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The Importance of Dual Diagnosis Therapy for a Co-occurring Mental Health Problem

The Importance of Dual Diagnosis Therapy for a Co-occurring Mental Health Problem

About 7.7 million adults in the United States have a co-occuring mental health issue and substance use disorder, and the connection is far more than coincidence. 

The team here at Northshore Health understands all too well the relationship between mental health and substance use disorders, and our goal is to identify when there’s a dual diagnosis so that each area receives the attention it needs.

We referenced the fact that more than 7 million adults have a dual diagnosis, but this number doesn’t include the scores of adolescents who may also qualify. Whatever the final tally, we assure you that the number is high and we want to do our part to bring it down.

This means that identifying and addressing both a mental health issue and a co-occuring substance use disorder are not only important, but critical to long-lasting and successful outcomes in both areas.

A two-way street

The link between mental health and substance misuse is complex and bidirectional, and it’s often difficult to determine which came first.

For example, more than 223 million people in the US have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event, and trauma is one of the biggest risk factors when it comes to substance use disorders.

Anxiety disorders like post-traumatic stress disorder are the most common mental health issues in the United States, and many people turn to alcohol or drugs to self-medicate the anxiety. 

Making matters worse, certain prescription medications for anxiety are addictive, namely benzodiazepines, which means the treatment for an anxiety disorder can lead to a substance use disorder.

Going in the other direction, many people who develop a substance use disorder go on to struggle with mental health issues like depression and/or anxiety as a result. 

To illustrate this point, when you have a substance use disorder, it can get to the point where you experience extreme anxiety when you face withdrawal. That is why the alcoholic often experiences tremors and heart palpitations when it’s past time for a drink. As a result of this vicious cycle, the substance use disorder leads to a clinical disorder like anxiety.

Not to mention, alcohol and drug use can alter your moods and make you more vulnerable to mood disorders like depression.

Getting help for both

No matter which came first — the mental health illness or the substance use disorder — the fact is that when they co-occur, they have become intertwined. Addressing one without the other, in these cases, is only solving half a problem.

To underscore this point, we can help you detox from drugs and alcohol and stay clean, but your chances for relapse are exponentially higher if your underlying mental health issue isn’t addressed at the same time.

Our goal is to identify when there’s a potential dual diagnosis so that you can receive the best care for both. By integrating your treatments and targeting both issues, your chances for a successful outcome on both fronts is greatly increased.

If you have more questions about dual diagnoses or you’d like to determine whether you or a loved one may qualify, please contact our office in Bothell, Washington, to set up a consultation.

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