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Dual Diagnosis Treatment at Behavioral Wellness & RecoveryThe terms dual diagnosis disorder, co-occurring disorder, and coexisting disorder all refer to the same thing. When one has a dual diagnosis disorder, this means there exists a substance abuse disorder as well as a mental health disorder. These disorders traditionally were treated as separate and distinct illness, oftentimes providing treatment by different providers with little integration of treatment. It is now known that these disorders must be treated using a multidisciplinary team approach with frequent communication between caregivers and the treatment should be given simultaneously.

It is important to get a good history from the patient, the family, and previous care providers to determine the exact nature and the onset of the mental health and substance abuse disorders. Each type of disorder can display symptoms that are similar or the same as one another. Treatment for both disorders should be initiated at the same time in a coordinated manner. Substance abuse can worsen a mental health disorder and a mental health disorder can lead to continued substance use in an attempt to treat its symptoms. Because of these complexities, it is critical that a dually diagnosed patient receive treatment in a drug and alcohol rehab that provides coordinated treatment for dual diagnosis disorders.

The following is a list of the most common mental health disorders that are seen in the setting of substance abuse.


Oftentimes, the word “depressed”, or “depression”, is interchanged with the word “sad”. However, clinically speaking, these two terms are very distinct. Sad is an emotion that can be easily changed, and is typically related to a specific event or circumstance; whereas, depression is a clinical diagnosis. Depression includes feelings of sadness, low self-esteem, helplessness, hopelessness, and worthlessness. These symptoms are present daily for a period of at least two weeks. Additionally, the symptoms generally result in an impairment of overall functioning of the individual who is suffering from depression. Addiction can worsen depression; and, depression can worsen addiction.


A clinical anxiety disorder is distinct from the nervousness or anxiousness that individuals experience from time-to-time, such as before taking a test, or making a life-changing decision.

Although the severity and symptoms of anxiety disorders may fluctuate with life circumstances, a clinical anxiety disorder is typically not associated with any particular trigger. Anxiety disorders lead to a baseline dysfunction in one’s life. An anxiety disorder can lead to substance abuse and vice versa. Those addicted to drugs and alcohol may seek substances to relieve anxiety. On the other hand, anxiety can be produced by substance use and its related consequences, as well as during drug and alcohol withdrawal.

Bipolar Disorder:

There are several different types of clinically diagnosed bipolar disorder. The diagnosis is based on the symptoms that present over a period of time. Sometimes called manic depression, bipolar disorder is characterized by significant, regular mood changes. These mood swings cause a change in thinking, emotions, energy level, and the related behaviors. Sometimes the depression is so severe that suicide seems like the only option. Other times, the mania will progress to hallucinations and delusions. Mania and depression can exist at the same time in the same individual. It is critical that an addicted person who also has bipolar disorder be treated in a dual diagnosis drug and alcohol treatment center, as this combination can prove to be fatal.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder:

Post-traumatic stress disorder is a psychiatric condition that is diagnosed by symptoms such as intense fear, a sense of helplessness, nightmares, an increased state of arousal, anxiety, and sometimes depression. Sometimes, there is a single activating event, such as war, accidents, or natural disasters. The event can occur with the patient or in a close family member, or even with strangers. Alternatively, repetitive negative events can lead to the development of PTSD. Finally, the threat of a significant negative event can lead to PTSD, even without the event ever having taken place. When a patient is dually diagnosed with PTSD and substance dependence, it is paramount that treatment is concurrently delivered at a drug or alcohol rehab that is equipped to treat these disorders simultaneously. PTSD can easily lead to chemical dependence, as an effort to self-medicate or block the associated negative and uncomfortable symptoms.

If you’re suffering from drug addiction or alcoholism and a coexisting psychiatric or psychological disorder, locating professional help is of paramount importance. Treatment at a reputable treatment center such as Behavioral Wellness and Recovery is the most effective way to overcome a substance use disorder and ensure that you’re able to take your first few steps on the road to recovery. You are welcome to contact our staff at any time by calling 800-683-4457.




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