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Mental Health and Intellectual/Developmental Disability

Dual Diagnosis

If you Google dual diagnosis, you will find that the term is typically used for when an individual has a mental health diagnosis along with a substance use or abuse disorder. However, there is a whole other world of dual diagnosis: the world of mental health diagnosis and intellectual/developmental disability (IDD).

Researchers tend to agree that about one third of individuals with IDD also have a co-occurring mental illness. There are a number of factors that can lead to a dual diagnosis. One example of contributing factors is that individuals with IDD often experience increased life stressors. Children and adolescence with IDD can also have added stressors, such as increased bullying and the awareness that they are different from their typical peers. All of these stressors can lead to a symptom of mental illness such as anxiety or depression. Mental illness can disrupt a person’s mood, feelings, thinking, relationships, and can impair daily functioning.

Some symptoms of common mental health diagnoses in the IDD population include excessive reactivity and moodiness, sleeping too much or not sleeping enough, changes in appetite, and a need for instant fulfillment. It is important to remember that mental illnesses are often temporary and can be very cyclical depending on the person’s environment. There are several treatment options for mental health diagnosis including individual and group therapy, social groups, and medication. Mental health treatment does need to be adapted for individuals with dual diagnosis of IDD and mental illness, however these individuals can greatly benefit from mental health treatment.

Information adapted from Mental Health Approaches to Intellectual/Developmental Disability: A Resource for Trainers, by Robert J. Fletcher, Daniel Baker, Juanita St Croix, and Melissa Cheplic.

By: Alice Boutz, LMSW – MH Specialist

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