How Is Dual Diagnosis Relate To Addiction?

Dual Diagnosis Definition

Dual diagnosis is a condition that occurs when a person suffers from a drug or alcohol problem along with a mental disorder at the same time. Alcohol and drug problems have a tendency to occur with the following mental disorders: anxiety, depression, various personality disorders and schizophrenia.

How Mental Disorders Are Related To Addiction

In many cases, a person has developed a mental disorder before developing the drug or alcohol addiction. Some people attempt to ease the symptoms of their mental disorder by self-medicating with alcohol or drugs. Drugs and alcohol may make a person feel better at first, but the drugs can only cause more problems.

Some people will develop the drug or alcohol problem first. A drug or alcohol problem often leads to mental and emotional problems. Researchers have found that nearly 30 percent of people who suffer from a drug or alcohol problem also have a mental disorder. Dual diagnosis may also be referred to as co-morbid or concurrent disorder, and co-occurring illness.

Symptoms Of Dual Diagnosis

Alcohol and drug dependency, frequent depression, stress and anxiety are some of the possible symptoms of dual diagnosis. People who have dual diagnosis may also have anxiety attacks. It can sometimes be difficult to recognize the symptoms of dual diagnosis. However, the addictive behavior and the mental disorder will most likely continue to get worse if a person does not get treatment.

Risk Factors

The cause of mental disorders and substance addiction is constantly being debated in the medical community. Although researchers have not been able to identify a single cause of dual diagnosis, they do believe that it is a combination of both genetic and environmental factors. Some people have a genetic disposition to developing mental disorders and addiction. For others, stressful life situations and abuse early in life can also put them at risk for developing addiction and/or mental disorders.


Dual diagnosis can ruin a person’s life, unless that person gets the proper treatment, then these co-morbid disorders can be managed. In order for a medical professional to give an accurate diagnosis and prepare an appropriate treatment plan, it needs to be determined whether the substance abuse or mental disorder came first. Medical professionals also investigate how severe the patient’s symptoms are. Furthermore, medical professionals have to pinpoint overlapping symptoms and determine from which disorder it stemmed from to properly treat them.

Four phases of treatment exist. The first phase is evaluation and assessment, during which, the medical team, along with family members and friends of the person who has dual diagnosis will determine which treatment option is best. Partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient and inpatient programs are the different treatment options.

The next step is detoxification, which has to be completed in an inpatient setting. Detoxification allows one to completely abstain from the drug safely in a controlled environment. Withdrawal symptoms will be inevitable; however, with medical staff onsite, the patient is safe.

Rehabilitation is the third phase, which typically includes medical treatment, family therapy, group therapy and individual therapy, all designed to involve support from others and self reflection. These programs vary by facility. Some may be optional, but what is appropriate for each recovering individual will be determined by the recovery team.

Continuous care is the last phase of treatment. Group and individual therapy sessions, family therapy and support groups may be a part of the continuing care. If you or a loved one has dual diagnosis, then it is important to get help as soon as possible. The sooner one gets help, the sooner he or she can get their life back.

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