Identifying substance use or other mental disorders for accurate diagnosis
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One of the standard reference materials anyone can rely on while dealing with mental illness is the DSM-5, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. When a person looks up any classified condition, the criteria for each disorder always end with two distinct requirements: “The disturbance is not attributable to the physiological effects of a substance or another medical condition” and “the disturbance is not better explained by another mental disorder.”

In order for a clinician to make an accurate diagnosis, all other explanations for a client’s symptoms need to be ruled out first. This is because a treatment plan must adapt to the particular person’s circumstances. If other factors could affect treatment and recovery, they must also be included in the therapist’s overall strategy. This way, unexpected setbacks will not interfere with the individual’s process of restoring stability in his or her life.

The prevalence of co-occurring mental disorders and substance addictions is quite common on a national scale. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), over 8 million people had both a mental disorder and substance use disorder in 2012. This population is only a fraction of the almost 44 million people afflicted with some form of mental disorder and an additional 20.7 million suffering with substance addiction. In other words, many different people deal with many different issues, so having a way to better classify and delineate this blurred spectrum of psychological problems is necessary.

The criteria of a substance or medication-induced disorder in the DSM typically include these requirements:

  • The disorder is “predominant in the clinical picture.” This asserts that the problem at-hand is significantly distinct from other milder conditions a person might have.
  • A clinician should evaluate a patient’s history, physical state and other laboratory tests to see if the disorder’s primary symptoms developed during or soon after substance use, medicine use or during withdrawal. In addition, the substance or medication in question must also be capable of producing the symptoms of a person’s disorder.
  • Similar to how clinicians rule out other reasons for symptoms before making a diagnosis, these professionals must also rule out an actual mental disorder before deciding a drug or medication is responsible. This includes checking if the symptoms began before the individual’s substance or medication use and if the expressed problems last for a substantial period of time after stopping use.
  • None of the disorder’s features should happen during the course of delirium caused by a substance. Delirium consists of decreased awareness and confused thinking, which can cause many problems unrelated to a specific condition.
  • The last stipulation typically states that, “the disturbance causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational or other important areas of functioning,” which is in relation to the first requirement. While the condition must be unique enough to stand out from other clinical elements, it must also be serious enough to warrant treatment in the first place.

For pre-existing medical or mental conditions, the requirements above are greatly similar. Dual diagnosis screenings can be utilized to uncover additional, problematic trends in one’s thoughts, feelings and behavior. For most people, an underlying medical or mental health issue disturbs the homeostatic balance of the person’s body and mind, which leads to additional problems. In some cases, a full-blown disorder or addiction can develop. If treatment only targets one part of the problem, the hidden and unsolved side of the equation will continue to disrupt the recovery process. It is crucial to find comprehensive treatment that tackles all sides of a person’s circumstances simultaneously.

Sovereign Health Group is well versed in the language of medical and mental health realms. Understanding and pioneering key concepts like dual diagnosis and individualized plans for recovery define Sovereign’s priority for those seeking help from debilitating conditions. To learn more about our programs for treating drug and alcohol addiction, mental health disorders or co-occurring conditions, talk to a member of our team online or over the phone today.

Written by Lee Yates, Sovereign Health Group writer

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