You can't find depression on an X-Ray and there's no blood test for bi-polar.
Attaining a correct diagnosis of the psychiatric illness compounding an addiction challenge is essential for any hope of a successful recovery. It's also very difficult – so complex in fact that mental health challenges are routinely incorrectly diagnosed by medical professionals (and incorrectly medicated as a result) and so complex that family alone should not attempt to make a diagnosis-even informally-without professional help.
A Dual Diagnosis Is Complex
Drug and alcohol use create certain neuro chemical imbalances that can manifest quite similarly to certain psychiatric disorders, drug and alcohol use can induce a psychiatric illness, and an existing psychiatric illness can induce alcohol or drug abuse as a form of self medication.
With the advent of the internet and an increasing pop culture awareness of mental illness, there can be a tendency for loved ones to attempt to diagnose certain behavioral traits, and even take certain treatment steps assuming a correct diagnosis, yet the complexity of making a correct diagnosis discludes laypeople from correctly determining the real extent of the situation. Even seasoned psychiatric health professionals struggle to accurately diagnose these difficulty measured challenges, and with limited diagnostics testing available, the diagnosis in many cases falls to the experience and observations of a multi disciplinary team working in concert.
Get a Professional Diagnosis
If you or a family member struggles with psychiatric challenges concurrently with addiction, make sure you get a professional diagnosis. Addiction and mental health issues are strongly interrelated, and a dual diagnosis is very common - and very under diagnosed. If you or a loved one is suffering from an addiction to drugs or alcohol, it can be beneficial to seek out some preliminary professional therapy prior to selecting a treatment location, to ensure that you get a preliminary diagnosis and to ensure that the treatment facility you select for your care is well equipped to handle your mental health needs.
An accurate diagnosis, although complex, greatly accelerates treatment, and guards greatly against relapse. Neither condition (addiction or mental health issues) can be treated in isolation for any likelihood of long term success and sobriety. Get help, get a diagnosis and start getting the treatment needed to start getting better.
Page last updated Sep 12, 2010