The thought of receiving a diagnosis of any kind can feel scary. Whether it’s for a treatable illness, a mental health disorder, or a permanent disability, an official diagnosis can carry a lot of weight. While receiving a proper diagnosis has the potential to be scary, it doesn’t have to be. A proper diagnosis is the first step in getting you the help you need.
A proper diagnosis matters because it implies that you’ll receive accurate resources and assistance. Those two things are essential to your long-term health. If you receive a misdiagnosis or aren’t diagnosed at all, it will be nearly impossible to fully heal. This is true whether you’re trying to heal from substance use disorder (SUD) or mental health conditions. You can’t heal from something that you don’t know exists.
This is similar to going to a primary care physician when you’re not feeling well. If you go in complaining of chest pains but instead they say that your leg is broken, that wouldn’t be helpful. Not only would your leg develop muscle atrophy, but your chest pain would probably persist. This could potentially turn into a life-threatening scenario, especially if your chest is hurting because you’re having a heart attack.
The same is true of SUD or mental health diagnoses. Treatment for some mental health conditions can worsen other diagnoses. For instance, according to a review in Drug Safety, tricyclic antidepressants (TCA) and monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOI) can trigger a manic episode. A proper diagnosis could save your life.
To receive a proper diagnosis, you first must be working with a clinician who knows what they’re doing. It is even more important that you work with a clinician who is specialized in the specialty that you need assistance with.
For example, it wouldn’t be reasonable to expect a pediatrician to help an adult client with schizophrenia and SUD make a full recovery. The pediatrician likely isn’t specialized in working with adults who have mental health disorder and addiction. The client would have much better luck attending residential treatment, where they meet regularly with a licensed professional counselor (LPC) who specializes in addiction medicine.
Similarly, if you are struggling with depression as a result of a traumatic event, it would be beneficial to see an LPC who is trained in administering trauma-informed care. This way, your LPC will be able to provide you with the tools you need to heal healthily from your trauma.
Another important factor in receiving a proper diagnosis can be found within the concept of whole-person health. The National Center of Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) explains, “Whole person health involves looking at the whole person—not just separate organs or body systems—and considering multiple factors that promote either health or disease.”
Whole-person health is vital to receiving a proper diagnosis. Mental health and SUDs can impact the body. For example, a person with an anxiety disorder can collapse with seemingly no cause. Alcohol use disorder (AUD) can damage vital organs. A clinician could overlook some of your symptoms in favor of others, leaving issues unaddressed. If the mind and body are treated together though, you will have a much higher likelihood of successful recovery.
Comorbidities are two or more diagnoses that coexist and influence each other. These can be physical or mental. Identifying comorbidities can be tricky because of overlapping symptoms. However, there might be a common thread between mental health disorders and SUD.
The National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) states, “It is commonly hypothesized that individuals with severe, mild, or even subclinical mental disorders may use drugs as a form of self-medication.” Furthermore, NIDA also suggests that drug use can make mental health symptoms worse or progress quicker. This can happen as a result of the substances “enhancing their rewarding effects, reducing awareness of their negative effects, or alleviating the unpleasant symptoms of the mental disorder or the side effects of the medication used to treat it.”
The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) found that mental health disorders that commonly co-occur with SUD include:
The sooner the comorbidities can be identified, the sooner proper diagnoses can be made.
Receiving individualized care is also a very important part of healing fully. Once a proper diagnosis is made, the licensed clinician can begin providing care according to your unique needs and goals. The clinician should be able to formulate a plan of care that addresses all of your comorbidities. Throughout this plan of care, the patient should be equipped with tools that will help them learn their triggers. This will hopefully result in the patient being empowered to withstand the difficulties that will come their way in recovery.
Individualized care is just that: individualized. What works for one person may not be effective for another. Keeping that in mind, clinicians often lean on evidence-based treatment techniques and then adjust accordingly once they see how their patient responds to the treatment. Some clinicians like to mix traditional techniques with other unique treatments that might benefit the patient. This is known as integrative or complementary health.
The National Center of Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) explains, “Integrative health aims for well-coordinated care among different providers and institutions by bringing conventional and complementary approaches together to care for the whole person.”
This NCCIH gives examples of mixing traditional techniques, such as psychotherapy and medication, with complementary approaches, such as yoga and acupuncture. The end goal is to create an individualized plan of care that sets the patient up for success.
Receiving a proper diagnosis is crucial to your recovery journey. That’s why at Sage Recovery, we only employ masters-level clinicians who have been extensively trained in trauma-informed care. Our clinicians have expertise in a variety of therapeutic techniques so that you can receive the individualized care and attention you deserve. We believe that there are multiple pathways to recovery, and we’re here to help you find the most effective ways to heal healthily. When you decide to take the first step towards healing, reach out to us at (512) 306-1394. Our compassionate, friendly staff is waiting to walk alongside you as you begin your healing journey. We’re here whenever you’re ready.