Dual Diagnosis: Six Ways to Identify a Co-Occurring Disorder

co-occurring addiction

Dual Diagnosis first emerged as a treatment concept over 20 years ago for people diagnosed with a mental health disorder and substance abuse problem concurrently.  Integrated Treatment for dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorder today has lead to several effective integrated treatment modalities to identify, diagnose and treat co-occurring disorders.

In a 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health created by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHA), 7.9 million people in the U.S. experienced a co-occurring disorder,  which is defined in the DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) as having both a mental health condition and substance use disorder simultaneously.

A dual diagnosis in part can be due to an un-diagnosed psychological trauma, anxiety, depression and biochemical imbalances, and the substance abuse is a result of the addict’s unsuccessful attempts to regulate and relieve his or her own level of physical or emotional pain.  Dual Diagnosis attempts to diagnose and treat these complex issues so that the patient can have a full and lasting recovery, and regain a normal productive life.


1. A Complex Problem that Requires a Complex Solution

dual diagnosis treatment

A co-occurring disorder is a complex issue of mental health and substance abuse simultaneously that requires a personalized  treatment in order to fully treat the patient’s physical and emotional issues.

Addiction to Sobriety is a service staffed with specially trained representatives that matches your mental health and addiction problem to the appropriate treatment option.


2. Common Dual Diagnosis Issues Include:


Potential Mental Health Issues

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Eating disorders
  • Gambling Addiction
  • Sex Addiction
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Schizophrenia


Potential Substance Abuse Issues

3. Signs and Symptoms of a Co-Occurring Disorder:

symptoms of co-occurring disorder

There are some obvious signs and symptoms of substance abuse, but in other cases they may not be so obvious.

Do you know someone who is usually outgoing and now seems withdrawn and doesn’t want to participate in activities they used to enjoy?  Is the person known to have a mild or severe mental health issue, such as stress, anxiety or depression; and now you see potential signs and symptoms they are using elicit drugs or other substance to medicate away their emotional issue.

The signs may include they have red eyes, smell like cigarettes or marijuana, have erratic behavior, violent mood swings, excessive sleeping or exhibit forgetfulness to everyday events?

Is the person missing work frequently for no apparent reason?  Do you smell alcohol on their breath at all hours of the day, or bottles of alcohol in the house are missing or appear to have been used?  When asked does the person become angry?

Medications for depression and anxiety for example, have potentially dangerous side effects when mixed with alcohol or drugs.  If the patient is exhibiting signs of side effects to mixing narcotics with medications, they may have a co-occurring disorder.

These are the obvious signs and symptoms.  If a person is using cocaine, crack or heroine to cope with stress, anxiety or other mental issue, the signs may not appear immediately since they don’t omit an odor, but will eventually become destructive with use.

You may need to contact a dual addiction counselor to determine how to address a potential dual diagnosis with the person in a compassionate way so they can get the help they need.




4. Integrated Treatment is the Best Solution for Dual Diagnosis

dual diagnosis treatment

Find a dual diagnosis treatment facility with specialist trained to identify, diagnose and treat patients with a dual diagnosis

Treatment Methodologies

Co-Occurring Disorders (Dual Diagnosis)

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)


12-Step Programs

Family Therapy

Motivational Enhancement

Stress management

Community support

Extended Treatment Programs



5. How I12 step programs A Dual Diagnosis Treated?


The best treatment for a dual diagnosis is an integrated intervention, which involves a specialized diagnosis for mental illness and substance abuse simultaneously.

For example, a patient may be addicted to drugs, alcohol, food, sex, gambling or even a combination of these addictions.  At the same time, the patient may have a psychiatric disorder including depression, stress, anxiety, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, or a panic disorder.

These types of co-occurring disorder often requires a clinician or multiple clinicians who are specially trained in diagnosing the root cause of co-occurring disorders, to develop an effective dual diagnosis treatment, that can include a combination of medical treatment, drug counseling and psychological counseling in an in-hospital or outpatient setting.



6. Conclusion and How to Get Started:

  1. Contact a Dual Diagnosis Treatment specialist here.
  2. A team member will find an affordable treatment center in your area to meet your specific, individual needs, verify insurance or they can help you arrange an affordable payment plan option.
  3. You will need to take a preliminary intake review, which can be done over the phone.  This will allow an intake nurse to address your substance addiction & mental health needs immediately.
  4. You may be able to start treatment that day in many cases.


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