What Is the Process of Treatment with a Dual Diagnosis?


Information provided by the National Institute on Drug Abuse shows that more than half of patients who suffer from a drug addiction will also have a mental illness. There is not exact reasoning as to why this is but there are theories in place as to why an individual would abuse drugs and at the same time have a mental illness. The technical term associated with this phenomenon is “dual diagnosis.”

In the past, an individual may have been treated for drug and alcohol abuse separately from a mental health condition such as bipolar disorder or depression. Today, with dual diagnosis, the patient receives help for every issue they face, helping to combat any co-occurring conditions.

The recovery process blends together successful aspects of substance abuse treatment as well as mental health treatment to see overall success. No line is drawn between mental health and addiction which leads to the patient being treated according to everything that is going on.

Increasing the Chance for a Full Recovery

With dual diagnosis treatment, several steps have to be followed in order to be successful with a full recovery. Parallel treatment should be provided for your mental health as well as substance abuse disorders. A highly trained team of professionals will be able to provide the appropriate services to ensure success in both areas.

Psychotherapeutic medications should be used when needed, like anti-anxiety or antidepressant medication, to treat the co-occurring disorders. Supportive therapy should be introduced that builds self-esteem and self-confidence. No negative or aggressive statements should be made during therapy sessions. Inclusive treatment should also be involved where family members are included in the therapy process. This would include sessions of individual therapy, family counseling and more.


To be certain that you have Dual Diagnosis, you must be evaluated by an addiction specialist or a mental health professional. There are signs and symptoms of dual diagnosis that you can look for but you must essentially be evaluated by a professional to be sure.

Signs of Addiction

  • Abandoning friends or family for new crowd of individuals
  • Compulsive behavior
  • High-risk behavior to get high
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms due to trying to quite harmful substances or cutting back on dosages

Symptoms of Dual Diagnosis Mental Illness

  • Withdrawing from others and refusing support or friendship
  • Delusional or having hallucinations
  • Feelings of despair, worthlessness or hopelessness for two weeks or more
  • Internal anxiety causes the need for high standards of order or complicated rituals
  • Mood swings or behavior issues cause problems at work or within relationships
  • Dramatic mood changes and energy levels at a moment’s notice
  • Using drugs or alcohol to cope with stress or to manage mood


Once you have been given a dual diagnosis, it is time to seek treatment. The evaluator will be able to suggest options for treatment such as inpatient or outpatient programs. There is no proven treatment for dual diagnosis as each individual responds differently to treatment as well as the fact that mental health disorders are broad and each person will be affected differently as well as have a different psychiatric condition.

Those who seek treatment for dual diagnosis may find they are diagnosed with a mood disorder such as bipolar disorder or major depression. An anxiety disorder can be diagnosed as well which can include obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder or general anxiety. Eating disorders are also common and can include anorexia, binge eating or bulimia.

Recognizing the need for treatment is important. It is common for those who have a dual diagnosis to be in denial. Thoughts and perceptions are easily altered due to mental illness and your own care neglected. When you are facing depression as part of your co-occurring condition, you may feel that you are not worth seeking treatment or an anxiety issue has you too scared to ask for help.

But help is out there. Get your life back on track by seeking assistance from professionals in the mental health industry. It is difficult to admit that you need help but once you begin, you will be well on your way along the road to recovery. Be evaluated and learn your options so that you can be happier in life.

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