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What is Dual Diagnosis?

Dual diagnosis is the term used when you or your loved one receive a diagnosis of a mental health or behavioral disorder at the same time you are diagnosed with substance use disorder (SUD). This means that you’ll receive specialized dual diagnosis treatment for both disorders. Almost half of all people with SUD have a mental disorder that also needs treatment.

Certain mental health and behavioral disorders are associated with a higher risk of drug and alcohol use, abuse, and addiction. Without treating mental and behavioral disorders before treating the addiction, the chance of relapse is greater. Dual diagnosis is also referred to as having co-occurring disorders. Trying to self-medicate mental disorders can lead to addiction.

What are Co-Occuring Disorders?

Co-occurring disorders are mental disorders that are linked to the cause of addiction. For example, those with anxiety disorders may abuse and become addicted to their prescribed benzos (benzodiazepines). People with anxiety disorders may also soothe their nervousness with alcohol and other drugs. If anxiety was treated first in this co-occurring disorder, the treatment for addiction would be more effective with a lesser chance of relapse.


  • Depressants
  • Stimulants
  • Hallucinogens
  • Opioids
  • Prescription medications
  • Alcohol
  • Cocaine
  • Amphetamines

Mental Health Issues

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Eating disorders
  • Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Why is Self-Medicating Dangerous?

Self-medicating a mental illness can lead to the use of alcohol and drugs as medication. Not only is the risk of addiction dangerous, but using certain drugs—even prescription drugs—can be harmful to those with certain disorders. For instance, if you self-medicate with alcohol when you have depression, you may feel extremely low later. Self-medicating includes:

  • Drinking to combat anxiety
  • Taking more benzos such as Xanax before a panic attack
  • Using cocaine for energy and motivation for daily tasks
  • Using marijuana for emotional pain from trauma or grief
  • Drinking a lot of caffeine or coffee
  • Using a friend’s ADHD medication such as Adderall for focusing
  • Using over-the-counter drugs
  • Taking more opioids for chronic pain

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Warning Signs

Signs and Symptoms of a Dual Diagnosis

A mental illness can start as a result of substance abuse, and substance abuse can start as a response to mental illness. Either way, you may notice these behaviors in yourself or your loved one. If you haven’t seen your loved one in quite some time, they could be withdrawing themselves from family and friends, which is a common warning sign. Here are more signs that someone may have undiagnosed co-occurring disorders.
  • Trouble managing daily tasks
  • Trouble managing finances
  • Neglecting work or school duties
  • Neglecting health and hygiene
  • Difficulty remembering or focusing
  • Avoiding events and social activities
  • Avoiding of help or treatment
  • Sudden change in behavior
  • Impulsive or illogical behavior
  • Suicidal thoughts or behaviors

Dual Diagnosis Statistics


What are the Treatment Options for Dual Diagnosis?

There are three treatment options for dual diagnosis disorder. Sequential care treats each disorder separately, while parallel and integrated care treat multiple disorders at the same time. Integrated treatment is known to have the most effective results.
Questions to ask

Get Help With a Dual Diagnosis

To get help with a dual diagnosis, find out if your rehab center offers integrated, sequential, or parallel treatments. If you’re not sure if you have a mental illness, you’ll want to ask the questions below to ensure you’ll receive specialized treatment.
  • How does your facility treat my mental disorder with my SUD?
  • Do you offer individualized plans for all residents?
  • Will I be evaluated by a licensed psychiatrist before admission into rehab?
  • How can I prevent relapse during rehab with my unique situation?
  • Do you have referrals for aftercare?

Dual Diagnosis Treatment Centers in Orange County

At our Gratitude Lodge treatment centers, we have a professional dual diagnosis treatment staff to help treat your co-occurring disorders. The programs we offer include stress management, group therapy, individual counseling, cognitive behavioral therapy, experiential therapy, relapse prevention, breathwork, and introduction to 12 steps, which is a spiritual-based program. Call us today to see if we can help with your individual situation

CALL US: 800-994-2184

CALL US: 800-994-2184