Dual Diagnosis Treatment at Southeast Addiction

Dual Diagnosis is when a person is living with substance use disorder and other mental health conditions.

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Dual Diagnosis Treatment at Southeast Addiction

Dual diagnosis is a term for when someone experiences a mental health disorder and a substance abuse problem at the same time. These disorders can interact and make each other worse.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), around 21 million American adults suffer from substance use disorders (SUD). And 8 million of those with SUD also live with a mental illness.

Does One Disorder Cause the Other?

There is no single cause of co-occurring disorders. Mental conditions and substance abuse are not directly caused by each other. Instead, it is believed that a combination of genetic, environmental, and psychological factors causes them. Some people may be born with genes that make them more likely to develop a mental illness.

Additionally, specific life experiences, such as trauma or abuse, can increase the risk of developing both a mental illness and an addiction.

A drug-induced mental illness is one way someone could develop a mental health disorder due to using drugs. This happens when drugs alter the brain chemistry in a way that leads to changes in mood or behavior.

Self-medicating with drugs or alcohol is another way that people develop co-occurring disorders. People who self-medicate are usually trying to relieve symptoms of an underlying mental health disorder such as anxiety or depression.

What Are the Most Common Co-occurring Addiction and Mental Health Disorders?

The most common co-occurring addiction and mental health disorders include:

Substance Abuse and Anxiety Disorders

Several types of anxiety disorders may occur in conjunction with addiction. Anxiety disorders are common among those looking for substance abuse treatment.

Anxiety disorders can include:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
  • Social anxiety disorder
  • Panic disorders
  • Phobias (extreme fear of everyday times and situations)
  • Separation anxiety disorders

In most cases, people with anxiety disorders begin to take substances because they help relieve their anxious symptoms initially. However, over time this can cause tolerance and addiction.

Addiction and Mood Disorders

Abusing drugs and alcohol commonly co-occur with mood disorders. Typical mood disorders include major depression and bipolar disorder (also known as manic depression.)

Those with a mood disorder will often reach for substances to self-medicate and try to manage their extreme moods by emotion stuffing.

Addiction and Behavioral Disorders

Behavior disorders typically develop in the early stages of life and can include:

  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Other self-harm behaviors

Drug abuse among those with behavioral disorders usually includes prescription stimulants and alcohol. These substances are misused in an effort to manage trouble concentrating, compulsive behavior, and other forms of mental distress.

Addiction and Eating Disorders

Roughly 30 million Americans are affected by an eating disorder at one point in their lifetime. Substance abuse is common with eating disorders because it can help people influence their appetite by:

  • Decreasing appetite
  • Increasing appetite
  • Cope with eating disorder stress

National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) reports that bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder have the highest overlap with substance abuse, followed by anorexia nervosa.

Substance Abuse and Personality Disorders

There are many instances of overlap with personality disorders and drug and alcohol abuse. Common co-occurring personality disorders include:

  • Antisocial personality disorder
  • Avoidant personality disorder
  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Dissociative personality disorder
  • Histrionic personality disorder
  • Narcissistic personality disorder
  • Paranoid personality disorder
  • Schizoid personality disorder

The most common reason these conditions co-occur with substance abuse is an attempt to cope with symptoms associated with their personality disorder, past abuse, and other types of trauma.

Signs and Symptoms of Dual Diagnosis

The symptoms of dual diagnosis can vary depending on the individual and the severity of their disorders. When disorders occur together, it can complicate treatment because it’s tough to tell which symptoms result from which condition.

Symptoms of dual diagnosis can include but are not limited to:

  • Changes in sleeping patterns
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Lack of motivation
  • Loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyed
  • Irritability, outbursts of anger
  • Isolation from friends and family members
  • Decreased work or school performance
  • Mood swings
  • Paranoia or delusions
  • Erratic behavior

How Are Co-occurring Disorders Diagnosed?

If you suspect that you or someone you love may have a dual diagnosis, it is vital to seek professional help.

A trained mental health professional can adequately assess whether or not co-occurring disorders are present. They will also be able to develop an appropriate treatment plan.

To be diagnosed with a co-occurring disorder, you must first be evaluated by a professional who will ask you questions about your medical history, symptoms, drug use, etc.

Once it has been determined that you do indeed suffer from a mental health disorder and a substance abuse problem, you will be diagnosed with a dual diagnosis.

Treatment for Co-Occurring Disorders

Treating dual diagnosis requires a comprehensive approach that simultaneously addresses both the addiction and the mental health disorder. This can be done through a combination of medication, therapy, and support groups.


The most common types of substance abuse among people with mental health disorders are alcohol, marijuana, and opioids. Each of these substances normally requires a medical detox program to help individuals cope with unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.

Inpatient Treatment:

Detox is not addiction treatment but a crucial step in recovery. After completing a detox program, individuals will be referred to an inpatient program. Inpatient programs can vary in length. Those with dual diagnosis will need a 90-day program to receive support for their symptoms.

Behavioral Health Therapy:

Behavioral health therapies are an excellent tool for mental illness and addiction treatment. Several types of therapies may be applied during treatment, depending on the philosophy of your chosen treatment center. Typically behavioral therapies include:

Cognitive behavioral therapy
Dialectical behavioral therapy
Motivational interviewing

Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT):

Antidepressants play a role in helping individuals heal and find healthy ways to cope with their mental health issues. MAT medications are critical to those in treatment for a dual diagnosis. Specific medications may also help with certain drug and alcohol use disorders.

Peer Support Groups:

Peer support groups are essential tools for both mental health treatment and substance abuse treatment. These groups can help individuals learn a new perspective and keep themselves accountable to their sobriety goals.

Treating Dual Diagnosis in Adolescents and Adults

It is important to find a treatment facility specializing in treating dual diagnosis because they will have the experience and expertise necessary to treat both disorders effectively.

Treating adolescents with dual diagnoses can be difficult because they are still mentally and physically developing.

Adults with dual diagnoses often have more difficulty staying sober because they have typically been using drugs for longer than adolescents.

Benefits of Dual Diagnosis Treatment

The benefits of dual diagnosis treatment include but are not limited to the following:

  • Improved mental health symptoms
  • Improved physical health
  • Increased ability to stay sober
  • Increased ability to maintain employment
  • Increased ability to live independently

Discover a Dual Diagnosis Treatment Program

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction and mental health problems, it’s important to seek professional help immediately. With proper treatment, it is possible to manage both the addiction and the mental health disorder and live a happy and healthy life.

For more information about finding a dual diagnosis program, contact our treatment helpline.


National Alliance on Mental Illness – Understanding Dual Diagnosis

National Alliance on Mental Illness – Substance Use Disorders

National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus – Dual Diagnosis

Alcohol Treatment and Recovery with Southeast Addiction

If you recognize these signs in a loved one and wish to seek help for them, or you yourself are suffering with an alcohol use disorder, please contact Southeast Addiction Center for help with alcohol addiction treatment. We recognize it is not easy to reach out and make that first step, but it’s ever the more important that you do so. We have helped many people with the first steps into a life of recovery, and we know it is the best decision you will ever make. For your health, for your family or friends, and most importantly—for yourself.

Call us at (777)-629-0258 to get alcohol addiction treatment today.

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