment might include medication, though every person’s case is unique. A professional addictions specialist will work with the individual and, in many cases, their family to create an individualized treatment plan.
The first thing that will happen when you or your teen gets treatment for co-occurring disorders is a detox from any substances. This might take place in a hospital or a rehabilitation center. There are some substances that can make detoxification very uncomfortable or even dangerous, so symptoms will be carefully monitored to keep you as comfortable as possible.
The treatment for the mental health condition or conditions outside of the addiction will vary depending on what specific condition you have. Here are some treatments that might be applicable:
You will receive counseling and therapy for your addiction treatment, and you may also have separate therapy sessions for your mental health condition. It could be cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, group therapy, family therapy, or experiential therapy-the possibilities are nearly endless. These therapies often teach coping techniques and work toward changing negative behaviors. Our residential facility often provides a wide variety of therapy options for teens and young adults.
Of course, one major lifestyle change is that you won’t be using your vice any longer. If you suffer from depression, you might be urged to spend time outdoors, exercise, and get enough sleep. These measures can help manage anxiety as well. Lifestyle changes can often help bring symptoms under control and work well when used in conjunction with other types of therapy and treatment.
A support group can help you stay accountable and share your burdens, setbacks, and progress in a non-judgmental environment. Support groups are invaluable for teens and young adults struggling with co-occurring substance use and mental disorders. They can also be helpful for those with various mental health issues as well as for those with a dual diagnosis. While having a support system of family members is essential, it’s very beneficial to receive support from their peers too.
Some substance addictions can be treated with medication. Many mental health issues can also be treated with medication. The combination of drugs you receive will be tailored to the conditions you have, your previous medical history, and other factors. Often, medication is used in conjunction with therapies, support groups, and lifestyle changes. Taking medication can help with emotional regulation and reduce mental health symptoms.
In many cases, the introduction of proper medication can make the other components of treatment more effective and achievable.
Some people have good results when alternative therapies such as yoga, meditation, relaxation techniques, and guided imagery are added to their regimens. These can often be done at home, but it is important to combine them with other treatments. You cannot treat a dual diagnosis solely by trying these alternative therapies; think of them as complementary lifestyle changes, not as treatment.
Getting Help for Dual Diagnosis at Paradigm
If you think you or your teen has co-occurring disorders, it’s important to see a primary care physician immediately. They can screen for both addictions and various mental health disorders. It’s important to remember that if you are in the throes of an addiction, it will be difficult for even a specialist to determine exactly which mental health conditions you have at the same time. So if your primary care doctor does not diagnose your mental health issue, understand that a misdiagnosis at this point is common. A specialist will be able to get to the bottom of what is ailing you once you have your addiction treatment underway.
You might need to be hospitalized to go through medical detoxification in some instances, and residential or outpatient may be necessary. Know that these steps will make your recovery process go more smoothly and can reduce the risk of a relapse. With excellent care and hard work on your part, you should have every reason to believe that you will soon be on the path to recovery.
If you suspect that you or your teen may have co-occurring mental health issues, or you have already received a diagnosis from your primary care physician, we can help. Contact Paradigm Treatment today to see how we can help you manage and overcome your co-occurring disorders with effective treatment options.