If you know someone who is struggling with addiction and a mental health issue, they’re among a growing number of people who would qualify for a dual diagnosis. 

You should know that this diagnosis is becoming very common, and the reasons why make a lot of sense. 

In this post, we’re going to explore everything you need to know about the dual diagnosis of addiction and mental health issues. 

What is Dual Diagnosis?

A dual diagnosis can occur when anyone is struggling with two diagnosable issues, but in this case, we’re talking about addiction and any mental health issue. The mental health issues can vary, but they often include things like anxiety, depression, or schizophrenia. The patient’s drug of choice may also vary. Someone may become addicted to drugs, alcohol, sex, or gambling. And in the presence of a mental health condition, this would qualify them for a dual diagnosis. 

Dual Diagnosis Treatment

One of the things that makes dual diagnosis treatment difficult is that it can be near impossible to tell which came first, the addiction or the mental health issue. So, for example, if someone is suffering from anxiety, they might self-medicate with drugs or alcohol. And this can lead to addiction. Or, someone with an addiction can develop anxiety as a result of the drugs or alcohol depleting their systems of essential minerals. And it’s even more likely that someone will develop depression after an addiction, but it could also happen in reverse. In order to diagnose the problem, you’d have to rely on the patient to remember how things were before addictions set in and answer questions honestly. 

The Problem with Dual Diagnosis

Patients who are diagnosed with depression and addiction are much more prone to suicide and self-harm than patients who only suffer from one disorder. This makes these patients high risk.

But unfortunately, many rehab centers aren’t equipped to handle patients who are diagnosed with a mental health condition in addition to the addiction. 

Many rehab facilities focus on addiction only and cannot provide the necessary treatment for major depressive disorder or anxiety-related disorders

If you or someone you know is facing a dual diagnosis, look for a program that integrates treatments for both issues into the rehabilitation plan. But you should also expect that the program will take longer to complete than a typical rehab program. There are no quick fixes for addiction or mental health issues, and it’s important to give yourself time in recovery. 

Regardless of which came first, though, it’s essential to start by treating the addiction. And if you can identify that the mental health issue predated the addiction, further treatment will be necessary to address the mental disorder and prevent relapse.

Many people self-medicate with drugs and alcohol to treat mental health issues, but this is extremely counterproductive. Both addiction and mental health issues will ultimately lead to other issues that only compound your problems. For example, addiction and anxiety can cause sleep problems and lead to poor decision making. 

If you are struggling with a dual diagnosis, be sure to seek help from a rehab that has experience treating mental health issues. 

Cite this article as:
Editorial Staff, "Addiction & Mental Health Issues: What You Should Know About Dual Diagnosis," in Medicalopedia, February 4, 2020, [Permalink: https://www.medicalopedia.org/8305/addiction-mental-health-issues-what-you-should-know-about-dual-diagnosis/].