What Is Dual-Diagnosis Treatment?

Dual-diagnosis treatment is an integrated style of treatment for people with co-occurring substance use and mental health disorders. Estimates from the National Institute on Drug Abuse suggest that two out of every five people with a substance use disorder also have a mental illness.

Dual-diagnosis treatment is designed to treat both disorders simultaneously. A team of addiction and mental health professionals work together to ensure that clients get targeted treatments for their mental health disorders while receiving the best evidence-based addiction treatment available.

Common Mental Health Disorders that Co-Occur with Addiction

Dozens of different mental health disorders can happen alongside addiction, but a few are more prevalent than others. Some of the most common disorders include:

Mood Disorders

Mood disorders include diagnoses such as major depressive disorder, seasonal affective disorder, bipolar disorder, and persistent depressive disorder. These disorders are characterized by an altered emotional and mental state that can lead people to feel sad, empty, or agitated for long periods.

Mood disorders can be devastating and can cause significant functional impairment in a person’s everyday life. Fortunately, targeted psychiatric treatment can greatly alleviate the symptoms of these disorders.

Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety disorders frequently co-occur alongside substance misuse. Examples of these disorders include:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Social anxiety disorder
  • Panic disorder
  • Specific phobias

While most people feel anxious from time to time, people with anxiety disorders have heightened levels of worry and fear that don’t go away. This can frequently affect people’s ability to succeed at work, school, or in their home lives.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

PTSD is a collection of symptoms that revolve around a traumatic experience. People with this disorder can feel as though they are constantly on edge and have troubling nightmares and invasive thoughts about the traumatic incident. They may also have sudden mood swings and show avoidance behaviors around particular situations.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration states that people with post-traumatic stress disorder have extremely elevated rates of substance abuse compared to the general population.

Getting targeted help for treating PTSD can go a long way toward helping resolve these substance abuse patterns, particularly when paired with evidence-based addiction treatment.

Other Disorders

While the majority of co-occurring disorders fall into one of the three categories above, any mental health disorder can occur while a person is struggling with addiction. A few examples include:

  • Psychotic disorders
  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Eating disorders
  • Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder

Dual-diagnosis treatment is designed to help people with these mental health challenges get the treatment they need. When the symptoms of a mental disorder are reduced, focusing on breaking free from a substance use disorder is easier to accomplish.

Do You Need Dual-Diagnosis Treatment?

When you’re looking for help with substance abuse, determining whether you need dual-diagnosis treatment can go a long way toward ensuring you get the right assistance for your specific needs. If you know that you have a co-occurring disorder, getting dual-diagnosis treatment is almost always the best choice on the road to recovery.

However, many people who are actively abusing substances are unaware that they have a mental health disorder. The effects of alcohol can mask the symptoms of mental illnesses, and some people may only recognize that they have a mental health condition when they finally break free from substance use.

Looking for the signs of mental illness can help you determine whether mental health treatment can help your recovery journey.

Signs of Mental Illness

The symptoms of mental illness vary wildly between different disorders, but a few common symptoms can tip you off as to whether you may have a mental health condition. Examples include:

  • Feeling sad or down a great deal of the time
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Lack of motivation
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Feeling intense anxiety that doesn’t go away
  • Avoiding certain situations that trigger intense emotional reactions
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Excessive worry
  • Symptoms that have been present for weeks or months without getting better

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, getting a mental health assessment at a dual-diagnosis treatment center can help you learn about yourself and access the appropriate mental health services.

Signs of Substance Use Disorders

On the other side, many people are aware of a mental illness but aren’t sure whether their substance use has become a problem. Common signs of a substance use disorder include:

  • Drinking more alcohol than intended
  • Cravings for alcohol
  • Giving up hobbies or activities that used to be important to you
  • Using substances to cope with mental health symptoms
  • Withdrawal symptoms if you suddenly stop using
  • Continued use despite harmful consequences

Substance use disorders are progressive, meaning they get worse over time. While many people aren’t able to stop substance use on their own, dual-diagnosis treatment is highly effective at helping people reach recovery.

What Happens in Dual-Diagnosis Treatment?

In a dual-diagnosis treatment program, people can receive treatment for their substance use and mental health disorders simultaneously. This includes treatments and therapies like:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy
  • Dialectical behavior therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Individual therapy
  • Medication-assisted treatment
  • Family therapy
  • Relapse prevention programs
  • 12-step group facilitation

Together, these treatments work to help people build the tools required to cope with both their mental illness and alcohol cravings and learn to live happier, healthier lives in recovery.

Dual-diagnosis treatment typically occurs throughout the continuum of care, meaning it has a role in several different levels of addiction treatment. Dual-diagnosis treatment can start as early as detox and continue through residential treatment, outpatient treatment, and beyond.

Find Treatment Today

If you or a loved one is struggling with co-occurring mental illness and substance use disorders, finding treatment is the best choice you can make. The rehab advisors at Quit Alcohol can help you to find effective dual-diagnosis treatment and are happy to answer any questions you have about available treatment options.

When you’re ready to begin your journey to health and stability, reach out to our team by filling out our confidential online contact form or call (888) 673-9346.