Dual Diagnosis Explained

Dual diagnosis occurs quite often in people with substance use disorders. So what is a dual diagnosis? Dual diagnosis is the medical term for an addiction that occurs with another mental health condition. Since addiction is in the family of mental health disorders, it’s unsurprising that it often exists with other mental difficulties. Addiction on its own is already challenging to treat and manage. Addiction with another mental condition is especially complicated. Nevertheless, recent research has resulted in better treatment options for people who receive a dual diagnosis.

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Mental Illness and Addiction

What is Dual Diagnosis?


Dual diagnosis are the words used when a person has a mood disorder like depression or even a bipolar disorder and an addiction to alcohol and/or drugs. We will focus on the dual diagnosis combination of mental health illness and addiction. An addict who has a dual diagnosis has two separate illnesses, and each one of these problems needs its own separate treatment plan.


To be clear, alcohol and drug addictions are classified as mental health disorders. They may occur alongside any other mental illness, but the most common mental illnesses in a dual diagnosis are:


  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Personality disorders

If you have an addiction and also struggle with extreme sadness, anger, fear, tension, or mood swings, you may be able to get a dual diagnosis from a doctor or a psychologist. Getting an official dual diagnosis means that you can seek treatment that will address both of your conditions.


What Causes a Dual Diagnosis?


  • Family history of substance abuse or addiction.
  • Family history of mental illness.
  • Prenatal exposure to certain drugs, toxins, and viruses.
  • Gender (men are more likely to require treatment.

About 7.9 million people in the US deal with addiction alongside another mental illness.

Read More About Mental Illness

Finding the Right Treatment

When a person has an addiction and another mental health condition, those two illnesses can feed each other.


Either illness can show up first, but one often leads to the other. For example, an addiction to alcohol might exacerbate depression in somebody who has a history of depressed moods. That depression might lead the person to self-medicate with more alcohol, kicking off a vicious cycle.


Because these conditions impact one another, it’s important to get treatment for both, not just one or the other. Before the 1990’s, mental health experts used a sequential method of treatment, i.e. treating the addiction before treating the other mental health condition. However, because the mental health conditions often made the addictions worse, the lack of mental health treatment often meant that the addiction treatment wasn’t successful either. Far too few people received adequate help. Today, mental health professionals generally understand that the most effective treatments address both conditions at the same time.


However, many aspects of treatment for dual diagnosis will look similar to treatment for a singular diagnosis. For example, in most cases at many drug rehab centers, treatment begins with detox. With some drugs, the individual can safely detox from the substances at home. With other drugs, such as alcohol, benzodiazepines, and opioids, the individual should detox in a medical facility to avoid health problems or relapse.

If you might have an addiction, with or without another mental health condition, get help with Rehab Info. Call us at 800-492-QUIT today.

After detox, people seeking treatment for a dual diagnosis should participate in a rehab program with staff members who understand how to treat both conditions. Some rehab facilities specialize in treating dual diagnoses, and these facilities provide the best choice. When staff members don’t understand how to treat a dual diagnosis, patients may not receive effective treatment. Treatment for people with dual diagnoses often includes medication such as antidepressants. These medications are generally non-addictive and can add to the effectiveness of the treatment plan.


If you receive a dual diagnosis, please understand that your treatment, including your time in rehab, will likely be longer and more intensive than it would have been if you’d had a singular diagnosis. Have patience with yourself and the process as you go through your treatment.


If you live in Florida, there are many good rehab centers in Tampa that can treat dual diagnosis.  Omaha Nebraska rehab centers also come highly recommended. To find top rehab centers near you, just give us a call.

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Continued Therapy and Support

Addiction, depression, and other mental health conditions are lifelong illnesses. This fact is not a moral failing on your part, nor should it be a source of shame. Much like a person with heart disease would manage the condition throughout his or her lifetime, so should a person with mental health issues manage his or condition as well.


For people with mental health issues, this often means continuing to take medication and talking to a therapist on a regular basis. A therapist can help you manage triggers and develop healthy techniques for dealing with your addiction. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT, is often helpful for people with a dual diagnosis.


You might also seek out support groups that exist specifically for people with dual diagnoses. Some 12 Step groups and other support groups can put you in a community with people who are also dealing with addiction and other mental illnesses.

Rehab Info

At Rehab Info, we understand that a dual diagnosis can be very difficult to navigate. We’re here to help you find treatment centers that specialize in dual diagnoses. Please call us at 1-800-492-7848.

You need a treatment plan that takes all of your needs into account,

and we would love to help you find that plan. Start by calling 800-492-QUIT today.
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