While people with an intellectual disability are often more likely to also have an associated mental illness, (often termed a dual diagnosis) the two should not be confused. An intellectual disability is a developmental disorder and a mental illness is a mind related disorder that affects how a person feels, thinks and behaves.
There are a number of reasons why people with an intellectual disability are more likely to also experience a mental illness.
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The person may:
- Be isolated in their community
- Have low self-esteem or less control over their lives
- Not feel safe and are more likely to be bullied or to experience abuse and neglect
- Have trouble managing stress and solving daily living problems
It has also been noted that the diagnosis of an associated mental illness is often overlooked, as a person with an intellectual disability may struggle to articulate their feelings. The signs and symptoms of mental illness also may be mixed up with the behaviours associated with their disability, or masked by non-related medications.