Nearly 9 Million Americans are affected by co-occurring mental illness and substance abuse disorders. There are a lot of common misconceptions people have about substance abuse. One of the biggest ones is that it’s always accompanied by a mental health diagnosis. Keep in mind that addiction itself is a mental illness. The phrase dial diagnosis means that the person needs integrated treatment for both addictions as well as another mental health issue. A co-occurring disorder often amplifies the need for substance abuse. Here are some commonly seen mental health issues that are treated in dual diagnosis treatment.


  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Eating Disorders
  • Schizoaffective Disorder
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
  • Borderline Personality Disorder
  • Stress Disorder

       The form of treatment for people who have these mental health issues along with substance abuse disorder is not the same as normal drug rehab. Dual diagnosis is very serious. The reason it is tricky to treat addiction at the same time as a co-occurring disorder is because addiction comes from pain. When someone is lead to think about their emotional pain and what they have been through, it’s triggering. The root cause of the substance abuse problem can be a sensitive subject. Adding a mental health disorder onto that is overwhelming. Triggers cause emotional responses, especially when a person has other mental health issues. These emotional responses aren’t always healthy. Integrated treatment is an awesome idea. Let us tell you a little bit more about it so you can grasp the importance.

What Are the Symptoms of Dual Diagnosis?

      When you think about someone you love or are close with, you should know what their typical behaviors are pretty well. If someone you know has a mental health disorder that impacts their behavior, there’s a good chance that you’ll notice it. The symptoms of dual diagnosis are commonly seen when alcohol or drug abuse becomes common.

      This creates an endless cycle. Drug abusers rely on substances to regulate disorders of the mind, but all the substance abuse does is cause more disorder. This cycle is vicious and hurtful. Here are some warning signs and symptoms to look for:


  • Sudden changes in their normal behavior
  • Isolation from loved ones
  • Overusing substances during episodes
  • Developing a noticeable tolerance for alcohol or drugs
  • More frequent episodes or outbursts

       It’s easy to overlook this behavior or promise yourself that you’ll point it out next time, but try to avoid doing that. It’s best to take immediate action when you notice these symptoms. Mental disorders combined with alcohol or drug abuse are not to be taken lightly. If given the opportunity to save someone’s life by getting them help for their drug addiction, take that chance.


How Do Treatment Centers Approach Co Occuring Mental Illnesses?

    There is a huge difference in how addiction should be approached with people struggling with mental illness on top of an alcohol or drug addiction. There needs to be an equal amount of attention to the mental illness and the substance abuse.

     In normal drug rehab, it’s typical that the treatment can get slightly intense. In traditional treatment programs, there is group therapy where people will often share their stories about addiction. In the case of someone with a mental illness, this kind of open communication in front of others can cause a lot of anxiety. This is not to say that sensitivity isn’t needed in all treatment programs, but special attention needs to be given to how problems are approached when it comes to dual diagnosis.

The Different Steps for Dual Diagnosis Treatment

     The first part of dual diagnosis treatment is the most difficult and heavily monitored. It involves drug or alcohol detox. This is always more effective with inpatient treatment because it’s really hard. The substance abuser is weaned off of their drug of choice slowly while being watched by medical professionals to ensure that they’re safe. Going through detox when you have another mental illness is very scary because your mind is so attached to the drug of choice and it’s being thrown for a spin when you cannot use the drug anymore.

     The next part of most treatment programs for dual diagnosis is a very personalized therapy that suits the need of the individual. Because of the co-occurring mental health issues, there is someone readily available to provide mental health therapy at all times of the day and night. There is always someone available to be of assistance.

     Past this, there is supportive housing, which usually means the person will live with other people that went through recovery. Because mental health and substance abuse issues can be really hard to cope with at the same time, sober living homes are an awesome option. They allow for people who understand each other to live together.

What Sort of Treatment Plan Works the Best?

     There is no right answer to this question. The best abuse treatment for anyone going through a dual diagnosis would be whatever feels best for them. Recovery from co-occurring disorders is very personal for each person because their reaction to stress is very intense. There are many treatment plans that focus on religion as a guide away from addiction. There are also more spiritual treatment approaches that focus on meditation as a form of stress relief. Alternatively, there are less traditional versions of treatment where lots of time is spent outside.

      The most common thing amongst all kinds of treatment plans is cognitive behavioral therapy. This consists of getting close to a therapist and talking to them. The therapist helps the addict break down their patterns of thinking. This decreases the risk of substance abuse and allows the person to think in a more simplified way. This psychotherapy can commonly include medication which is the biggest difference between dual diagnosis rehab and traditional rehab. Medication is extremely useful for someone who suffers from a mental illness.

       Usually, when people go through a drug treatment program, medication is not used because it can be misused if not monitored. In the case of things like bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder, it is more dangerous not to be on medication because that would make the person unbalanced. According to Healthline, this can cause contemplation of suicide and a worsening of symptoms.

Dual Diagnosis Works

       Hopefully, this short look into dual diagnosis provides you with more clarity. One important thing that will assist you in seeing the positive is this: Mental illness is not necessarily a bad thing.

      While it can be challenging to cope with the symptoms of mental illness, it is not a bad thing to get out of your comfort zone. It’s a good idea to look at the aspects of mental illness that make a person unique and use those traits to make them feel good. Often times, substance abuse stems from low self-esteem. In many cases, mood disorders aren’t something people can be cured. That said, it’s best to give them reasons to love themselves and embrace their mood disorder. There is nothing worse than having low self-esteem about something you can’t change.

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