Dual diagnosis refers to a condition whereby substance abuse and mental conditions occur simultaneously. Substance abuse can lead to mental illness, and mental illnesses can lead to substance abuse. This makes dual diagnosis a very broad topic as there is an infinite number of combinations.
For example, someone with an anxiety disorder may end up using alcohol to self-medicate. Subsequently, the condition may become severe as a result of abusing substances. Abusing cocaine can cause people with mental conditions such as bipolar to experience more severe cases of mania.
This is evident from statistics that show, half of those who abuse drugs suffer from a mental illness. One in three people with a mental problem will abuse drugs at some point.
Understanding the Interrelationship
This interrelationship between mental conditions and drug abuse forms the basis of dual diagnosis treatment. Not only does one cause the other, but they create a vicious circle that facilitates continued abuse. For example, mental illness may cause one to abuse drugs, and as the addict continues using it regularly it can aggravate the problem further.
Additionally, mental conditions tend to share the same pathways as substances that are abused often. Both alcoholism and mood disorders share the same pathways. It has also been noted that people with schizophrenia and cocaine addicts have dysfunctional pathways and dopamine activity in the brain that is more active than usual.
Dealing With Specific Gender Issues
Co-occurring disorders affect both men and women in different ways. Men are more likely afflicted with certain mental conditions such as the antisocial personality disorders. On the other hand, women are prone to mood and anxiety disorders. The rate of Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) in women is twice the rate for men.
It has also been noted that men and women deal with psychological problems differently. Men with anxiety disorders tend to externalize their emotions. They are therefore more likely to project that through noncompliant behavior through aggression and being impulsive. Women with the same disorders tend to internalize it. This often results in depression and withdrawal from the rest of the world.
Treatment for mental illnesses and co-occurring disorders is most likely going to be different for both men and women. Women tend to focus repeatedly on their emotions, therefore the treating these disorders will be more focused towards helping them develop coping skills and channel that into problem solving.
Men tend towards aggression and impulsive behavior which can be destructive. Treatment for men showing these tendencies should be focused on shaping planned actions away from destructive behaviors. This could be done through incentivizing the planned actions. If done consistently this can reverse destructive patterns and minimize or eliminate the psychological factors causing the addiction.
The underlying mental condition that causes substance abuse is not always easy to determine. Part of the problem is determining which came first. For example, a preexisting mental condition may lead a user to self-medicate with alcohol or substance abuse. On the other hand, use of alcohol or drugs may make the symptoms of a mental illness more severe.
The nature of co-occurring disorders also tends to differ between men and women. Women tend towards substance abuse after experiencing mood disorders. On the other hand, men tend towards abusing substances first before developing or worsening an existing mental disorder.
These differences between genders may be cultural as well as physiological. Therefore men can benefit from a gender-focused dual diagnosis treatment. This creates an environment where the patient feels safe. It also allows the professionals to pinpoint the psychological factors that led to addiction.
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