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What Is Dual Diagnosis or Co-occurring Mean?

What Is Dual Diagnosis or Co-occurring Mean?

One of the most common diagnoses in the mental health field is dual diagnosis. For people who have a substance use disorder, there is a high chance that they have an underlying mental health disorder. 

Teens often use substances for many reasons, and sometimes they use them to cope with symptoms of an underlying mental disorder. If you are a teen or a parent of a teen with a dual diagnosis, you must seek treatment that acknowledges both diagnoses. 

What Is a Dual Diagnosis?

A person with a dual diagnosis has both a mental health disorder and a substance use disorder. You may also hear clinicians refer to them as co-occurring illnesses or comorbidity. Roughly half of the people with a mental health disorder will have a substance use problem and vice versa. Often there may be a misdiagnosis or one disorder diagnosed before the other. That could be because some symptoms are easier to identify than others, or substance use suppresses certain symptoms that would otherwise be present. 

Both disorders have their own set of symptoms that may often overlap, making it hard to find diagnoses. Both disorders can impair a person’s daily functioning and live a fulfilling life. 

What Causes Co-occurring Illnesses?

All classifications of mental health disorders and substance use disorders can co-occur. Many mental disorders are common with substance use, such as borderline personality disorder, ADHD, and schizophrenia. These mood and anxiety disorders include:

One of the most common causes of a dual diagnosis is that drugs become a coping mechanism. However, using drugs and alcohol as a coping mechanism can do more harm than good and turn substance use into addiction

Teens who engage in self-medication through substances will often consume high amounts to reach their desired effect. It can develop a high tolerance and a dependency on the drug to function through uncomfortable symptoms. Regular substance use can also lead to developing additional disorders during adulthood, thus making it much harder to overcome if they do not seek help now. 

Warning Signs of Co-occurring Disorders

Symptoms of mental health disorders and substance use are different for everyone. Self-medication is when a person uses substances to suppress or mask underlying symptoms of another disorder. While substances may cause temporary relief, the relief is short-lived and is not substantial for short or long-term health. You should be on the lookout for a few warning signs if you believe your teen is experiencing co-occurring disorders. These warning signs include: 

  • Partaking in alcohol or drugs in a social setting or when emotional
  • Sudden changes in behaviors
  • Extreme or drastic mood swings
  • Neglecting hygiene and health 
  • Social withdrawal
  • Mentions of suicide or self-harm
  • No self-awareness of behaviors
  • Physical changes
  • Sleep difficulties such as insomnia or hypersomnia
  • Difficulty with concentration or attention
  • Drop-in academic performance

Getting Help for a Dual-Diagnosis

If you or someone you love has a dual diagnosis, it is imperative that you have a treatment plan that addresses and treats both disorders. Sometimes one disorder is diagnosed before the other, and treatment may begin for that illness. Once the second diagnosis happens, your treatment plan needs reevaluation to fit the needs of both disorders. Due to the high use of substances and exacerbated mental health symptoms, seeking professional help is the best route for receiving proper treatment. 

Seek Inpatient Care 

Attending an inpatient treatment center is highly recommended for someone with co-occurring disorders because of the close level of care. When looking for a treatment center, make sure that they treat the specific addiction and mental health disorder in need. 

If you are a teen or have a child going to an addiction treatment facility and believe you may have an underlying mental health condition, make sure to get an evaluation by a pediatric psychiatrist first. Once inpatient services have begun, the detoxification process may begin for those who need it. From there, therapy services, medication, and group activities will begin once the detox and withdrawal process has started. 

Family Involvement

Family involvement is a crucial aspect of teen recovery. It can be hard knowing that your child is experiencing addiction and mental health symptoms, but getting help is their best option for living a healthy and fulfilling life. Make sure to support them as they put the hard work into sobriety and be their support system along the way. 

When deciding on which treatment center will suit your teen, the programs offered must meet all of their needs. If your teen has received a dual diagnosis, they must seek treatment for both disorders. Here at Clearfork Academy, we believe in treating not only addiction but getting to the root cause of our patient’s addiction. We offer a full detox and inpatient treatment option for our clients who need more intensive 24-hour care. We also provide outpatient and therapy services for those who do not require inpatient care. If your teen needs a safe and compassionate addiction and mental health treatment center, the time to get help is today. Our center provides a highly trained staff committed to helping our patients achieve a sober-free lifestyle. Our goal is to assist teenagers in managing their substance and mental health issues and realize their greatest potential. To learn more about our programs, call Clearfork Academy today at (888) 966-8604.

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What Is an Effective Dual Diagnosis Treatment for Teens?

Mental health and addiction

The number of adolescents diagnosed with mental health disorders and addiction is increasing. Dual diagnosis treatment is an effective way to help teens address mental health issues and substance use disorders (SUD). This comprehensive guide will help you learn how to identify your teen’s symptoms, what treatments are available, and effective dual diagnosis programs.

