Dual Diagnosis Treatment

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), 9.2 million U.S. adults suffer from a mental health disorder and substance abuse or addiction simultaneously. A co-occurring disorder, or a dual diagnosis, describes the overlap between substance abuse and mental health disorders.

Although millions receive this diagnosis each year, only 9.1% get co-occurring disorders treatment. Each disorder on its own carries a stigma. They might fear their peers will judge them, or that they will lose their job. This makes it even harder to get the help that may save their life.

Those with a substance addiction and mental illness can conquer it with the right tools. Rock Recovery Center helps those who suffer from it take back their lives. Email or call us to start today.

What is a Dual Diagnosis?

A dual diagnosis in general is when a person has more than one disorder. A substance use disorder is when a person misuses drugs or alcohol. People with mental health disorders are those who have a diagnosable psychological illness that impairs their life.

The combination of the two can go by different names, but mean the same thing:

  • Dual diagnosis
  • Co-occurring disorder
  • Comorbid disorder
  • Comorbidity

Whatever the name, this illness destroys lives without proper co-occurring disorders treatment. It doesn’t happen all at once. The process is a slow one that takes over individuals like a parasite. Symptoms appear when it’s deadly. It’s important to recognize when it’s time to enroll in a dual diagnosis program.

Signs Someone Needs a Dual Diagnosis Treatment Program

Co-occurring disorders treatment covers a wide variety of mental illnesses and substance addictions. Since each on their own has a unique set of problems, the signs may look different. People who desperately need to enter a dual diagnosis program might look like they’re angry at friends, are busy or want a life change. This may be the case but could be a life-threatening illness.

Common signs include:

  • A slow or sudden withdrawal from loved ones
  • High tolerance or withdrawal from certain substances
  • Random personality/behavioral changes
  • Risky behavior with no explanation
  • Problems with concentration
  • Rapid speaking
  • Excessive use of drugs and/or alcohol
  • Suicidal thoughts and tendencies
  • A loss of interest in favorite activities and/or personal hygiene

Doctors may choose to identify a dual diagnosis through an alcohol and drug test. A positive test along with one or a mixture of these signs likely means someone requires co-occurring disorders treatment. These signs on their own should cause an intervention. It’s better to bring it up than face the danger of no diagnosis.

Causes of Comorbidity

Despite a positive test, sometimes comorbidity goes undiagnosed. Medical professionals may attribute symptoms of mental illness with withdrawal or dependence. The same can be said about an unrecognized substance abuse disorder that passes as just a mental illness.

Comorbidity is common because drug addiction can lead to extreme highs and lows in terms of behavior. Low self-esteem can quickly turn into a deeper issue from fear of judgment. This fear isn’t unfounded. People who suffer from addiction may lose their loved ones who fail to recognize it as a medical condition.

Why is Comorbidity So Common?

  • Genetic predisposition to mental illness or substance abuse disorders
  • An attempt at self-medication
  • A psychological disorder that lays dormant until drug use

People with a mental health issue may turn to drugs and alcohol to experience relief. They might have enough money for a bottle of liquor for temporary relief, but no insurance to cover costly medical visits.

Anyone can end up in a similar situation under the right circumstances. As their addiction gets worse, so does their financial situation. A dual diagnosis program is essential to weed the issue out by the root.

What is a Dual Diagnosis Program?

A dual diagnosis program uses methods to improve psychological and substance abuse disorders at the same time. It stems from the thought that either one can be the catalyst to the other. Pharmaceuticals, holistic therapies, or a combination of multiple methods may be used.

Does Every Dual Diagnosis Program Require Medication?

Every patient is different when it comes to medication. Yet, not every person who decides to enter co-occurring disorders treatment needs to rely on medicine for recovery. Certain individuals in a dual diagnosis program can fully recover with the right care and facility without medication.

Studies have found that the correct therapy can be more effective than using pharmaceuticals at times. Conscious behavioral changes can provide a long-lasting solution in comparison to medication. It requires effort but stays in a patient’s system when medication doesn’t.

Common Co-Occurring Disorders

Certain mental illnesses have a higher chance of drug abuse overlap. Risky behavior because of a psychological disorder can be a gateway to drugs. Attempts to mask painful feelings caused by a mental illness can lead down the same road. The following mental illnesses have a higher chance of turning into a dual diagnosis. This list is limited and not universal.

Mood Disorders

Mental illness is a wide umbrella term just like mood disorders. Medical professionals use this phrase to describe when a person’s general mood doesn’t match up with their current circumstances. If this mood interferes with their life in any way, it might be a mood disorder. Many common mental illnesses fall under this category.

Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorders are often mistaken for depression. People with this mood disorder seesaw between high and low moods. There are different levels of this condition. Some may experience mania, which makes them feel euphoric and invincible. Others may feel depressed without manic episodes. These moods are random.

Those who are bipolar are known for erratic behavior. The nature of it makes it more than easy to randomly slip into drugs in either a manic or depressed state. A dual diagnosis program may introduce a combination of medication and therapy. Some patients might not need pharmaceuticals at the discretion of a medical professional.


Feeling sad is a normal emotion. When an overwhelming feeling of sadness, emptiness, or hopelessness doesn’t go away, it could be a form of depression. This is true if it lasts more than a couple of weeks.

There are different kinds of depression, not limited to these:

  • Major depression: Strong feelings of sadness or nothingness that last more than 2 weeks
  • Dysthymia: Low-grade depression that lasts for 2 years or more
  • Seasonal depression/Seasonal affective disorder (SAD): Low mood brought on by lack of sunlight

In order to feel any kind of relief from overwhelming sadness, some develop a substance abuse disorder. When constant nothingness is an issue, others may seek any kind of feeling from drugs and alcohol. Co-occurring disorders treatment will get to the root of these emotions and battle the drug addiction aspect. Medication may be used at times.

Anxiety Disorders

Stress is caused by a chemical in the body to say fight or flight. Individuals with an anxiety disorder are in this mode more often than the average person. Something seems wrong even though everything is fine. Every major anxiety disorder has unique characteristics:

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD): Chronic anxiety where there is no trigger
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD): Intrusive mental babble alongside repetitive or obsessive actions that provide a little relief
  • Panic Disorder: Intense fear that results in physical discomfort
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): Traumatic events that lead to chronic stress
  • Social Phobia/Social Anxiety Disorder: Those whose trigger is being around others

Panic and anxiety attacks can occur because of any of the anxiety disorders above. To calm the mental and physical discomfort of the disorder, some turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms. Dual diagnosis programs often use cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to stop the cycle of anxious thoughts before they begin. Holistic therapies help, too.

Eating Disorders

Without a dual diagnosis program, those with an eating disorder and drug addiction will relapse. An eating disorder involves dangerous eating habits in combination with a negative thought process behind it. Substance abuse is typically 50% higher for people who suffer from it.

Common eating disorders that may require co-occurring disorders treatment are:

  • Anorexia: Starvation and excessive exercise because they feel fat
  • Bulimia: People with this may vomit up food, use laxatives, or aggressively exercise to become skinnier
  • Binge-eating disorder: Emotional eating to the point of excess

A condition like this is deadly. Combined with a substance abuse disorder, it could mean a quick death. Help for these individuals involves different types of therapy in a group, with CBT, or holistically.

Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

A person with ADHD may have issues with concentration, organization, and impulsive behavior. After an initial diagnosis, they might be prescribed medication to help manage symptoms. Unfortunately, some individuals might find themselves addicted to it. This is doubly true if they build up a tolerance to it.

The solution to comorbidity of this nature can involve a combination of medication and behavioral therapy. Education on ADHD and encouraging positive thoughts can change the lives of those with it.

Why is Co-occurring Disorders Treatment Necessary?

Data from national populations surveys show the relationship between substance use disorders and mental health. Half of people with a mental illness deal with a substance problem. The same statistic is true for those with a substance use disorder. This number increases for young adults.

A dual diagnosis program allows patients to solve each disorder. Patients may abuse multiple substances and have various mental health disorders. Treating a portion of a person’s illness is a tiny bandaid on a festering wound. It’s doomed without a comprehensive plan.

Different Types of Co-Occurring Disorders Treatment

It’s not simple to treat a dual diagnosis. Those who have a comorbid disorder need help from an organization that understands recovery is a process. Rock Recovery Center provides a solution to the black hole that is substance abuse and mental illness. Our clients find their joy again through adventurous activities and seasoned clinical staff.

We know there isn’t a “one-size-fits-all” form of treatment, so we offer different kinds:

  • Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP) – Clients get to the root of their addiction with the help of their therapists. They are taught healthy ways to cope with it to avoid a relapse. Family members can be brought in to help if the patient desires.
  • Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) – Consists of individual and group therapy. Clients are encouraged to attend a 12-step program.
  • Outpatient Program – Quality treatment without living in our residential rehab.
  • Adventure Therapy – Uses methods proven by research in tandem with adventurous activities, like kayaking with manatees.
  • Traditional Rehab Program – A combination of traditional therapies and clinical assistance.

Find Solace at Rock Recovery Center

Rock Recovery Center provides co-occurring disorders treatment that works. If you or a loved one suffers from a substance abuse disorder, we can’t fix everything immediately. But recovery starts here and now. Contact us now to get life-changing assistance.