What is Dual Diagnosis?

07/13/20: Addiction Recovery
Addiction and mental health conditions go hand-in-hand. Excessive drinking or substance abuse may lead an individual towards certain psychological disorders making it difficult for them to cope with both addictions as well as their mental health. However, if a person experiences both substance abuse and a psychological disorder, it is called a dual diagnosis. Examples of psychological disorders:
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Schizophrenia
  • Bipolar disorders
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Examples of substance abuse:
  • Using illegal drugs
  • Misusing legal prescription drugs.
  • Consuming drugs despite knowing the harmful effects it can have.
  • Alcohol addiction disorder.
Dual diagnosis is a term referred to the condition wherein the patient who is suffering from addiction also experiences problematic mental health at the same time. It is also known as a co-occurring disorder. National Alliance On Mental Illness states that almost half of the patients suffering from substance abuse also have an existing mental health issue. So what comes first? Mental illness or drug abuse? The question is tricky and does not have a direct answer. The link between mental health and addictive behavior may vary depending on the individual. However, work, relational, financial loss, or any other trauma may push a person towards addiction and/or bad mental health at the same time. A dual diagnosis may include the following points:
  • An existing mental illness or disorder leading to substance or alcohol abuse.
  • Excessive drinking or substance abuse leading to a problematic mental state.
  • Drugs or alcohol misuse worsening the preexisting mental health condition of an individual.
Since dual diagnosis is a complex disorder, various researchers are still focusing on learning more about this issue. The relationship between substance abuse and mental health conditions is still under observation, targeting the possible treatments that can be chosen for this sole purpose. A person can be addicted to alcohol and suffer from clinical depression at the same time. It is this dual nature of the affliction that remains undiagnosed, causing the relapse rate in such cases to skyrocket. If you are curious about what dual diagnosis is and whether or not it can be treated, read on to find more details about this disorder.

Dual diagnosis is common

This disorder is not a rare phenomenon. Many studies and researches have led to the decision that almost 50% of all who suffer from an existing mental condition also have an addiction disorder.

Dual diagnosis has many forms

Just like addiction, dual diagnosis disorder can have many forms. For example, you can have an addiction to drugs, gambling, alcohol, sex, eating, or anything else. At the same time, you can also have psychological disorders such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, panic attacks, clinical depression, binge-eating disorder, and even a combination of these. There are endless possibilities.

It is difficult to treat

We already mentioned that researchers are still trying to understand the nature of this disorder. It is also to be noticed that the origin of dual diagnosis disorder and its symptoms is still unclear in many cases. Doctors couldn't understand if an already existing mental illness led to addiction disorder or if it is the other way around. For example, when someone suffers from depression, it is hard to tell if the depression originated from the existing drug abuse or if it's caused by an individual's mental illness. Since clinical depression can emerge as a symptom of many things, it becomes difficult to track and treat the disorder.

Dual diagnosis patients are at high-risk

Bad mental health is already a thing to worry about. Club it with addiction and the resulting complications, and the risk doubles. Since patients with dual diagnosis disorder suffer two conditions at a time, they more often get suicidal thoughts and develop violent tendencies.

Pre-existing mental illness leads to easy addiction

Mental illness can be physically, emotionally, and of course, mentally deteriorating. Those who suffer from depression, borderline personality disorder, schizophrenia, etc., already have a weak mental state and can easily become prone to addiction. They may also voluntarily choose to drink or consume as an escape from reality and to feel better.

The special condition needs special attention

Any health condition that includes mental state has to be taken slowly at a steady pace. The focus should always be on the individual and their comfort. People with dual diagnoses, the emphasis should be put on giving special attention by trained staff who know an approach that the patients are comfortable with.

Dual diagnosis takes longer to treat

When talking about addiction or disorder of any sort, there are usually no shortcuts to achieving success. However, dual diagnosis is a condition that is a culmination of addiction and mental illness that may require special attention and care which may extend the treatment period to months or even years.


Different cases need a different approach however, many therapists choose to tackle mental conditions first. They subsequently also induce healthy traits into the individual's life so that the addiction element is also being focused upon. Once the patient shows progress, the treatment can be moved forward in the same direction. If not, then maybe it is the addiction that needs to be targeted at first. This is why dual diagnosis is difficult to manage. Medical professionals are unsure which approach is going to work.


Dual diagnosis may look like a disorder that may not have any treatment and is incurable. However, that is not true. There are credible resources and treatment centers established to look upon this co-occurring disorder and treat it for good. The primary problem lies in the identification of the symptoms. Even though the medical personnel know what they are looking at, they have to trace the condition back to its origin to be able to move in the right treatment path. So, if you or someone you know have a dual diagnosis, there is nothing to worry about. With passion and constant efforts, everything is possible. Get help as soon as possible.

If you or someone you know needs help with addiction, contact 602-737-1619 or email [email protected] to get the help you need. Our acclaimed recovery environment merges upscale, luxury accommodations with affordability, clinical expertise and an unwavering commitment to patient care and aftercare.

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