The recovery process for people struggling with mental health issues and substance abuse disorder is commonly referred to as dual diagnosis. Dual diagnosis recovery programs are specifically designed to cater to the complications that arise from both mental health disorders and substance abuse disorder. Addiction treatment is typically run along the same guidelines; however, there might be a few different therapy techniques used for treating symptoms of specific mental health disorders.
Determining if you or someone you know is struggling with dual diagnosis can be challenging, but there are a variety of signs to look for. Withdrawal symptoms and discrepancies in behavior can indicate the presence of a dual diagnosis. Also, isolation from family and friends, irrational thinking, higher tolerance, and using more of a substance can be a sign you or someone you know is struggling with a co-occurring disorder.
What is Dual Diagnosis?
Mental health disorders are characterized by any negative changes that affect mood, thought, or behavior. When a mental illness occurs at the same time as a substance use disorder (SUD), it’s clinically referred to as dual diagnosis. Common mental health disorders that are sometimes related to SUDs consist of:
- Bipolar disorder
- Borderline personality disorder
- Eating disorders
- Personality disorders
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Generalized anxiety disorder
Studies indicate that about 8.1 million people in 2015 had co-occurring mental health and substance abuse issues. Substance abuse and mental illness coincide with each other—whether or not the mental illness was in effect prior to experiencing substance abuse issues. Self-medication for undiagnosed or misdiagnosed mental illness is a common factor in why people with mental illness choose to use drugs or alcohol. Also, people who abuse drugs or alcohol can develop a mental illness.
In both instances, people can be treated effectively. There are a number of effective methods used to treat dual diagnosis patients due to the similarities in symptoms.
Symptoms of mental health issues are:
- Mood swings
- Appetite changes
- Increase in energy
- Erratic behavior
- Racing thoughts
- Sleep disturbances
- Excessive tension
- Impaired decision-making skills
- Difficulty concentrating
- Loss of interest in hobbies
- Feeling worthless or guilty
- Suicidal thoughts
- Inability to focus
- Inability to experience feelings of pleasure
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In conjunction with these behaviors are several physical effects due to the drugs or alcohol. Most of the psychological symptoms mirror each other, causing the symptoms to be more severe.
What Is Dual Diagnosis Treatment?
Substance abuse treatment centers that specialize in dual diagnosis are both similar and different than the traditional rehabilitation program. The initial goal of a dual diagnosis treatment program is to help the individual safely withdrawal from drugs or alcohol and then immediately improve their state of mind. Typically, you might be pre-diagnosed with a mental health disorder —making it easier to find the right medication that treats your condition. If not, the facility might run a couple tests to make sure they properly diagnose you and provide you with the correct medication.
Professionals use a unique and effective approach when determining how they will diagnose and treat each individual. A treatment plan and the objectives of a treatment stay are based solely on the individual and specifics of their situation.
Typically, you should expect to address personal obstacles, as well as feelings, emotions, and difficulties. Also, specialists that treat substance abuse and mental illness will be focusing on both issues simultaneously. The approach might be intense, but both diseases are severe and require immediate, in-depth attention in order to sustain recovery.
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How to Treat Dual Diagnosis
People who suffer from dual diagnosis symptoms are typically undergoing an enormous amount of mental and physical stress. Treatment for individuals suffering from dual diagnosis can benefit you in a number of ways. Specifically, dual diagnosis treatment revolves around targeting the main psychological setbacks and treating them effectively. Therapy and medication, if necessary, are used during this process. The substance abuse aspect of treatment can be addressed during counseling sessions, but the physical aspect will be targeted during a detox program.
Since the psychological symptoms of substance abuse disorders and mental health disorders are similar, they can be treated simultaneously using a wide variety of proven methods. Benefits of dual diagnosis treatment programs consist of the following:
Professionals, clinical staff, peers undergoing similar situations, and the support of family and friends can help individuals stay on the path to recovery. Working with trusted people can help individuals with dual diagnosis feel encouraged and motivated to continue with extended care.
Understanding the root of addiction is complex, but it is vital to being able to support yourself and gain support from others. Entering a dual diagnosis treatment center gives you time away from negative situations and surrounds you with experienced professionals who will do everything to help you regain control of your life.
Mental Health Education
Learning about mental illness and how to effectively cope with it is one of the most important benefits. If you were self-medicating a mental illness, you will learn how to live life without the use of drugs or alcohol, while treating your mental illness with medications or other coping mechanisms.
Proper Diagnosis and Medication
When you receive the proper diagnosis, you do not have to worry or wonder how the symptoms will subside. Having a proper diagnosis is one of the most important benefits of entering a treatment center that specializes in dual diagnosis. You will have the answers to your underlying issues and access to treatment that will work for you.
How Do I Know If This Program Is Right for Me?
At Pathway to Hope, we use effective methods to treat individuals with dual diagnosis issues. Although these conditions are difficult to deal with, help is available. If you or someone you know is struggling with co-occurring disorders call us today at (844) 557-8575 or contact us online for a free assessment and consultation. Our trained professional staff can help you find the right program for you. We are experienced in treating mental illness and addiction, regardless of the severity.
SAMHSA. (2016). Key Substance Use and Mental Health Indicators in the United States: Results from the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Retrieved March, 2018 from
National Institute on Drug Abuse. Common Physical and Mental Health Comorbidities with Substance Use Disorders. Retrieved March, 2018 from