The Symptoms of Dual Diagnosis in Teens

The symptoms of dual diagnosis in teens can vary depending on the type and severity. Some common signs include:

  • Lack of motivation
  • Mood swings
  • Depression
  • Loss of interest in activities
  • Trouble concentrating

In addition to this list, other possible symptoms may present themselves, such as:

  • Increased drug use
  • Withdrawal from friends and family members
  • An inability to maintain healthy relationships with those around them
  • Self-harm behaviors such as cutting or scratching oneself
  • Suicide attempts or suicidal ideation
  • Your teen’s grades have been dropping off
  • Their work performance has become erratic

Common Co-Occurring Mental Disorders

The prevalence of co-occurring mental disorders and SUD among teens is becoming problematic. Over 17 percent of young people have an emotional, mental, or behavioral disorder. The most commonly diagnosed conditions are substance abuse, followed closely by anxiety disorders and depressive disorders. The risk for co-occurring mental disorders increases significantly if an individual experiences trauma or neglect during childhood. The most common co-occurring mental illness with a SUD are:

  • Bipolar Disorder: One of the most common mental disorders among adolescents is bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder causes emotional highs and lows. Some may experience symptoms related to mania or hypomania, including increased energy levels.
  • Depressive Disorders: Young people with depressive disorders may experience hopelessness, helplessness, worthlessness, and guilt. These feelings may lead to an obsession with self-harm. Depression makes it difficult for individuals to function.
  • Anxiety Disorders: This condition is the most common mental disorder in children and adolescents. Symptoms of anxiety disorders can include panic attacks, fear of social rejection, and chronic worrying. Anxiety disorders commonly co-occur with other mental health issues like depression, substance use disorder, or eating disorders.
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD):  OCD can cause teens to spend hours on activities that will bring them relief from their symptoms. However, it’s not as common as other anxiety disorders.
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): PTSD develops after a person experiences a traumatic event, such as abuse, neglect, or witnessing violence. Symptoms of PTSD include anxiety and flashbacks.

Treating a Dual Diagnosis

Teenagers with mental health issues can improve their health by seeking a qualified professional who can provide treatment options. As with all mental health conditions, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Treatment for dual diagnosis requires mental health treatment like counseling or therapy and substance use treatment like detoxification or addiction rehabilitation. Some common treatments include:

  • Intensive Inpatient treatment: Treatment at residential facilities or psychiatric hospitals provides the best option for teens with serious mental and addiction disorders. It provides care that effectively addresses both disorders. In an intensive program, teens will live onsite at a facility that has 24-hour professional support. Teens also receive individualized therapy and medication as needed. Another benefit of intensive inpatient treatment is that it provides daily structure.
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT):  CBT helps teens recognize negative thoughts and emotions that may trigger a relapse. This type of therapy can help teens build their self-esteem, improve their moods and feelings of shame. When CBT combines with dual diagnosis treatment, the effects are more impactful. This kind of treatment gives teens the tools to make positive life changes.
  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy: DBT is particularly effective for teens struggling with depression, anxiety, addiction, or borderline personality disorder. DBT focuses on teaching teens how to effectively recognize and manage their emotions to improve their behaviors.
  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR): EMDR is a popular and effective therapy for treating trauma. EMDR helps alleviate symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and trauma. EMDR therapists guide the patient through bilateral stimulation using eye movements over some sessions. The treatment helps the teen process traumatic events and any trauma-related memories.
  • Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOPs): IOPs are a treatment that aims to help teens with SUD and mental health disorders. They provide adolescents with the ability to have treatment in an outpatient setting while still pursuing other commitments. It allows adolescents to work with counselors, psychiatrists, therapists, and other specialists with more flexibility. It also includes group therapy as well as individual sessions. IOPs work in a way where your teen can practice or attend treatment on their time. IOPs generally do not last as long as residential treatment.

Co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders affect many teens across the US. Therefore, dual diagnosis treatment is vital. Dual diagnosis programs provide appropriate ways to treat teens’ co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders. At Clearfork Academy, we utilize a comprehensive approach that addresses the needs of teens with a dual diagnosis. Such programs allow teens to heal from their struggles. We accomplish this by designing a comprehensive treatment plan to help teens manage symptoms and develop healthy coping skills. Our treatment includes therapy, familial support, medication management, and intensive treatment at an inpatient psychiatric hospital or residential facility. While finding the right help for a dual diagnosis can be difficult, there is help for you and your teen. If your teen has been diagnosed with a co-occurring disorder, the time to get help is today. To learn more about our treatment programs, reach out to us today by calling (888) 966-8604.

