Substance Abuse And Mental Health Disorders: A Guide To Seeking Dual Disorder Treatment

Dual diagnosis is a phrase used to describe an individual experiencing both substance abuse and mental health concurrently. Experiencing both disorders can worsen the individual’s situation compared to them only struggling with one condition.

Unfortunately, 29% of people diagnosed with mental illness abuse alcohol and other drugs. In essence, they experience an advanced level of anxiety and depression. Often, it’s difficult for professionals to determine which disorder came first.

Some might find that mental illness was triggered by the use of drugs and substance abuse in an individual’s life. On the flip side, the drug problem might have led to mental illness worsening the individual’s symptoms. For example, someone who abuses marijuana can experience hallucinations, confusion, and other psychotic episodes.

Because of this, most professionals don’t prefer overlapping their services with those of drug and substance abuse. Hence, mental health institutions like Jackson House Rehab offer a dual diagnosis. To better understand the dual diagnosis and its treatment, below is your ultimate guide:

Understanding That Some Disorders Are Interrelated

As discussed earlier, mental health issues can cause an individual to abuse drugs as a way of escaping from the problems going on in their life. Ideally, they try to self-medicate with alcohol or drugs, resulting in a dual diagnosis. The reason is that they’re trying to deal with or suppress the symptoms of mental health disorders like depression by using the wrong drugs.

On the other hand, it’s possible for a person who abuses drugs to get mental health problems or drug-induced mental health issues. As much as these situations happen, they do not apply to everyone.

It would be false to say that one disorder outrightly causes the other because that’s not the case. On many occasions, factors such as the environment, genetics, or physiological condition can cause dual co-occurring disorders.

For genetics, some people have genes that make them more susceptible to developing mental health issues. So, if some family members are abusing drugs and alcohol, they have co-occurring disorders. Furthermore, some life experiences like abuse, childhood trauma, or any form of emotional torture can increase an individual’s risk of developing a drug and substance abuse addiction or mental health issue.

Gain Insight On Symptoms Of Substance Use Disorders

Some signs indicate that a person is a victim of a substance use disorder. Below are some of the things you should observe.

  • Change in behavioral patterns. An individual may change their behavior due to substance intake. You may pay attention to the following:
    • Indulging suspicious or secretive activities
    • Getting into problems like accidents, fights, and illegal actions regularly
    • Losing focus and motivation
    • Changing their attitude or personality
    • Experiencing a lack of appetite and sleep deprivation
    • Getting easily irritable and dealing with emotional outbursts
    • Appearing paranoid, anxious, or scared for no apparent reason
  • An alteration of their physique. Patients who suffer substance abuse may exhibit the following changes:
    • Weight gain or weight loss
    • Unpleasant breath, cloth, or body odor
    • Slurred speech
    • Bloodshot eyes
    • Deteriorated physical appearance
    • Impaired coordination
  • Change in their social life. In this regard, you might see them doing the following:
    • Getting into legal issues related to alcohol and substance abuse
    • A change in their circle of friends and hobbies
    • Inability to handle conflict
    • Financial problems
    • Excessive demand and need for much money

Drug and substance abuse often have adverse effects on individuals who use them. A person who exhibits most, if not all, of the above symptoms, maybe a victim of substance abuse.

Recognizing Common Disorders Associated With Substance Abuse

The co-occurring condition causes different disorders. Some of the mental health issues that are directly related to addiction may include the following:

  • Mood disorders: Alcohol and drug abuse are often accompanied by mood problems. Examples of mood disorders include bipolar and acute depression. A person with this disorder generally has distorted moods and emotions—sometimes they’re happy, other times they’re sad, and suddenly they become easily irritable. To contain this situation and manage their emotions, most individuals try using drugs as self-medication, which may cause an addiction.
  • Anxiety disorder: This is a mental health issue characterized by feelings of fear, worry, and anxiety. Several types of anxiety disorders can affect an individual. They include:
    • Social anxiety disorder
    • Phobia of certain things in life
    • Regular panic attacks
    • Generalized anxiety disorder
    • Separation anxiety disorder

Many times, people with anxiety abuse alcohol and drugs to help relieve their symptoms, which only makes the condition worse over time. Unfortunately, they become dependent on them in the long run, causing dual diagnosis.

  • Eating disorder: Most people have been affected by this type at some point. However, some go to an extra level of substance abuse to help increase or decrease their appetite. Also, theyuse drugs to manage the situation.
  • Behavioral disorders: These issues come early in an individual’s life. Examples are obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

People with these conditions often abuse drugs to enhance their concentration, manage mental distress, and contain compulsive behavior.

  • Personality disorder: There are also many instances where individuals try to abuse drugs to cope with the effects of their past traumatic experiences or personality disorder. Some personality disorder co-occurring with addiction includes the following:
    • Dissociative
    • Narcissistic
    • Schizoid
    • Avoidant
    • Histrionic
    • Paranoid

Most individuals start abusing drugs to escape the reality of their personality disorder and cope effectively. For example, people with an avoidant personality disorder might use drugs to hide or escape the reality of being socially incapable.

