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Frequent flyer syndrome more common in patients with dual diagnosis

Frequent flyer syndrome more common in patients with dual diagnosis

In the annals of mental health and substance use disorders, there is a term for those who are in and out of emergency rooms (ERs) and jails – frequent flyers (FFs). Unlike hypochondriacs who believe they are always sick and visit an emergency department to be diagnosed for non-existent illness, FFs might visit hospitals for genuine concerns. Unfortunately, medical personnel exhibit lack of concern and contempt while dealing with patients with the frequent flyer syndrome. Statistically, patients with comorbid disorders such as mental illness and substance abuse are more likely to visit ERs multiple times in a year and exhibit the FF syndrome as opposed to someone who has either a mental illness nor a substance use disorder. 

It is also common that relatives of patients dump them in correctional centers and emergency departments when they find that they cannot take care of the patient anymore. Hospital staff recount that in many instances patients who are brought to the ward in a state of hysteria are forced to sit without medical attention due to paucity of time and resources. Although psychological ailments are as debilitating as physiological disorders, they do not receive adequate attention. Patients with a physiological disorder are given more attention while in case of mental disorders, the health care authorities sit by complacently. Though a single medication might be enough to suppress the discomfort, the patients are allowed to suffer in silence.

Challenges of dual diagnosis

The existence of substance abuse and mental disorder poses a challenge for treatment providers as it is difficult to diagnose which caused the other. Some patients are also less likely to respond to treatment and have noncompliance issues. Unfortunately, it has been observed that patients with a co-occurring disorder, in particular those who are labeled as FFs, are treated with derision every time they enter the hospital premises for treatment. They are ridiculed as attention seekers and liars. In addition, every time the airplane icon appears on the computer screen, health authorities grow slack. This, however, can be extremely critical because of the following reasons:

Diagnostic overshadowing: This arises when the existence of a mental disorder eclipses other conditions including substance abuse.

Lack of empathy in treatment: Patients who are regular visitors to emergency rooms are dubbed as attention seekers. It is a common practice for doctors to attend to them after they have looked at other patients. Their pain is not taken seriously even if it arises out of a genuine physiological condition. This can prove to be fatal.

Stigma and bias: The lack of concern towards those in need boosts stigma. It reveals that despite the advancement in science and technology mental illnesses are still looked at with a prejudiced eye.

Signs of substance abuse problem in mentally ill: Medical authorities are not sufficiently observant about the signs of substance abuse which could be in existence along with the mental disorder. Leaving one condition undiagnosed, untreated or undertreated can worsen both the problems. Ironically, patients who visit ERs with hope to get better leave in a worse condition.

Road to recovery

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) report reveals that in 2016, 8.2 million adults suffered from dual diagnosis, an increase from 2.6 million adults in the past year. As the symptoms are overlapping, the best way to treat co-occurring disorders is an integrated approach that addresses both the conditions simultaneously. The treatment cannot be uniform for all patients but detoxification, inpatient rehabilitation and self-help strategies can be effective.

If you or your loved one is grappling with a dual diagnosis condition, it is advisable to seek help at the earliest before matters go out of hand. The Florida Dual Diagnosis Helpline can assist you in finding the best dual diagnosis treatment centers in Florida that specialize in delivering evidence-based intervention plans. Call our 24/7 helpline (866) 337-7631 or chat online with a specialist to know more.