Dual Diagnosis Recovery and Treatment Programs

Dual Diagnosis Overview

When an individual has a dual diagnosis, also called co-occurring disorder, they have both alcohol or drug addiction and a mental health disorder such as depression or anxiety. The following pairings are among the most common forms of dual diagnosis:

  • Depression and Addiction
  • Anxiety and Addiction
  • Bipolar Disorder and Addiction
  • Personality Disorders and Addiction
  • Schizophrenia and Addiction

Drug and alcohol addiction is often accompanied by co-occurring emotional, psychological and/or psychiatric conditions. Studies show that one of every two individuals with severe mental illness also suffers from a substance abuse disorder.

Often, the psychiatric condition occurs first and leads the individual to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol, which can lead to chemical dependency. In other cases, the drug or alcohol addiction is the primary condition, which eventually leads to depression, anxiety or other psychological problems.

Although each condition has distinct symptoms, they interact to make diagnosis and treatment more difficult. For example, treating only one condition can exacerbate the other, and increased use of drugs or alcohol often worsens the mental health symptoms.

According to a report in the Journal of the American Medical Association:

  • Roughly 50 percent of individuals with severe mental health disorders struggle with substance abuse.
  • Thirty-seven percent of alcohol abusers and 53 percent of drug abusers also have at least one serious mental illness.
  • 29 percent of people diagnosed with mental illness abuse alcohol or drugs.

Having a dual diagnosis puts people at greater risk of other problems, such as:

  • Family conflict or relationship problems
  • Isolation
  • Financial problems
  • Employment or school problems
  • Risky behavior such as driving under the influence and unsafe sex
  • Chronic relapse
  • Legal problems and incarceration
  • Unstable home environment or homelessness

Causes of Co-Occurring Disorders

Dual diagnosis can stem from a range of factors, including:

  • Family History — Both addiction and mental health disorders have a strong genetic component. If your family members have struggled with depression, anxiety, addiction or other mental health issues, you have a higher risk of developing these conditions yourself.
  • Environment — Your current living environment and the environment you grew up in can affect your mental health and coping skills.
  • Trauma — Traumatic events such as abuse or loss of a loved one can trigger mental health and substance abuse disorders.
  • Self-Medication — Some people begin to use drugs or alcohol in an attempt to cope with the symptoms of depression, anxiety and other mental health disorders. Others use drugs and alcohol to counter the side effects of medications for mental illness. Drugs and alcohol inevitably make the symptoms worse over time and put the individual at greater risk of addiction.

Symptoms of Co-Occurring Orders

Many people don’t discover that they have a mental health disorder until they are clean and sober, as psychiatric symptoms can be masked by substance use and drug use can produce similar symptoms as mental illness. Some have felt hopeless, empty or alone their whole lives without recognizing these feelings as symptoms of a mental illness.

Recognizing the symptoms and overcoming denial are keys to accepting a dual diagnosis. Here are a few symptoms of the most common co-occurring disorders:

Addiction and Depression

  • Trying to stop using drugs or alcohol without success
  • Feeling guilty or ashamed of your drug or alcohol use
  • Lying or secrecy about substance abuse
  • Financial, legal or relationship problems caused by alcohol or drug abuse
  • Feelings of worthlessness, sadness or hopelessness
  • Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities
  • Changes in diet, weight or sleep patterns
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Inability to experience pleasure

Addiction and Anxiety

  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when trying to stop using drugs or alcohol
  • Needing larger amounts of a drug to feel the same high
  • Feeling powerless to stop using drugs or alcohol
  • Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities
  • Excessive worry or tension
  • Restlessness or irritability
  • Muscle tension
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Insomnia

Dual Diagnosis Treatment

When individuals are faced with dual diagnosis, each co-occurring disorder must be treated simultaneously within an integrated model to achieve the best possible outcome. When the disorders are treated separately, the risk of relapse is exceedingly high.

Inpatient and outpatient dual diagnosis treatment facilities are generally the most successful in helping patients with substance abuse and co-occurring disorders achieve lasting recovery. Individuals with dual diagnosis need the guidance and support of highly skilled professionals who specialize in working with addiction and co-occurring mental health disorders. By treating both chemical dependency and mental health disorders in one program, staff can work together to understand the interplay between multiple illnesses and design a well-rounded treatment plan.

Dual diagnosis treatment centers may include:

  • Education about addiction as well as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder and other mental health disorders
  • Individual, group and family therapy
  • 12-Step support groups
  • Holistic therapies such as yoga, acupuncture and Qigong
  • Stress management
  • Medication management
  • Relapse prevention planning

CRC Health’s dual diagnosis programs specialize in treating both substance abuse and mental health disorders. Our facilities treat compulsive behaviors, Axis I disorders such as depression, ADHD, anxiety disorders and learning disorders, as well as the full range of Axis II personality disorders. By assisting patients in every area of their lives, individuals receive the full spectrum of services they need to improve their overall health.