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Theories of dual diagnosis

July 21 2014 - By:

dual diagnosisWhile we at Affordable Rehab of Worcester know that the theories of dual diagnosis are an interesting and vast topic, we also realise that they can become quite complicated. That is why we have decided to give you an easy to understand rundown on what these theories entail.

Dual diagnosis is the term used when a person who has a mood disorder also has a problem substance abuse problem. There are a number of theories of dual diagnosis that explain the relationship between mental illness and substance abuse.

#1. Causality
This theory of dual diagnosis proposes that certain types of substance abuse may causally result in mental illness. An example of this theory is how the use of cannabis has been known to cause temporary and usually mild psychotic and affective experiences. However, this connection does not prove that cannabis causes psychotic disorders. Despite the large increase in the use of cannabis the rate of psychosis in general has remained fairly constant.

#2. Past exposure to psychiatric medications theory
According to this dual diagnosis theory it is suggested that exposure to psychiatric medication will change neural synapses and establish previously non-existent imbalances. In other words although it may appear that medication is working, in actual fact it is only treating a disorder caused by the medication itself.

#3. Self-medication theory
Basically put, this theory suggests that people with severe mental illnesses misuse substances in order to relieve a particular set of symptoms and offset negative by-products of antipsychotic medication.

#4. Alleviation of dysphoria theory
In simple terms one may translate this theory to the easing of anxiety. It has been commonly found that people who suffer with severe mental illness also have a negative self-image. It is suggested that this makes them vulnerable to using psychoactive substances as a means of improving their negative feelings. Interestingly the available literature of self-reported reasons substance abuse seems to support the theory that these feelings are a primary motivator for drug and alcohol misuse.

#5. Multiple risk factor theory
Multiple risk factor theory suggests that there may be shared risk factors – such as social isolation, poverty, lack of structured daily activity, and lack of adult role responsibility – which lead to substance abuse and mental illness. It also suggests that the development of psychiatric problems and substance abuse may be linked to traumatic life events.

#6. The supersensitivity theory
This theory explains why fairly low levels of substance misuse have been known to result in negative consequences for people with severe mental illness. It is proposed that people who have acute mental illness may also have biological and psychological weaknesses. These weaknesses may be caused by genetic and environmental life events and when combined with other stresses may lead to a psychiatric disorder or relapse into an existing illness. Because these people are more likely to experience negative consequences from using relatively small amounts of substances they are, what is known as, "supersensitive" to the effects of certain substances.

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