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What Is a Dual Diagnosis?

close up of a man and his reflection in a glass wall

When a mental health and substance use disorder (SUD) co-exists, the medical and psych field refers to this as a co-occurring disorder or dual diagnosis. If a teenager has both, it requires a special set of skills and understanding to help them. Treatment for teens with ADHD, clinical depression, or anxiety often includes medication and behavioral therapy sessions to help them adjust to their new lives without substance use affecting their moods and behaviors. However, it’s not always easy to find a facility that offers these different therapies under one roof. We hope this guide will help with your research. 

Mental Illness and Substance Abuse in Teens

Notably, SUDs and mental illnesses intertwine because of overlapping factors. These factors include genetic predispositions and environmental influences like stress or trauma. These factors also vary according to the mental health disorder or SUD. For example, if someone lives with severe emotional distress or fear, they may turn to alcohol to relieve the symptoms. However, the specific symptoms of a dual diagnosis can vary widely, even within a single disorder. That is why it’s difficult to describe a standard list of symptoms. 

The following list might reflect the symptoms of co-occurring disorders:

  • Heightened irritability or anger
  • Violent or aggressive behavior
  • Disorganized thinking or inability to focus
  • Insomnia or excessive sleep
  • A lack of interest in previously enjoyed activities
  • Decreased energy
  • Resistance to work or attend school
  • Withdrawal from family and friends
  • Conduct disturbances such as an argument or fighting

Teens With Anxiety and SUD

It may seem counterintuitive, but it’s common for individuals who experience high anxiety levels to use alcohol or drugs to reduce symptoms. Some studies noted their participants believed that alcohol and drugs could help them cope. The same study also discovered that pre-teens with acute anxiety could develop a SUD during their teenage years to handle anxiety. 

Parents with teens experiencing anxiety may notice their teen withdrawing from activities they usually enjoy to avoid a panic attack or heightened anxiety. For example, they might have panic attacks while at school, so they try to avoid school.  

Teen Depression And SUD

Similar to SUD, depression stems from a blend of biological, psychological, and environmental factors. Because of the rapid changes in adolescence, teens struggle to cope as their relationships, bodies, and brains develop. Teens with depression can withdraw, which often leads to isolation and avoidance. 

Other signs of depression in teens include:

  • A persistent sense of emptiness
  • Feeling irritable or helpless
  • Fatigue or change of sleep patterns
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Changes in their weight or appetite

Teens with ADHD and SUD

Attention deficit disorder, or ADHD, is a neurobehavioral disorder that arises in children and teens. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), ADHD increases the risk of alcoholism and SUD in teens. Recent research has discovered that untreated ADHD may be the underlying cause of substance use.  

These NIDA-backed studies confirmed such a hypothesis. The studies reveal that teens who receive the right medical treatment for ADHD perform better in school, have more friends, and have a higher quality of life. Hence, they are less likely to experience depression. They are also less likely to self-medicate to treat underlying symptoms of ADHD

Additionally, prescribing stimulants reduce teens’ impulsivity and protect them from risky activities, such as experimenting with drugs. A facility specializing in dual diagnosis is better suited to assist your teen to reach a balance between sobriety and their ADHD symptoms for a better quality of life. 

Early Intervention Matters

Mental illness and substance use disorders often develop during adolescence, and people who develop problems earlier typically have a greater risk for severe problems as adults. Evidence-based interventions can help reduce the impact of risk factors. Using such interventions will reduce these mental, emotional, and behavioral problems among youth in need.

Take action now. The first step in addressing your teen’s addiction is to get them into a rehabilitation program or drug detox. Many types of rehab facilities, centers, and hospitals can help.

Our Treatment Program

Mental illness and substance abuse in teens can be very serious. But the right treatment will make all the difference. At Clearfork Academy, we offer comprehensive treatment to support parents and teenagers through the entire journey toward recovery. 

Teens in our programs take part in:

We realize that adolescents have unique needs when struggling with a dual diagnosis. Thus, our evidence-based therapies specialize in treating trauma, depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders. 

Drugs and alcohol can mask the symptoms of mental health disorders. However, when your teen stops using substances, the underlying mental health disorder often reveals itself. At Clearfork Academy, we understand that living with a co-occurring disorder is challenging. Treatment is not one-size-fits-all therefore, we will work with you to you explore all of your options for treatment that adheres to your teen’s needs. Some treatment could entail medications or counseling to address co-occurring disorders. Our team of licensed clinicians is motivated to offer your teen a therapeutic experience that addresses both conditions simultaneously. Since we specialize in teen substance abuse treatment, our treatment modalities span from adventure therapy to CBT. We dedicate ourselves to helping teens affected by dual diagnosis overcome these challenges and return to living their best life. If you and your teen currently need help, act today. To find out more, reach out to Clearfork Academy by calling us at (888) 966-8604.