Dual Diagnosis Treatment

What is Dual Diagnosis Treatment?

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) “Dual diagnosis is a term for when someone experiences a mental illness and a substance abuse problem simultaneously.” The conditions are mental health disorders paired with substance addiction. Dual Diagnosis TreatmentMental health disorders, such as bipolar depression or anxiety, significantly affect the brain and its chemicals which can cause detrimental effects on cognitive and behavioral functioning. For those who suffer from mental health illness, abusing substances causes even more unfortunate effects on the brain. Sometimes addiction is uncontrollable for those with co-occurring disorders and it is very important to seek treatment.

Substance abuse heightens the symptoms of mental illnesses and vice versa. Mental health disorders magnify addiction and complicate the recovery; however, through dual diagnosis treatment, the overlapping conditions can be identified, allowing us to create targeted and complementary treatment plans to help manage and overcome your co-occurring conditions.

What Are Co-Occurring Disorders?

According to researchers, there are two theories about co-occurring disorders. The first theory is that mental health disorders are the leading cause of substance abuse. Those with mental illness, because of social stigma are afraid to seek help; therefore, they self-medicate. It is well known that self-medication usually leads to abuse which then leads to addiction.


 Many people curtail the use of damaging drugs and alcohol on their own, and many people with mood and psychotic disorders recover.

-Psychiatric Times

The other theory is that substance abuse creates mental illness. People believe this theory because addictive substances cause significant physiological and biochemical effects and disrupt the brain’s cognitive and behavioral functions, thus causing a mental health illness.

Neither theory has been proven; however, there is definitely a direct correlation between mental health and substance addiction. It is extremely important to know the signs and symptoms of both mental health illness and substance addiction. This way we can help those who suffer and get the dual diagnosis treatment they need.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment and Co-Occuring Conditions

In order to fully develop a highly individualized treatment plan, patients must undergo a thorough assessment of their physical, mental, social, emotional and spiritual health. This process helps determine patterns of mental or behavioral issues that may otherwise go undetected in typical examinations. If dual diagnosis is suspected, patients will require careful monitoring and even closer observation.
It is important for those who want to overcome their mental health disorder and substance addiction to focus on their psyche, their inner thoughts and how they can affect their behaviors. The Dual Diagnosis Treatment Program is research-based and highly individualized for each patient’s unique needs. It is not based upon one type of therapy; it is a combination of both traditional and experiential therapies.

Recognizing Co-Occurring Disorders

Depending on the substance and mental health disorder, the signs and symptoms may vary.

Indicators of addiction are:

  • Compulsion to regularly use the addicting substance
  • Inability to stop using the substance
  • Obsession with the perceived benefits of regularly using the substance
  • Extreme weight loss or changes in appetite
  • Impaired coordination and/or speech
  • Appears anxious, fearful or paranoid for no reason
  • Unusual smells on breath, body or clothing
  • Sudden change in friends or hobbies
  • Frequently getting in trouble
  • Hyperactivity or agitation
  • Lack of motivation
  • Destruction of dental health
  • Displaying risky behavior
  • Ensuring constant availability of the substance

Those living with a mental illness have a significantly higher risk of chronic medical conditions. Pair the negative effects of an untreated mental health disorder with a substance addiction and those that suffer will most likely overdose or die.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment

The signs of a mental disorder include:

  • Sad and lonely feelings
  • Perpetual aches and pains
  • Fear of social situations or leaving home
  • Inability to follow-through on instructions
  • Hallucinations
  • Emotional impairment
  • Fidgeting
  • Bouts of mania followed by bouts of depression
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions

Dual Diagnosis Treatment

Dual Diagnosis Treatment Therapies include:

  • Individual therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Recovery-oriented challenge therapy
  • Expressive therapies
  • Trauma therapies

The treatment of co-occurring conditions should also include medical and psychiatric sessions, psycho-educational and didactic groups.


Individual Therapy
It is recommended to attend individual therapy at least twice a week in order to spend one-on-one time with a therapist.


Family Therapy
Family can only be included with a patient’s consent. It is important to include family because they may be a part of the problem and they can learn how to support a patient rather than enabling them. Addiction also has the power to rip families apart; therefore, the family therapy can help mend any broken relationships.


Group Therapy
Group therapy allows people who have similar experiences to come together in a safe, peer-supported atmosphere in order to share any advice, tips or stories they feel necessary.


Recovery-Oriented Challenge Therapy
This therapy  is designed for clients to identify their strengths, learn basic recovery issues and build a supportive social network. Patients should be able to develop self-care skills, learn their boundaries and understand choice and accountability.


Expressive Therapies
This type therapy is a group session where patients express their creative sides. During expressive therapy the process of creation is what is emphasized as opposed to the final product.


Trauma Therapies
These therapies are specifically designed for those that are suffering from a trauma-related issue. Addiction causes a tremendous amount of damage to the addict. Cognitive behavioral therapy and hypnotherapy are common features of this type of therapy.


Psycho-Educational and Didactic Groups
These groups are offered for patients to interact with one another in order to discuss relapse prevention, cognitive restructuring and the pressures of society.


Medical and Psychiatric Sessions
It is recommended for patient’s progress to be continually monitored in order for programs to be adjusted accordingly. Patients should be assessed both medically and psychiatrically in order to record their progress.


If you or someone you know is suffering from a mental health disorder, substance addiction, or both, it is extremely important to seek help.
Without proper treatment, the effects of co-occurring conditions can detrimentally affect all aspects of life.

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