In most cases, one illness will lead to the second illness. For example, someone who struggles with an eating disorder (the psychological illness) may start to abuse stimulant drugs like cocaine in an attempt to keep losing weight (the physical illness). Or alternatively, the abuse of drugs over a long term can lead to a form of mental illness due to the drugs altering the brain function and responses.
It is vital that both illnesses be treated together because one will always offset the second. If you treat only one, then the other will cause a guaranteed relapse of some sort, depending on which one isn’t treated. Finding a dual diagnosis facility to assist the patient can be the difference between a much-improved outlook on life or constant failure to have a full recovery.
The first step in treating a person with a co-occurring illness is to detox the patient in a safe environment to remove the drugs in their bodies. From there the real rehabilitation can begin in the form of counselling and programs specifically designed to suit each individual patient. Behavioural modification therapies can be useful in altering thought patterns and behaviours, assisting in the treatment of both disorders.
This means that individual treatment plans can be amended or adapted to better treat two different illnesses instead of just one. Some facilities only assist in the drug rehabilitation and then send the patient to a mental health hospital to have further treatment. But most patients prefer to look for an establishment that will treat both illnesses at the same facility.
Dual diagnosis patients are very difficult to treat because symptoms may overlap or may indicate a different problem than expected. And if not treated properly, will lead to future relapse. One patient who is treating a drug addiction only may have a long road ahead to full recovery, but a patient with a dual diagnosis may take even longer, spanning into years of therapy and treatment.
That said, many people have been successfully treated and are now living happy and productive lives. With the help of the right facility and staff and the correctly prescribed medication, a person with a dual diagnosis can look forward to living a happy life with the people they love.