Determine The Signs And Symptoms Of The Co-Occurring Condition

It’s essential to know that these symptoms differ depending on the severity of the diagnosis and the individual as you strive to get knowledge on this aspect. Treating dual diagnosis is challenging for experts because it’s difficult to tell the symptoms of each condition. There are, however, some common dual-diagnosis symptoms that most people exhibit. They include the following:

  • Withdrawal from interacting with friends and family members
  • Lost interest in activities that they previously enjoyed
  • Loss of morale and psyche to do life
  • Deteriorating work or school performance
  • Emotional instability
  • Insomnia
  • Changes in eating habits

These symptoms further elaborate the highlighted disorders caused by addiction above.

Visit A Professional To Get A Diagnosis Of Co-Occurring Disorders

Now that you know the symptoms of dual diagnosis, taking precautions is essential if you suspect that you may have the disorder. In addition, if you realize that someone close to you exhibits the above symptoms, you can try and help them seek help from a professional.

A trained and renowned expert can help adequately assess whether you or your loved one has a co-occurring condition. Moreover, they’ll give you an adequate treatment plan if they diagnose dual disorders.

Some of the things they ask before making a diagnosis include the following:

  • Your family background
  • Medica history
  • If you’ve used drugs before
  • Traumatic experiences that you’ve gone through
  • Symptoms that you’re exhibiting

Once they determine that you genuinely suffer from concurrent substance use and mental health disorder, they diagnose you with a dual diagnosis. And this is where your treatment journey begins.

Begin Taking Treatment

To recover from dual diagnosis, the professional must help you simultaneously heal from both disorders. This should happen, regardless of which disorder came first. To treat your mental health issues and drug and substance abuse disorders, the professional should encourage you to do the following:

  • Join a peer support group: Joining a peer support group isn’t only essential for mental health treatment but also for drug and substance abuse treatment. Being in such a group helps you gain a new perspective and motivation to stick to the plan of achieving sobriety. You’ll be more accountable since your peers will help keep you in check.

It’ll be easier to heal faster in such a group because you’ll be with people with whom you share the same goal. Hence, you’ll feel like they better understand you, and there’s less prejudice. This can help reduce your fatigue, depression, anxiety, and distress. In effect, it could speed up your recovery process.

  • Change your lifestyle: It’s critical to be intentional about taking care of yourself as you strive to recover from a dual diagnosis. In this regard, you need to eat healthy and well-balanced diets, get enough sleep, spare some relaxing time, exercise regularly, spend quality time with your loved ones, and avoid abusing excess drugs and substances. This will not only help in reducing anxiety and depression, but it can boost your general well-being.
  • Detoxification: Most people with dual diagnosis abuse marijuana, opioids, and alcohol. So, depending on the substance you’ve been abusing, the expert should develop a detox program. This will help you cope effectively with the withdrawal symptoms that will come later.
  • Behavioral therapy: This therapy isn’t only suitable for mental health issues and addiction. Your expert might recommend different types of behavioral therapy depending on your condition. Moreover, this therapy is essential because it helps people change their habits and diet and adjust to healthy living. It allows individuals better manage symptoms like anxiety, depression, and also addiction.
  • Give you medication: The expert can give you any relevant medicine to help manage both conditions. For instance, they can provide antidepressants to help you cope or deal with mental health problems. They may also administer specific medicine to help with alcohol and substance abuse.
  • In-patient program: Once you’re done with the detoxification process, the expert will guide you toward an in-patient program. They vary in length depending on how fast your body reacts and adjusts to Treatment. However, on many occasions, dual-diagnosis patients undergo a 90-day program to manage their symptoms better.

Treatment requires a lot of patience and discipline if you want to come out of dual diagnosis.

Know That There Are Immense Benefits Of Getting Co-Occurring Disorders Treatment

There are numerous advantages of seeking and getting dual disorder treatment. Some of them include the following:

  • Improved physical and mental health
  • You’re able to stay sober for long
  • Increased independence
  • Enhanced school and work performance
  • You’ll start having a healthy social life

Ideally, your life will generally improve if you adhere to the dual diagnosis treatment plan.

Tips To Help You Go Through Treatment

While going through a dual diagnosis, many things might cross your mind, and you may feel like you’re not going to make it through. However, these are some of the things to keep in mind as you go through your treatment and recovery process:

  • There’s light at the end of the tunnel: It’s essential to know that there’s hope and you can fully recover from both conditions. You only need to be patient because healing takes time. Also, you must be courageous and committed to doing all that the professional advises if you want to overcome dual diagnosis.
  • Try and stay sober throughout your treatment: You ought not to forget that mixing alcohol and drugs with medication won’t work. It can have severe effects on your health. In this regard, you’d want to avoid abusing any substance or alcohol once you’ve started Treatment.
  • Don’t be discouraged if a relapse happens: Towards your journey to success, sometimes hardships will come, and you may fail. That doesn’t mean that you won’t succeed in the end. So, in your journey toward recovery, you should strive to get back on your feet in case you relapse. Moreover, it’s ideal to work with the professional so they can give you the necessary help and advice in case a relapse happens.

These tips will help you get through treatment and achieve your recovery successfully.


Substance abuse and mental health disorders in one person concurrently are known as dual diagnoses. These disorders are common, and the good thing is that they’re treatable as long as the patient follows the professional’s instructions. Some of the things you need to know as you seek treatment for the co-occurring disorder include their signs and symptoms, whether they’re related to each other, how to get treatment, and what to know as you go through the treatment and recovery process. Knowing that you can heal from these disorders as long as you’re committed to following your doctor’s advice is crucial. Always remember, a calm mind and a fit body are two things you can’t buy- you must strive to earn them!

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